Learning, selfhood, and pragmatic identity theory: Towards a practical and comprehensive framework of identity development in education

  • Joseph Levitan McGill University
  • Davin Carr-Chellman University of Idaho


In this essay we discuss a theory of identity development through the elaboration of American Pragmatists’ conception of how individuals develop awareness of the self, others, and the environment. We then outline the potential contributions of Pragmatic Identity Theory as a practical conceptual framework and a method of analysis that can provide insights into identity formation, self-conceptions, and well-being for educators in day-to-day interactions. The literature on learning and identity can benefit from a more practical understanding of identity development, as identity development is relevant to how individuals form their values, beliefs, and behavioral dispositions. Based upon a gap in the current literature, this article explores four premises that educators can use to understand identity formation, and then argues for Pragmatic Identity Theory’s potential contributions to research and practice as an analytical framework.