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Learning to Become a Professional in a Textually-Mediated World

A Text-Oriented Study of Placement Practices


Ken Lau

The book presents a text-based study of discourse practices in placement, a hybrid zone which re-contextualises academic knowledge and professional practices. Using Lave and Wenger’s Communities of Practice as the overarching theoretical framework, the study investigates how novices learn to write like their professional counterparts. By collecting texts completed in various placement contexts and in-depth qualitative interviews with informants, the study features a multi-dimensional approach to the analysis of discourse practices in terms of text construction and text consumption. The issues of genre, feedback, identity and role associated with placement learning are brought into focus.


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7. Roles and Identities in Placement Practices 185


185 7 Roles and Identities in Placement Practices Identity in practice is defined socially not merely because it is reified in social discourse of the self and of social categories, but also because it is produced as a lived experience of participation in specific communities. (Wenger 1998: 151) After analysing genre-based practices and expert-novice interactions via feedback, this chapter intends to articulate the relationship between roles and identities in placement. I have started with an epigraph from Wenger (1998) with a view to highlighting the theoretical position taken on board in this chapter that identity in practice ties in with our participation in the social world and our representation of self in the course of reifying the practice. For decades, the question of ‘who am I?’ has been triggering discussions from various epistemological standpoints as the concept of identity spans fields as diverse as philosophy, social psychology, business, linguistics, to name just a few. In linguistics, for example, recent research on the negotiation of authorial presence has centred around the analysis of the choices of personal pronouns (e.g., Kuo 1998) and self-mentioning (e.g., Hyland 2001; Tang/John 1999), clustering mostly at the thematic positions of the discourse. The presence of ‘I’ in relation to ‘others’ is crucial to the understanding of the socio-political shaping of a written work as the positioning of oneself is often a matter of negotiation of authority and cultural capital available (Wardle 2004). Despite the popularity of the term identity in linguistic research, the construct of...

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