Mask-Making as Representational Process:
The Situated Composition of an Identity Project in a Senior English Class
Georgia State University
University of Georgia
Colorado State University
Citation: Zoss, M., Smagorinsky, P. & O'Donnell-Allen, C. (2007).
Mask-making as representational process: The situated composition of an
identity project in a senior English class.
International Journal of Education & the Arts, 8(10). Retrieved [date]
Eisner, Gardner, and others have argued that the arts should be better
integrated into the K-12 curriculum. In this study we examine three
high school senior boys who, as part of a unit of instruction on identity,
each produced a mask through which he artistically expressed his sense of
self. Using a sociocultural framework based in the work of Vygotsky, we
analyzed the boys' composition of their masks in terms of their goals for
working on the project, the material and psychological tools they employed
to produce the masks, and the settings in which they learned how to use
their compositional tools for such purposes. Based on both concurrent
and retrospective protocols that the boys produced in conjunction with
composing their masks, we investigated their processes of composition
as what Gee terms identity projects; i.e., as efforts to project themselves
into their mask texts and as part of their long-term projects to explore
and develop their personal and socially-situated identities. Each
participant used the mask-making composition as an occasion for
inscribing his experiences, beliefs, and emotions into the text,
albeit in different ways and toward different ends. The study concludes
with a consideration of the use of arts in literacy education, a
reconsideration of the limitations of language-based-only conceptions of
literacy, and the possibilities for expanded learning opportunities when
English/Language Arts classes open up students' textual tool kits to
allow for broader opportunities to engage with the curriculum.
This article is available in PDF format.