"We Have a Brain and a Heart": Seeing Beyond the Surface of English Learners' Social Identities


  • Amy Elizabeth Gaisser Butler University


This study explored English Learners’ individual identities within the context of their social world at school and was conducted as part of a larger study on the ways English Learners navigate their social environment. A focus group of nine English Learners met on a weekly basis for a period of about five months to discuss and write about their social identities. These students ranged in age from twelve to fourteen years old and were diverse with regard to gender, race, nationality, home language(s), time spent in the U.S., and proficiency level in English. The primary finding from this study was that these nine adolescent English Learners recognize and possess a wide variety of social identities amongst themselves. Additional studies of this nature, conducted with English Learners in other school settings, would add meaningfully to the current understandings that exist surrounding English Learners’ social identities.

Author Biography

Amy Elizabeth Gaisser, Butler University

Amy Gaisser is a 2015 graduate of Butler University’s Master’s in Effective Teaching and Leadership (METL) Program. She has minors in English as a New Language, Spanish, Teaching Reading, and Mild Interventions, with an International Baccalaureate certification. She is currently an English Language teacher in a middle school in Indiana.


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