Teaching & Learning Britishness: Encountering and negotiating discourses of identities and belongings through critical pedagogy

Habib, Sadia. 2016. Teaching & Learning Britishness: Encountering and negotiating discourses of identities and belongings through critical pedagogy. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Teaching Britishness and ‘Fundamental British Values’ is a policy requirement increasingly placed on educational institutions. Yet the literature shows Britishness is fluid, evolving and often difficult to define for White British and ethnic minority youth, as well as for teachers, raising theoretical and pedagogical concerns about how best to respond to political initiatives. By examining the pedagogies employed by two Art classes in a southeast London school, this research aims to address the implications of Britishness exploration on young people’s relationships with and within multicultural Britain. This ethnographic arts-based educational research examines (i) the complexities of teaching and learning Britishness, and (ii) young people’s discourses of Britishness and belonging.

Through emotive artwork created by students, interviews with teachers and paired students, and extensive questionnaires, moving and personal insights into the significances of everyday racialised and classed belongings are investigated. The key findings show young people’s experiences of local and global identities inform their notions of national identity. Students’ sense of Britishness is deeply connected to intersectional and multiple experiences of social class, race and local attachments. Their national identity is often dwarfed by their local identity, and transnational postcolonial identities are also shown to impact upon young peoples’ ways of belonging to Britain.

The research describes and supports critical pedagogical approaches to exploring identities and belongings. The emphasis on student voice, respectful and caring dialogue, and collaborative communication led to meaningful and engaged individual and collective critical reflections on students’ stories of Britishness. The research shows teachers often require guidance and support on teaching critically about multiculturalism and social inequalities. The research presents students engaging with identity issues, advancing their own viewpoints, learning about alternative perspectives, and strengthening bonds with peers and teachers. Students felt empowered by having their critical counter-narratives validated and valued. Where students hear others’ stories and tell their own, schools can become critical sites of opportunity for reflection, resistance and hopeful futures.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Britishness, Fundamental British Values, identity, belonging, teaching, learning, critical pedagogy, nation, place, transnational, ethnicity, race, racism, multiculturalism, class, art, education

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


31 October 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 Nov 2016 14:36

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:42



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