Performing curriculum and constructing identity: small stories as a framework for studying identity and learning in classroom discourse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This classroom discourse study examines how curriculum becomes a resource for identity performance in one ESL classroom. Conceptualizing identity as performance, I adopt a small stories approach to analyze how one routinized vocabulary instructional activity was appropriated by classroom participants to perform identities and construct the classroom moral order. Through analyses of two excerpts of classroom talk, I show that the ESL teacher narrated her story into teaching as an instructional example and performed a dominating teacher identity rhetorically portrayed in a morally positive light. A Taiwanese immigrant boy appropriated the language practice for displaying a funny, nonlearner masculinity. His identity-displaying narrative, however, ran counter to the moral expectation of being a “good learner” embedded in this language activity, leading to his social identification as a problem student. This analysis illustrates that the identity categories in the language curriculum provided linguistic resources for the classroom participants to perform identities that worked to perpetuate or challenge dominant discourses of being. The process of teaching and learning is deeply intertwined with identity negotiation and moral positioning. This analysis also illuminates the theoretical and methodological affordances of a small stories approach to examine the emergence of identities in language classroom discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-195
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Multilingual Research Journal
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2019



  • Classroom discourse
  • identity as performance
  • language learning
  • moral stance
  • participant example
  • small stories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this