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Teachers’ representations of immigrant students and their home cultures: a dialogical self analysis

By Guida de Abreu, Sarah Crafter, H Hale and R O'Sullivan-Lago


The understanding teachers have of their students’ home backgrounds is a crucial dimension in the way teachers make sense of students’ transitions between home and school. Research in this area has addressed issues about the cultural nature of school knowledge and how “everyday cognition” differs from “school cognition”. As societies become increasingly diverse due to globalisation and migration, it is apparent that the mismatch between teachers’ and students’ cultural backgrounds is not only an issue of cognition but also an issue of identities. Research with teachers has mostly focused on the teachers’ constructions of culturally diverse students, yet the ways in which teachers construct students are not independent of the way they construct themselves. In this paper, we question what new insights using concepts from Dialogical Self Theory can reveal about teachers’ constructions of self and other in the school. Focusing on cultural contact zones where individuals must struggle to negotiate their lives and identities between cultures, Dialogical Self Theory holds that identities are constructed in dialogue, interdependent with the cultural context. This enables the study of the mutual relationships between self and other. We argue that modifying the traditional identity question “Who am I” to “Who am I in relation to the other” must also consider “Who is the other in relation to who I am?” We illustrate this in our analysis of the impact teachers’ constructions of themselves have upon their constructions of the students and their familie

Topics: BF309, LC225, LC3701, BF712
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