Identity, Sense of Connection, and Bureaucratic Representation in a Diversifying School

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Research on immigration-related demographic change in schools has highlighted the importance of educators’ professional missions and expertise in shaping their receptivity toward newcomers. Less attention has been given to how educators’ social identities, especially in relation to newcomers, influence how they perceive their role in serving the population. Drawing on the theory of representative bureaucracy, this qualitative study explores how educators’ social identities shaped their identification with and orientation toward addressing the needs of immigrant-origin newcomers in a diversifying school context.

Results indicate that educators’ perceived sense of shared connection, or lack thereof, with newcomers shaped their orientation toward serving the population in one of three ways. Educators described their role in educating newcomers as a moral imperative, a professional responsibility, or a legal obligation. These orientations had important implications for how educators made sense of their role in accommodating newcomers’ unique needs. In particular, the moral imperative orientation was characterized by a sense of urgency in facilitating newcomers’ educational incorporation. The professional responsibility orientation was characterized by a perceived sense of fairness grounded in many educators’ (a) perceived connection with both the newcomer and established student populations and/or (b) stated interest in treating all students equally. Finally, the legal obligation orientation was characterized by a perceived sense of burden in serving the newcomer population. In addition to extending conversations about bureaucratic representation beyond race and ethnicity, this study offers insight into how street-level bureaucrats’ identities potentially shape their responsiveness to newcomers in diversifying organizations.

Event Type: 
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
Event Sponsor: 
Personality and Social Research, Institute of
Event Speakers: 
Daphne Penn