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Identity Exploration Assignment
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TLED 301 Identity Exploration Assignment

This assignment has two objectives:
1) Students will explore the influence of one of their group memberships (e.g. race, class, gender, religion, etc.) on their identity as a student
2) Students will consider how students’ identities are shaped by their group memberships and interactions with others.

Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by Merrick Brown

This assignment has been broken down into steps to better help you achieve the intended outcomes and to obtain a good grade.

Sections 1, 2 & 3: Pre-Writing Activities (to be completed in class or on your own)

Section 4: Formal Writing Assignment (to be submitted to the TLED 301 blog)

Section 5: Response to Other Students’ Writing (to be submitted to the TLED 301 blog)

Section 6: Reflection on the role of Student Identity in Teaching & Learning (to be submitted to the TLED 301 blog)

Section 1: Watch, Read and Reflect

Explore the following videos and readings to see how students’ identities are shaped by their race and ethnicities (warning: these materials contain intellectually challenging content, some contain graphic language). Answer the posed questions as directed by your instructor.

Here is the link to a VoiceThread that asks you these same questions:

1. Watch Kai Davis’ Fuck I look like Video:

Answer the question: What is the purpose of Kai’s video? What does she want viewers to understand?

2. Watch the two-minute excerpt from a speech by Michael Apple, Ed.D. arguing that teachers and schools shape students’ identities:

Answer the question: What expectation did the teacher communicate to the homeless Latino student? What expectation did she communicate to the student who always has the right answer?

3. Read the Excerpt from Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only by Mary Waters (PDF made available to the students)

Answer the question: 1- According to the article, why is racial/ethnic identity different for white students than it is for Black and Latino students?

Answer the question: 2- According to the article, why may some racial/ethnic minorities band together on a college campus? What can happen to members of these minority groups that do not band together with their racially/ethnically similar peers? Does this happen at ODU?

4. Read How Racial Identity Affects Performance: (You are not expected to read the other articles referred to in this reading, but of course you are welcome to do so.)

Answer the question: 1- Using one of the racial identity development models in the reading, name the stage that best describes your racial identity and explain your choice.

Answer the question: 2- Describe an example of how you, your peer, or a student you observed was affected by any one of the following (stereotype threat, dis-identification, oppositional behavior) or how racial identity affected your/their academic performance in another way.

Answer the question: 3- What is one thing you will do to support your students’ racial identity development and to have a culturally responsive classroom?

Section 2: Remembering Yourself

In this section you will reflect on your previous educational experiences in elementary, middle, or high school. As you think back you will be engaging in pre-writing activities that will help you complete the more formal writing in Section 4.

1. How did you see yourself as a K-12 student? Make a list of ten words that described you.

2. Your identity consists of multiple dimensions, which we might also call group memberships, including those listed below. Fill in the following list thinking about how these characteristics affected your identity as a K-12 student. (You may choose not to include responses for any of the listed areas.)


Your group identity




Socio-economic Status (e.g. Lower class/Poverty, Working class, Middle class, Upper-middle class, Upper class/Wealthy)

Sexual orientation/Gender identity

Academic Ability/Track Placement (e.g. Basic, Average, Advanced, Honors/gifted)

Special Needs/Services (e.g. ADHD,   English as a Second Language, Learning Disability)     

Sports Participation

Club/Organization Participation

Social Clique

Other defining characteristic (e.g. obese, blonde, teen mom, military brat etc.)

Choose ONE aspect of your identity from this list (one group you belonged to) that had a significant impact on your identity as a K-12 student. Explain why you chose this characteristic.

What did other people (peers, parents, teachers, administrators etc.) believe about members of this group? Try to recall specific comments or behaviors that demonstrated their attitudes. Did they have policies (official or not) that impacted how they behaved? How did the media portray members of this group? Was the depiction accurate about you/your group? How was it off-base? Answer these questions by completing the following graphic organizer.

Section 3: Read and listen to middle and high school students’ stories of identity.

In this section you will hear other students’ stories of their identity development. As you listen, think about the interplay between the students’ beliefs about themselves and the beliefs other people had of them. Also consider how the students tell their stories. What details do they use?

Click on the blue underlined links to listen to the students’ stories submitted to the “This I Believe” essay collection.

America's Beauty Is In Its Diversity
Alaa El-Saad - Austin, Texas
As heard on NPR’s Tell Me More, January 29, 2009
In sixth grade, Alaa El-Saad decided to start wearing a hijab, the religious head covering for Muslim women. Despite some trepidation, she found her classmates supported her choice. Now El-Saad believes being different is part of being American.

Accomplishing Big Things in Small Pieces
William Wissemann - Hastings on Hudson, New York
As heard on NPR’s Weekend Edition, September 14, 2008
Growing up with dyslexia, William Wissemann learned how to break down words and sentences into smaller parts so he could understand them. As he got older, Wissemann found this skill useful for solving everything from Rubik's Cubes to life's tricky puzzles.

We're All Different in Our Own Ways
Joshua Yuchasz - Milford, Michigan
As heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, October 16, 2006
By all outward appearances, Joshua Yuchasz is a regular teenager. But his classmates still tease him about the thing that makes him different. Yuchasz believes it’s our differences that deserve respect.

Being Content with Myself
Kamaal Majeed - Waltham, Massachusetts
As heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, May 7, 2007
Massachusetts teenager Kamaal Majeed believes being content with himself and defining his own life are more important than adhering to any racial stereotypes that his peers may try to force upon him.

Embracing Who I Am               
Fernando - Saint Louis, Missouri       
Entered on December 3, 2010               
Of course, I never wanted to be gay. I mean, who’d want to be openly and viciously hated on in front of everyone who I thought mattered in my life – teachers, friends, and family? “Well, not me,” I thought. And so I battled every little hormone inside of me to hide anything about my [...]   

Section 4: Write your story

In this section you will write the story of your identity development as a member of a particular group. The purpose is for you to explore the influence of one of your group memberships on your identity as a K-12 student, and to share your experience with your peers. By sharing our stories we can better understand how other students’ development was both similar to and different from our own.

Stories are powerful teaching tools. As teachers, we need to understand what makes a powerful story. Stories that provide specific details and focus on a single event are often more powerful than those that make only broad generalizations. As you plan what to write, think of a specific incident that can explain how your identity was influenced by one of your group memberships.

Use the following questions to help focus on the specific story you want to tell:

Tell your story by either composing a script for a This I Believe recording (Follow the Guidelines) or by writing a more traditional narrative essay (500-600 words).

Post your story on the TLED 301 Identity Exploration Blog and tag it with the group membership you explored. (Note: your blog will be open for others to read. Either do not include information you do not wish others to know, or use a pseudonym when posting your content to protect your identity.)

Technical Instructions for posting your essay

Step 1: Join the Blog
You will be posting your
This I Believe script to the web; anyone may see and read it. If you want to use a pseudonym instead of your real name, be sure to use that pseudonym when you make the username for your blog.

  1. Go to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog:
  2. Go to the HELP section and the HELP VIDEOS and watch “Join the TLED301 Blog

Written Instructions:

  1. Go to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog and click on the “Register” link in the lower right hand corner under “Meta.”
  2. Provide a username and an email address you want associated with the account (and that you can easily access).
  3. Wait for the blog to send you an email with your password.
  4. Once you get the email, copy the password, go back to the blog, and click the “Log in” in the lower right hand corner under “Meta.”

Step 2: Post Your Story
Before you post your story, you will want to have the final, copyedited, version of your story in a word processing document you can easily cut and paste from.

  1. Go to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog:
  2. Go to the HELP section and the HELP VIDEOS and watch “Post to the TLED301 Blog

Written Instructions:

  1. Login to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog – this will take you to your Dashboard  
  2. Click on the “Posts” button in the menu bar on the left hand side of the page. Click the “add new” option.
  3. Give your story a descriptive title (“Blonde, Female and a Math Wiz??”) and put it in the title bar at the top of the page.
  4. Cut and paste in your This I Believe story script. (If you found and image and or audio recorded your script, add these to your blog.)
  5. Categorize your blog with your instructor’s name and appropriate semester. On the right hand side of the page select the category for your instructor and for the current semester.
  6. “Tag” your blog. Look in the HELP section for the TAGS entry. Look through the list of suggested tags and select one that best describes the group membership you discussed. For example, you might choose female, athlete, gifted, or Latino. If there is not a tag for your group membership, you may create a new one.
  7. When everything looks the way you want it, click the “Publish” button in the upper right hand corner of the page.
  8. You can then click “View post” at the top of the page or click on TLED301: Identity Exploration and then select “Visit Site” to see your post as it appears on the website

Section 5: Read and respond to other TLED 301 students’  stories

In this section you will read 4 other TLED 301 students’ essays and consider how their identity development was similar to and different from your own.


1. Read stories by two students who posted about a group membership that is the same, or similar, to yours.

2. Read the stories of two students who are from groups to which you do not belong
3. After you have read each story, reply to your classmate’s posting by answering one or more of the following questions:

Technical Instructions for posting (and getting credit for) your responses

  1. Login to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog:
  2. Look at the “Tags” section on the right-hand side of the screen
  3. Click on a Tag (e.g. Female) to see the posts that relate to that group
  4. Look at posts that have the same (or a similar) tag to your own - scroll down and choose two posts to read/listen to and comment on
  5. Look at posts that have a tag that describes a group you do not belong to - scroll down and choose two posts to read/listen to and comment on
  6. After reading a post, click the “leave a comment” link at the bottom
  7. Write a meaningful response and click “Post Comment”
  8. Copy the URL (e.g. in the address bar of your browser AFTER you have clicked Post Comment.
  9. Save the URL to a word document while you leave the other responses – you will need to paste these into your final reflection (Section 6)

Section 6: Reflect – What role does student identity play in teaching and learning? 

In this section you will reflect on the readings from section 1, your own identity development, and the stories you read from other students. You will synthesize your thoughts into a brief statement explaining the importance of student identity development in teaching and learning.

To conclude this assignment, write an approximately one page (single space) reflection in which you address the following questions:

  1. In what ways were the experiences of the students who chose to focus on the same group membership similar and different to your own?
  2. In what ways were the experiences of the students in a group you did not belong to similar and different to your own?
  3. How are the identities of students shaped by their interactions with peers, teachers, and schools? How can these identities affect students’ achievement?
  4. What is the significance of this for you as a future teacher? Consider both the identities of your students and your own identity. Refer back (by paraphrasing or quoting and then making a citation) to at least one idea from the readings listed in Section 1 above.

You will post this reflection in the same blog posting as your This I Believe story. Compose and save your reflection in a word processor before posting to the blog.

Technical Instructions for posting your essay

  1. Go to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog:
  2. Go to the HELP section and the HELP VIDEOS and watch “Posting Your Final Reflection

    Written Instructions
  1. Login to the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog. This will take you to your Dashboard.
  2. Click on the “Posts” button in the menu bar on the left hand side of the page. Click the “All Posts” option.
  3. Find your This I Believe posting. Click the title and it will take you back to the editing page.
  4. Find the end of your This I Believe story posting. In all caps write “FINAL REFLECTION” and the date.
  5. Copy and paste your reflection into the text box below “FINAL REFLECTION.”
  6. Find the end of your final reflection section. In all caps write “REPLIES.”
  7. Under “REPLIES” paste in the links to the pages where you left replies. (Please make the links active; watch the video for help on how to do this!)
  8. When everything looks the way you want it, click the “Update” button in the upper right hand corner of the page.

To receive credit for this assignment, you will also need to submit your blog URL to Blackboard. Include the following information:

  1. Your blog login (e.g. jkidd)
  2. The URL (a link) to your This I Believe story posted in the TLED301 Identity Exploration blog.

To get this, go to our blog and find your post. Click on the title of your post so you can be sure to get the URL that leads right to your post, and not just to a page where your post appear alongside many others. Copy the URL listed in your browser’s address window and paste it into the Blackboard assignment link.

Grading Rubric

Section 4: This I Believe Script/Identity Exploration Essay – 50 pts

Very well done (A)

Well done, some room for improvement (B)

Acceptable, but improvements needed (C)

Inadequate (D or F)

Writing reflects an understanding of identity development

Essay has a clear focus which communicates the effect a group membership had on the student’s identity as a K-12 student

Specific and detailed evidence used to support claims and illustrate development of student identity

Language and mechanics supports/enhances the message

Total Score for Section 4:

Section 5: Comments on peers’ essays (4 @ 5pts each = 20pts)




D or F

Comments add meaningfully to a dialog on student identity development

Total Score for Section 5:

Section 6: Reflection (30 pts)




D or F

Student compared and contrasted perspectives from various students’ accounts of their identity development

Student synthesized information from multiple viewpoints (including the initial readings)

Student formed meaningful conclusions and discussed implications for teaching and learning

Students reflected thoughtfully on what was learned

Total Score for Section 6: