Writing & Pedagogy, Vol 5, No 1 (2013)

Discoursal Negotiation of Identity in the Writing of Adult Students: A Case Study

Michael J. Michaud
Issued Date: 30 May 2013


In this article, I extend the academic conversation about writing and identity by investigating the experiences of one adult student negotiating the transition between professional and academic communities and identities. Drawing on a framework articulated by Ivanic (1998), I examine the interaction between the writer’s autobiographical self, the socially available possibilities for self-hood, and the discoursal self the student constructs in a single instance of academic writing. I argue that the primary writerly identity this student constructs in his text is a workplace or professional identity and show how this identity is not entirely coherent but reflects the process of identity transition the student was facing on the job at the time. I use this case study to draw attention to the negotiations some adult students pursuing postsecondary study make, especially those with well-established workplace identities, as they face the challenge of composing new identities in academic settings. I further suggest that the challenge of identity negotiation is one faced by all writers, not just adults, and that this is a challenge we must account for in our teaching and research.

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DOI: 10.1558/wap.v5i1.31


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