Smart, smarter, smartest: competition and linked identities in a Danish school

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    When teachers and students interact in everyday academic activities, some students are ascribed social roles as “smart”, which lead other students to contest these roles. Such struggles around what it means to be smart and which students come to be viewed as smart are a pertinent problem for students, teachers and educational scholars, because they affect unintended educational inequity in schooling. Detailed longitudinal ethnographic approaches that explore how school success and failure evolve as interdependent sociohistorical positions are important for understanding those social processes. This presentation tells the story of how a 12-year-old girl, Iman, attending to school in Denmark, over the course of two years, changes from being viewed by her teachers as smart and outgoing into being viewed as quiet and disruptive. Iman’s change of identity is remarkable because it evolves in consort with the teachers’ changing view of her male classmate, Mohsen, who becomes regarded as smart, special and favoured. The presentation forms part of a larger study on the construction and contestation of smartness in school (Lundqvist 2017). This study builds on three years linguistic ethnographic fieldwork (Rampton 2007; Copland & Creese 2015) in a primary school in Copenhagen, Denmark. Data includes field note entries, audio and video recordings of teaching and semi-structured interviews with students, teachers and parents, self-recordings of school-home conferences and transcripts of those recordings, children’s textbooks, exercise books, photographs and Facebook profiles. The study is situated within anthropology of education (Varenne & McDermott 1998) and employs the theoretical frameworks of social identification (Wortham 2006; Bartlett 2007) and participation (Goffman 1986). This presentation asks how can the social identification of one student come to link with the identification of another student? The presentation is highly relevant to the International field of educational linguistics because it assists scholars, teacher educators and teachers in understanding how students’ social identity formations often become tied to the identity formations of peers, vis-à-vis institutional conceptions of smartness, and how those processes, which I label “linked identification” open up or close down possibilities of participation for students
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication date27 Jun 2018
    Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2018
    EventSociolinguistics Symposium 22 - The University of Auckland Business School, Auckland, New Zealand
    Duration: 27 Jun 201830 Aug 2018


    ConferenceSociolinguistics Symposium 22
    LocationThe University of Auckland Business School
    Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
    Internet address

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