Life-story pedagogy for identity

Through linguistic and cultural recognition to participation and equity



language learning, narrative identity, life story, heritage language, mother tongue, belonging, participation, translanguaging, pedagogy


Identity as a life story is constructed in social interaction with the surrounding world in a narrative continuum through language. When given pedagogic recognition for active meaning-making and construction of personal identity, the student is encountered in a just and holistic manner. In school, skills related to identity construction are taught especially in language education. In Finland, the central aim established in the Core Curriculum for learning mother tongue and literature is to teach students linguistic skills with which to word, interpret, understand, make meaning and construct oneself and the world in interaction with others. Although the identity-mission is shared by all curricular activities, the importance of mother tongue and literature gives reason to call it the ‘identity subject’ proper. Yet, in multilingual educational contexts, not everyone’s mother tongue is equal, as analysed in multi-professional interview data in this paper. For migrant-language speakers, there is a major expectation to learn one of the national languages for participation and active citizenship. This leads to undermining two things. First, the process can also take place vice versa: participation enhances feelings of belonging, which enhances language learning. Second, the first language plays a central role in constructing life-story identity. Although identity construction is cherished in the Core Curriculum, it is not automatically valued, offered, or endorsed in the context of migrant students learning their own first languages. Linguistic and cultural recognition helps to support the significance of life-story identity, and acknowledging it in structural support and in pedagogic practices will further promote all students’ equity and participation as active involvement.

Special Issue: Language Education for Social Justice


2022-09-08 — Updated on 2022-10-05


How to Cite

Kinossalo, M., Jousmäki, H., & Intke-Hernandez, M. (2022). Life-story pedagogy for identity: Through linguistic and cultural recognition to participation and equity. Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies, 16(2), 99–119. (Original work published September 8, 2022)