Using identity as a tool for investigation: a methodological option in the researcher's toolbox

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Johnston, JL 2012, 'Using identity as a tool for investigation: a methodological option in the researcher's toolbox', International Journal of Arts & Sciences, vol. 5, no. 5, pp. 1-9.

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Building on Gee’s call to use identity as an analytic lens for research in education (Gee, 2000), this paper further advocates the use of the construct of identity as an alternative research ‘tool’ when researching people. The research discussed here employed a model of identity based on post-modern theory, and a critical case research, to scrutinize teachers in contexts of ongoing educational change. Researchers are aware that people are difficult to understand, impossible to quantify and awkwardly inconsistent to research. There are difficulties if not limitations in viewing participants from a particular perspective and so the study employed a carefully constructed model of identity to showcase the effects of educational change on participants. The paper summarises identity as it is evidenced in literature and used in the research, giving details about the model of identity that was used in this study. It highlights the benefits and options for utilising this model as a research ‘tool’ for studies which investigate what happens to, with and for people in given contexts, outlining three key benefits of its use. The paper concludes with a call for further discussion, application of and academic conversation about the use of identity as a tool for research.

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