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We present a theoretical framework that views learning as a process involving content learning (CL) and identity construction (IC). We view identities as lenses through which people make sense of, and position themselves, through stories and actions, and as lenses for understanding how they are positioned by others. As people become more (or less) central members of a disciplinary community (e.g., a science or mathematics classroom) and engage (or not) in various cultural practices, changes in identity and knowledge accompany changes in position and status. Identity construction (IC) and content learning (CL) share an important characteristic: they both involve meaning making. For IC, it is the development of reasoned, coordinated, coherent, and meaningful ways of seeing one’s self in relation to communities, and for CL, it centers on the development of disciplinary concepts, processes, tools, language, discourse, and norms within practices. Focusing on Black students in mathematics and science classrooms, we claim that three intersecting identities are particularly important: disciplinary identity (as doers of the discipline, i.e., mathematics and science), racial identity (emerging understandings of what it means to be Black), and academic identity (as participants in academic tasks and classroom practices). In this paper, we elaborate on the CLIC framework as a useful tool for understanding how Black students negotiate participation in, and come to see themselves as doers of science and mathematics in their school classrooms. We synthesize empirical findings from our research with younger and older students, as well as with parents and community members, to illustrate dimensions of this framework.


Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Psychology | Science and Mathematics Education | Teacher Education and Professional Development


This is the author's version of a work that was accepted for publication in Human Development. This version has been formatted for archiving; a definitive version was subsequently published in Human Development, 55(5-6). January 2013. pp. 319-339, copyright © 2013 Karger Publishers. Available online at: