Zoss et al. (2007) Mask-Making as Representational Process: The Situated Composition of an Identity Project in a Senior English Class

literature type:

journal article


Michelle Zoss, Peter Smagorinsky, and Cindy O\'Donnell-Allen. International Journal of Education & the Arts. 2007; Vol. 8, No. 10.


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.



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