Identity and belonging in social learning groups: The importance of distinguishing social, operational and knowledge-related identity congruence
Collaborative learning has much to offer but not all learners participate fully and peer groups can be exclusive. The article examines how belonging or 'congruence' in learning groups is related to identities of gender, age, ethnicity and socio-economic status. A study of student experiences of collaborative learning on three different blended learning courses illustrated how learners negotiate identity congruence with peer groups to belong and engage. An analytical framework that distinguishes social, operational and knowledge-related identity congruence has emerged. Contrary to received wisdom, the social aspect appears least important for learner engagement while knowledge-related identity congruence is fundamental. Some of the consequences of identity incongruence, particularly concerning gender and maturity, are discussed and the article points towards the pedagogies which might enable identities of group members to shift so that collaborative learning can flourish. © 2010 British Educational Research Association.
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