Investigating Identities

Introduction and Background

The following lesson plan was used by a group of Conflict Analysis and Resolution Master’s and PhD Candidates for a two hour event on the George Mason University Fairfax Campus with approximately 15-20 undergraduate students. The students all came voluntarily, but most were studying Conflict Analysis and Resolution, Global Affairs, and Communications.

Enduring Understanding:The role of identity and how it works for or against us in the world

Essential Questions: How do our multiple identities impact our experiences in life?

Learning Objectives


  • Students will discover the myriad identities that they possess
  • Students will discover how they connect with different people through different identities, and not all identities are those propagated in media and popular culture.
  • Students will discover how identities fit in Marie Dugan’s Nested Model, and how it’s complicated to hold multiple identities within multiple levels of systems.



Time Needed

Total: 2-3 hours


Intro and Identity Maps (1+ hour)
Nested Model Mapping Activity (1+hour)

Materials Needed

Index Cards
Dry erase markers/board
Computer Paper
Masking tape


1). Welcome everyone into the space

2). Explain the activity:

  • The goal is to create a visual map of all the identities you hold. You may put your name on it, or not if you choose to remain anonymous–either is fine, the point is to see what identities you hold.
  • Using the notecard you received, write down the most important identity you hold and place it in the box/container
  • Once you’re finished, grab a piece of tape and stick your map up on the wall somewhere in the room.
  • Grab a sheet of stickers from the front table. When you’re ready, go around to each map and put a sticker next to different identities that you hold on other people’s maps.
  • Once you’re finished, grab a seat somewhere in the circle for our discussion.

3). Break into discussion

  • What does it feel like to see other people’s identity maps?
  • General impressions?
  • What was difficult about this?
  • Were there identities presented that you were surprised to see?
  • What can we say about identities that are traditionally marginalized?
  • What is conducive to creating safe spaces to talk about identity?
  • What about conflicting identities? How do we hold multiple at once? What is saliency?

4). Transition to box identities and nested model mapping

5). Have facilitator hold box, and have 3-4 participants choose an notecard without looking

6). One by one, have the participants with notecards go up to the board and have the audience help them place where the identity goes within the nested model. Discuss as the participant is placing the identity why it should go there.

7). Debrief Questions

  • Was your identity picked to be placed within the model? If so, how did it feel? If not, how did it feel?
  • How is this model representative of society?
  • What do you feel is missing? Under-represented? Why might this be?
  • How could this model be useful when thinking about how we interact with one another?
  • Overall, what did you think of this activity?

8). Closing: Metta Meditation–send love/positive energy to appreciate everyone’s willingness to participate at whatever level of depth they decided today. Discussing identities can be difficult because it is such a vulnerable, and sometime painful, topic. To continue processing and moving forward in this work, we need to be willing to open up and discuss what certain identity experiences hold. Facilitators thank everyone for coming.

About Chelsie Kuhn

My thoughts on the world.

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