Learner Identity and the Role of Critical Embodiment in EAP

Gary Riley-Jones, Senior Lecturer from Goldsmiths, University of London is going to disentangle the concept of ‘critical’ in relation to the student identity transformation.

The presentation will revisit a small-scale narrative inquiry into the experiences of criticality of two international Fine Art students at Goldsmiths, University of London. Starting with Barnett’s (2000: 154) assumption that criticality should ‘create epistemological and ontological disturbance in the minds and in the being of students’, which Barnett argues is a prerequisite to critical being, I will go on to discuss Rogoff’s (2006) concept of ‘critical embodiment’ which Rogoff (ibid.) states ‘is a form of ontology… a “living things out” which has a hugely transformative power’. Such an understanding of criticality clearly necessitates a transformation of the learner’s identity where, as Rogoff (ibid.) goes on to argue, ‘it is not possible to stand outside the problematic and objectify it as a disinterested mode of learning’ but rather it is ‘living out the very conditions we are trying to analyse and come to terms with’. I will show that despite the ‘messy’ data provided by the unstructured narrative interviews, there is evidence for Rogoff’s position as it was apparent that a ‘transformation’ was central to the experience of both participants in my study. From a pedagogical perspective, I will also go on to show that within Art Education the issue of what it means to be ‘critical’ has become highly problematised and that as EAP tutors we need to be aware of such disciplinary debates, or else risk becoming marginalised within the institution and failing our students. In other words, as EAP tutors we cannot claim to be able to ‘teach’ criticality if we do not engage with the epistemologies of the disciplines of our students, or for that matter have an understanding of the dominant epistemology operating within Applied Linguistics.


gary-riley-jonesGary Riley-Jones is an EAP tutor at Goldsmiths, and an EdD student at UCL where his thesis is concerned with conceptions of criticality and their pedagogical implications. He is particularly interested in such a pedagogy offering students – especially Art students with whom he has most contact – the potential for self-transformation. He tweets @GoldLinguist and his LinkedIn profile can found here.



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