This principle reflects the importance of identity in relation to learning. Identity is what connects people to each other, to communities, and to the land. The exploration of one’s identity includes developing an understanding of one’s place in the world in addition to being able to identify all the factors that contribute to how people see themselves. These factors include people’s strengths and their challenges, their innate abilities (gifts) and capacity to learn. In addition to using this understanding to help one grow in life, knowing one’s own strengths and challenges is a part of the responsibility a person has to his or her family and community, as a people are considered to have a duty to use them to contribute to others (family, community and land).
In First Peoples’ communities, the emphasis on identity is overtly reflected in the practice of people traditionally situating themselves in relation to their family, community, and the land.
Relation to Other Educational Theory
This principle touches upon two components of constructivism. Vygotsky proposed that social interaction plays a fundamental role in the development of knowledge and that social learning comes before development (Vygotsky, 1978). The role of social interaction is paramount, and a significant part of that role is the understanding of who one is within his or her social contexts, as an individual’s self-concept is often embedded in his or her social contexts (Ladson-Billings, 2000).
Constructivist theory proposes that the learner must make sense of his or her experiences into order to develop knowledge (von Glasersfeld, 2008). If knowledge is created by the individual, knowing one’s self can help the learner develop deeper awareness of the process of his or her own knowledge construction. It can be argued that in order to facilitate this process the learner needs to also come to know who he or she is, and develop some awareness of the concepts he or she knows or understands.
Implications for Classroom and School Include
- Understanding that how educators identify themselves impacts their pedagogical choices.
- Understanding that one’s identity (both teacher and learner) impacts what is determined as relevant to teach and learn.
- Recognizing that “culture” is a complex construct and that learners usually identify with may cultural contexts (including, but not being limited to, heritage).
- Recognizing that learners may feel that they have multiple identities based on significant differences between what is valued at home, in their communities, and in their schools and classrooms.
- Avoiding generalizing about learners based on cultural stereotypes (i.e. all Indigenous learners don’t make eye contact, are shy, follow traditional ways).
- Recognizing that the development of positive personal and cultural identity in many Indigenous learners is made more complex because of the perceptions of First Peoples held by many people in the larger society as well as the legacy of colonial laws in Canada that sought to destroy First Peoples’ languages and cultures.
- Creating safe opportunities for learners to articulate and express their developing identities.
Relevant Core Competencies
- The positive personal and cultural identity competency involves the awareness, understanding, and appreciation of all the facets that contribute to a healthy sense of oneself. It includes awareness and understanding of one’s family background, heritage(s), language(s), beliefs, and perspectives in a pluralistic society (2014, BC Ministry of Education).
- Includes the skills, strategies, and dispositions that help students to stay healthy and active, set goals, monitor progress, regulate emotions, respect their own rights and the rights of others, manage stress, and persevere in difficult situations. Students who demonstrate personal awareness and responsibility demonstrate self-respect and express a sense of personal well-being (2015, BC Ministry of Education).