Learner-Centred Pedagogy Framing Authentic Identity and Positionality in Higher Education

Learner-Centred Pedagogy Framing Authentic Identity and Positionality in Higher Education

Catherine Hayes (University of Sunderland, UK) and Ian Corrie (University of Cumbria, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4036-7.ch005
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This chapter examines the interrelationship between the learner and their authentic identity in the context of learning. This necessitates the delineation of where personhood ends and learner identity begins and lends itself to a debate as to whether the two by virtue of their relationship are irrevocably enmeshed. Being able to explore perspectives in individual learning provides an insight into how learner-centred pedagogical approaches open the door to lifelong learning via the empowerment and intrinsic motivation of personhood. It is this personhood, or character, which, once harnessed, can drive cultural transformation, processes of critical reflexivity, and epistemic understanding of education as an embedded part of life and individuality, rather than a commodity simply to be acquired.
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The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ‑ Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)

The optimization of learning for all students is a challenge as diverse as individual students themselves but one which also provides a means of transforming lives, not just on singular levels, but also across civic institutions and wider societies. While technology enhanced learning characterizes contemporary life, it remains the domain of authentic personhood to drive cultural transformation and the intentionality needed to address long held presuppositions and assumptions. Once recognized and revealed, these often subjectively posited epistemological biases can be used to harness a means of fundamental challenge and address in real life settings where theoretical knowledge alone is of limited use without the means of applying it to practice.

Being able to facilitate the recognition of authentic personhood for all students is the vehicle by which change can be driven, attainment gaps closed, and a celebration of equality and diversity for them, moved beyond tokenism in higher education settings across the world. Giving students the tools with which to frame their authentic personal and professional identities as interpreters of new knowledge lies at the very heart of both societal transformation and progression as people, not just as students, who due to neoliberalist approaches to twenty first century education, are often treated as commodities to be processed, numbers to be counted, and profit to be made in current political climates across the globe.

It is this heart of societal transformation which frames a paradigm shift in the prioritization of active learning as opposed to the effectiveness of teaching praxis, where technology ought to be regarded as a critical adjunct to learning rather than a purist source of it. Since driving assessment with learning and teaching necessitates a proactive approach, there is also an indicative need for change in approaches to student assessment, which reflect the need for individuals to negotiate mechanisms of demonstrating knowledge gained, skills learned, and the relative transferability of knowledge to differing contexts and settings. This is imperative in what is now regarded as a global economic platform rather than a plural series of communities or societies across the world.

The concepts of learner positionality are explicated in depth across the chapter, with an insight into how positionality and worldview reflect not only the individuals from which they emanate but also wider societal values and axiological standpoints of belief, demography, social class, gender, sexuality, and health status. It can be posited that the ontological basis of the learner is delineated from the ontological basis of what is to be learned as a means of recognizing contested stances which then emerge at an epistemological level. As such, approaches to reflection, reflexivity, and how these can be activated in the form of critical learning practices are also considered across the chapter.

The exposition of positionality is framed as a potential mechanism of recognizing and valuing personhood throughout lifelong learning and approaches taken to engaging with it across personal and professional life trajectories. Incremental consideration of the notion of “truth” or “authenticity” in learning are incorporated into the chapter alongside the intersectionality of available theory from different, sometimes disparate, academic disciplines. The chapter also introduces and explores the concept of conceptual baggage which can potentially cloud processes of discernment in critical thinking and impinge on students’ capacity to learn and make meaning of knowledge in applied practice. Engendering transformative approaches to learning, teaching, and processes of curriculum justification, design, and development illustrate approaches addressing the needs of stakeholders, via optimal pedagogic practice, within modern global societies.

The central aims of this chapter of the book are to explore the fundamental mechanisms of identifying, framing, and positioning, first of all acknowledgement of epistemological tools in education and then, on a wider level, how these can be used to frame the recognition of authentic personhood, so pivotal to the development and maintenance of self-esteem and self-confidence in the context of education and progressive lifelong attainment on both personal and professional levels. It is impossible to undertake this without exploring contemporary learning theory and the seminal philosophies of learning which remain so relevant to the concept of 21st Century learning; therefore, a secondary chapter aim will be to illuminate those philosophies of greatest relevance to student centered pedagogy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Personhood: The individuality of being uniquely human.

Authenticity: It is the quality of being real or true.

Reflexivity: An act of self-reference or reflection on a context, situation, or event, which enables a proactive consideration of potential future action.

Verisimilitude: It is the appearance of being true or real.

Storytelling: The act of sharing a tale or a series of events, often in a trajectory that give perspective on context and culture.

Transformation: A complete change or improvement for the better in something or someone.

Professional Identity: It is one’s professional self-concept based on attributes, beliefs, values, motives, and experiences.

Truth: It is that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

Positionality: It is the means by which individual identity influences, and potentially biases, human understanding of and perspectives on the world.

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