Which of Erikson’s psychosocial crises are the children in the class facing (may be more than one)? Which of Marcia’s identity states seem(s) to be more prevalent? What specific teacher behaviors do you observe that either help or hinder the students to successfully navigate this crisis? What more could or should be done? Be sure to include a reference in your response.
Erikson’s Psychosocial Crises
In terms of the age ranges that Erikson posits for his identity crises, the students in Mrs. G.’s classes are right in the middle of the Identity v. Confusion crisis, trying to figure out who they are and develop their personal identity. In the last few weeks, I have observed Mrs. G. use her end-of-unit project for the Scarlet Letter as an opportunity for students to further explore their personal identity. The unit for the Scarlet Letter centered on the theme of labels in the novel—how characters label themselves and others, and how those labels affect the characters. For the final project, Mrs. G. asked students to come up with a label that they would choose for themselves. Students created a physical letter to represent that label, and each student’s letter was unique. They also completed a short write up about the label and letter they chose and why they chose it. This project helped students explore their personal identity and further develop their sense of self.
I believe the students in Mrs. G.’s classes may also be grappling with issues of Industry v. Inferiority as they are learning how to be competent, autonomous, caring students. The students in her 10th grade classes are still not quite used to high school and what’s expected—and the consequences that their high school grades and choices have on their futures. Some students are working through learning how to be industrious and developing that sense of competence, as evidenced in Mrs. G.’s grading policies and procedures. Many students didn’t feel competent with their writing and other projects, and Mrs. G. supported students though this crisis by providing a lot of good feedback and multiple opportunities for students to meet with her and revise their work for improved grades.
Marcia’s Identity States
The students in Mrs. G.’s classes seem to be in all four of Marcia’s identity states all at once. I have observed some students who are either in a state of identity foreclosure or identity achievement—they are sure of who they are, they have a strong sense of self, and they let that identity guide their choices. I haven’t been with these students for long enough to know if they’ve reached this identity state by default, as one would with identity foreclosure, or if they’re gone through an identity crisis, as one would with identity achievement.
Other students seem to be in a state of identity moratorium—they are not yet sure who they are, but are actively exploring. This was evident in students who put in a lot of effort into their labeling projects—they’re thinking about what label best describes them, and if they completed the project in a few months, they may choose a different label.
Identity diffusion—apathy about identity—seems to be the least prevalent among these students. By this point in their lives, they’ve either committed to an identity or are looking for one. Especially in the career aspect, Mrs. G.’s seniors are actively thinking about what they want to be and planning what they’re going to be doing next year with their career and personal identities in mind.
Other Teacher Behaviors
In addition to projects and grading procedures, Mrs. G. also incorporates other strategies to help her students navigate their identity crises, especially the Identity v. Confusion crisis. Mrs. G. exposes her students to variety of themes and ideas through the literature she presents and the themes she highlights from these authors. In the few weeks I have been observing, Mrs. G. has discussed identity, the impacts of labels, the social conflicts surrounding slavery, and the basis for civil rights—all within the scope of her content area. This diverse range of topics gives students a chance to be exposed to a lot of new ideas, and the chance to think about their own identity in relation to those new ideas.
I observed an activity last week that Mrs. G. used to introduce a new novel. She provided a series of statements from the author and asked students to reflect on which were their favorite. The statements—all from author Mark Twain—were broad, and each reflected a different outlook on life. This activity provided students an opportunity to engage with higher-order skills and think about which of these life outlooks resonated with them. They were also able to explore why the statements had an impact on them.
What More Could Be Done?
To help students more successfully navigate the Industry v. Inferiority crisis, we could recognize all the students for their achievements and learning. Many of the discussions in the classroom follow a traditional Inquiry – Response – Evaluate model, with the same few students answering many of the questions. To help students develop a sense of competence, we could use structured discussion models like Numbered Heads Together, cold calling with scaffolding, two cents, academic controversy, think/pair/share, etc. to give more students a chance to respond. I think if more students were engaged in talking in class, it would help them learn better and develop their sense of industry and competence in class.