Becoming a Hurdler: How Learning Settings Afford Identities


Na'ilah Suad Nasir is an associate professor of education and African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research focuses broadly on the ways in which race, culture, learning, and development intersect in the lives of youth (

Jamal Cooks, an Oakland, California, native, is an associate professor of literacy education in the Secondary Education Department at San Francisco State University. His research interests include building literacy skills of adolescents, using popular culture as a teaching tool, such as hip-hop, and applying coaching practices to classroom teaching. Dr. Cooks earned his B.A. from University of California, Berkeley; he completed his M.A. in social studies curriculum development and his Ph.D. at the University of Michigan (


In this article, we present a model for thinking about how learning settings provide resources for the development of the practice-linked identities of participants, drawing on data from a study on an African American high school track and field team. What does it mean to make an identity available in the context of a learning setting? In this article, we draw on current theories in anthropology, psychology, sociology, and sociocultural theory to develop a conceptual frame that might be helpful in addressing these questions. We focus on how individuals are offered (and how they take up) identities in cultural activities. We define three types of identity resources that were made available to student-athletes learning to run track and explore how they took shape in teaching and learning interactions in track. [identity, learning, African American students, culture]