GSE Publications

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Journal Article

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Globalization has brought rapid migration to many regions previously unfamiliar with immigration. In these changing landscapes long-time residents must make sense of their new neighbors, and immigrants must adjust to hosts’ ideas about them and develop their own accounts of a new social context. How immigrants are viewed and how they view themselves have important implications for their future prospects-especially in schools, where students are measured against normative models of success. Yet as members of cultural and linguistic minority groups, and often as people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, immigrant students may not be aware of these models that are typically part of the implicit or hidden curriculum. Realizing this, secondary school educators in one American town tried to help immigrant students adopt a normative model of identity, the «university-bound student,» by teaching them explicitly how such a person should behave. Their well-intentioned efforts at teaching the hidden curriculum did not work, however. Immigrant students recognized and valued the identity, but neither they nor their teachers believed that the students could adopt it themselves. Using ethnographic data and discourse analyses of curricular materials and classroom interaction, we describe how this program failed to work. We argue that this occurred in part because the intervention was based upon a conception of culture and identity as static and homogenous. We show how a more complex account of culture and identity –as circulatory, multiple, and heterogeneously evaluated– explains this failure and suggests how such an intervention could be more successful.


Suggested Citation:

K.S. Mortimer, S. Wortham and E. Allard. (2010). "Helping immigrants identify as “university-bound students”: Unexpected difficulties in teaching the hidden curriculum." Revista de Educación, 353, 107-128.

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Date Posted: 02 March 2011

This document has been peer reviewed.