Know Thy Selfie: Using Contemporary Art to Teach Adolescent Identity Exploration

Document Type


Publication Date



Adolescence, Teaching psychology, Identity exploration, Contemporary art, High school, Identity development

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to highlight how one high school psychology teacher helped students explore the concept of identity exploration and express their own personal identity through the use of contemporary art in a high school psychology course.

Design/methodology/approach: In this paper, techniques one high school teacher used for utilizing the visual arts to teach identity exploration in a high school psychology course are shared, including student discussion surrounding the visual analysis of contemporary artwork, thoughtful student application of developmental theories and the student production of original artwork to express one’s identity.

Findings: Students participating in the lesson engaged enthusiastically in the discussion of the use of selfies in contemporary art and demonstrated thoughtful reflection in the creation of their own selfies.

Research limitations/implications: Future research is needed to systematically investigate the effectiveness of incorporating contemporary art as a means of teaching identity exploration to adolescents as part of a high school psychology curriculum.

Practical implications: Adolescent exploration is a key feature of the adolescent experience and is part of the psychology curriculum at the high school level. Such courses afford students the unique opportunity to apply developmental theories and theories of identity exploration to recent occurrences in their lives. One possibility for teaching identity exploration is through the visual arts.

Originality/value: This lesson advances psychology instruction through the purposeful scaffolding of identity exploration as both content and process using contemporary art.

Citation / Publisher Attribution

Social Studies Research and Practice, v. 13 issue 2, p.279-288