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“Who Am I?” Exploring Racial and Ethnic Identity Development During Adolescence


There’s no question that our country is diversifying. By 2030, immigration will overtake births as the dominant driver of population growth. Soon, there will be a majority-minority population in the United States, meaning that not a single ethnic or racial group will make up over 50 percent of the population. Students of color already make up the majority of K-12 students. How is this shift changing school environments and student learning?

To answer this question, Critical Windowa podcast by the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), turned to Dr. Joanna Lee Williams, associate professor in the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Dr. Williams researches race and ethnicity as social contexts for youth development.

“Adolescence is a critical time for thinking about racial and ethnic group membership,” explained Dr. Williams. “During this time, young people’s cognitive abilities start to grow and develop in ways that allow them to think more abstractly about the world and their experiences in it…this often becomes a time when young people begin exploring this ‘who am I’ question in general.”

Listen as Williams explores how racial and ethnic identity development impacts students and their learning environments, and how educators can support students in their identity development, on this episode of Critical Window.

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Critical Window is a podcast from the Alliance for Excellent Education that explores the rapid changes happening in the body and the brain during adolescence and what these changes mean for educators, policymakers, and parents. 

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