Can the Dimensions of Identity, Investment and Empowerment Increase Social Inclusion for Second-language Learners? – Moving Towards the Creation of a Conceptual Framework

Gaston Bacquet


Much of social research in language learning in the past twenty years has been devoted to explore issues of identity construction and its sociological implications in terms of mobility and inclusiveness. There are a large number of studies on the areas of culture and identity, and how they relate to the investment and empowerment of language learners (Dörnyei, 2005; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2011; Norton, 1997, 2000, 2013, 2015; Norton & Davin, 2015; Ushioda, 2011). Some of these have been pivotal in the development of identity research for the past two decades and have laid the foundation upon which further research has been done: Norton (1995) proposed her Classroom-Based Social Research, in which learners become ethnographers of sorts under the encouragement of teachers; Brunton and Jeffrey (2014) examined some of the factors that might lead to empowerment with foreign students in New Zealand (2013), Diaz, Cochran, and Karlin (2016) conducted a study in American classrooms to investigate the impact of teachers’ behavior and communication strategies on students’ achievement and feeling of empowerment, and more recently Howard (2018) investigated the impact of teachers’ attitudes in the construction of socio-cultural identities in African-American students. Such research has provided a wealth of insight and suggested practices, but in this researcher’s opinion they have come short in providing any definite answers as to how to implement them or the outcomes they might yield. The purpose of this paper is to shed new light on how the aforementioned dimensions of identity construction, empowerment and investment can result in greater social inclusion for second-language learners. The paper analyzes each dimension separately, provides a theoretical background that links them to language learning, and then discusses some possible implications for teachers and researchers on how to further recruit students’ investment and enhance their sense of empowerment and inclusion.


Classroom-based Research, Empowerment, Identity Construction, Inclusion, Language Learning, Mobility, Pedagogy of Inclusion

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