Racial storylines and implications for learning

Na'ilah Suad Nasir*, Cyndy R. Snyder, Niral Shah, Kihana Miraya Ross

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


In this article, we theorize the relation between race and schooling and consider the implications for learning. While the body of research on culture and learning has come to define learning as an inherently cultural and social process, scholars have few theoretical tools to help us think about the role of race and racism in relation to students' access to identities as learners and to learning. We draw on both theoretical and empirical literature to make three core arguments: (a) racial 'storylines' or narratives are prevalent in our society and have powerful implications for learners, particularly for youth from marginalized communities; (b) these racial storylines are a critical aspect of life in schools, which serve the purpose of racially and academically socializing students; and (c) as these storylines are invoked in school settings, certain identities are made available, imposed, or closed down. Such identities have important implications for students' opportunities to learn and their engagement in learning settings. As we conclude, we consider the potential of alternative spaces, which can serve to counter dominant narratives about who is capable of learning and how learning takes place, and open new spaces for identity and learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)285-301
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Development
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • African American students
  • Learning
  • Racial stereotypes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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