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Produktart: Buch
Verlag: Diplomica Verlag
Erscheinungsdatum: 03.2012
AuflagenNr.: 1
Seiten: 104
Sprache: Englisch
Einband: Paperback


This study analyses examples of classroom discourse, one of the most important influences on students’ experience in schools, in EFL classes. The central idea of the author’s enquiry is to compare classroom discourse in two secondary schools in two European countries, namely Austria on the one hand, and Spain on the other hand. The focus of the study is on EFL classes taught by a team of a non-native speaker teacher and a native speaker assistant. The purposes of this study are to gain insights into classroom communication, to compare classroom discourse in two different countries to see whether culturally specific rules of classroom communication might apply, and to investigate the contact situation of two different (if existent) communication strategies in classroom discourse. Therefore, the study aims to answer the following research question: Do the cultural modes of classroom communication in EFL classes (taught by a team of a teacher and an assistant) differ from each other? The data needed for this study were collected by means of video-recording audio-portions were transcribed and the data was analysed using methods of Conversational Analysis. The author focuses in particular on turn-taking, the occurrence of the IRE / IRF sequence and simultaneous speech, as well as restarts and pauses. The analysis shows how certain conversational structures, such as simultaneous speech or the IRE / IRF sequence, work in classroom discourse. The results hint at different cultural modes of classroom communication, the main differences concerning the presence of the teacher in the discourse, the degree of smoothness with which the discourse proceeds and the students’ degree of involvement in communication. Furthermore, the data shows that different communication strategies are indeed used in classes taught by a team. Interaction with an assistant might increase students’ talking time and might, if the assistant is given enough freedom, also result in more fluent student discourse. In addition, the data suggests that some communication strategies are preferable in the context of EFL teaching with the aim of enhancing communicative competence, namely not interfering with regard to content, not selecting next speakers, and offering open discussion activities.


Text Sample: Chapter III. 2. 2, Classroom turn-taking: Classroom lessons, as shown by Mehan, are also structured by means of the turn-taking machinery, which consists of basic turn-allocation procedures and ‘improvisational strategies’ employed by the teacher to deal with disruptions in the basic system. Violations of the co-occurrences between speaker and respondent are called ‘sanctioned violations’ by Mehan. Here the teacher works to repair the breach and to re-establish the normal form of interaction. In contrast, ‘unsanctioned violations’ and ‘unwarranted sanctions’, which are actually unacceptable designations, are allowed by the teacher when, after a break-down, the teacher’s only concern is to restore order or to continue. The fact that the participants engage in repair work leads Mehan to the conclusion that his model indeed resembles the participants’ model, a precondition extremely important for him within his ethnographical framework. In classroom conditions, turn-taking takes on a form slightly different from that found by Sacks, Schegloff and Jefferson for normal conversation since ‘current speaker selects next speaker’ seems the only possible option, while the options of ‘next speaker selects self’ and ‘current speaker continues’ do not seem to apply. Thus, in traditional classrooms, speaking rights are attributed by the teacher who is in control of the right to speak. Teachers may allocate turns to students by specifying who is to take the turn (‘personal solicit’) or by throwing it open to the whole class (‘general solicit’). Personal solicits can be done by nominating or by gestures such as eye gaze or pointing, while asking a question or looking around accompany general solicits. On the other hand, students’ turn-taking behaviour consists of unsolicited and solicited (‘initiating’) turns. Learners may bid by raising their hands or using the teacher’s name, or may simply take a turn. In addition, students sometimes take ‘private turns’, that is turns not shared with the rest of the class. Allocating turns evenly to students is not easy and in general teachers seem to allocate more turns to active students or those likely to know the answer. When attributing speaking rights, seating arrangements and gaze are of importance. In contrast to everyday conversation, where turns are typically one sentence long, in more formal speech situations, such as classrooms, the speaker whose role assigns him extra authority can select the speakers for several successive utterances. III. 2. 3, Interactional competence: The presence of this tacit, normative rule system requires ‘interactional competence’ in order to participate in the classroom effectively. Admittedly, this seems to be a vague concept, yet Mehan manages to describe its features convincingly. Classroom competence involves matters of form (being interactionally appropriate) as well as content (being academically correct). Hellermann defines interactional competence as ‘a learner’s ability to co-construct appropriate linguistic forms, registers, and sequential routines in appropriate contexts in order to accomplish discursive practices.’ As Mehan’s study shows, students acquire interactional competence within the course of time. In Liebscher and Dailey-O’Cain’s study students similarly acquired an awareness of their roles in the classroom, which led them to behave in ways different from outside the classroom and from the teacher. Mehan does not comment on the teacher’s role with regard to the acquisition of interactional competence, while Gil argues that ‘to guide the students to learn the rules of this complex metalinguistic game’ is the teacher’s job. This, in my opinion, however, is to be debated. In conclusion: ‘an important part of education for children in school is learning that conversations in classrooms have unique features, and that the demands of classroom discourse must be kept separate from the demands of everyday discourse’. A possible weakness of Mehan’s study lies in the fact that he analysed discourse in only one classroom. Mehan himself addresses this issue briefly, arguing, by referring basically to informal evidence, that equivalent structural arrangements as well as similar structuring work could be found in other classrooms, too. In his analysis, Mehan rejects grammatically based categories since meaning is not conveyed by grammatical means. Furthermore, while other researchers have frequently ignored paralinguistic and kinesics behaviour in their analyses, Mehan attributes great importance to these factors. All in all, his analysis is definitely one of the most detailed analyses carried out in this area of study. III. 2. 4, From teacher-centred classrooms to other forms of teaching: The IRE sequence has been regarded as characteristic of traditional lessons, in which lecture style teaching prevails. Furthermore, the turn-taking behaviour described above may only apply to teacher-centred lessons and not to all forms of classroom interaction. Here, in my opinion, lies a weakness of Mehan’s work in that it only focuses, as typical of early studies of classroom discourse, on teacher-led lessons, which he is, however, well aware of. The predominance of teacher-centred lessons is possibly linked to the study representing ‘public schooling in the early grades’. Mehan claims that ‘[t]he situation is even more complex in student-centered classrooms, team-teaching arrangements, and learning centers.’ Nevertheless, Cazden argues that on the one hand, ‘differences between learning in teacher-led lessons and learning in peer groups are becoming less marked’ and that, on the other hand, there is more and more space for student exchanges also in teacher-led lessons. Generally, it has been suggested that a more symmetrical relationship should be aimed for to facilitate learning. Nystrand argues that peer collaboration can engage students in their zones of proximal development, defined as ‘the distance between the actual developmental level … and the level of potential development’. When interaction occurs in the zone of proximal development, it is likely to be successful. Actually, classroom lessons are nowadays indeed characterised by a far greater variety of social interaction, such as pair, group or project work. It has often been argued that whole-class, recitation style instruction is opposed to multi-task learning individually or in small groups and that their effects on engagements and consequently on learning differ. Nevertheless, Kelly argues that student engagement can also be increased by adapting the question and answer sessions in teacher-centred lessons. Within this traditional bipolar distinction of ‘transmission’ versus ‘discovery’ approach, various ‘forms of social interaction’ can be distinguished, such as rote, recitation, instruction, scaffolded dialogue or discussion. Unfortunately, often ‘all but the last two of these forms of classroom talk [are consigned] to the despised archive of ‘traditional’ methods’ in educational discourse. Furthermore, pedagogical labels such as ‘whole class teaching’, ‘group work’, or ‘discussion’ may conceal great discursive variety. Gutierrez distinguishes three types of scripts according to how much the IRE sequence works, how the topic is selected and proceeding, what kind of question is asked, how the speech floor is decided, etc. The ‘recitation script’ is characterized by teacher domination, while in the ‘responsive script’ students’ utterances are more encouraged. The highest interactiveness is found in the ‘responsive / collaborative script’, where the teacher assumes the role of a facilitator. Consequently, students’ responses are more relaxed and may form sequences of a chain, such as T-S-S-S-S-T, which ‘can be considered a way of ‘deregulating’ classroom discourse’.

Über den Autor

Katrin Strobelberger was born in Austria in 1976. In 2000 she completed her university studies in English and Geography at the University of Vienna, and later on added a degree in Hispanics to her teaching qualifications. In 2011 she obtained a Master’s degree in Education from the renowned University of Bath. Since 2001 she has been working as a (secondary grammar school) teacher of English, Spanish, German as a foreign language, and Geography in Slovenia, Spain and Austria. In her various stays in different countries in as well as outside of Europe, the author has gained wide experience, as well as deep insights into the complexity of language teaching and particularly classroom discourse. These insights as well as her interest in sociolinguistics and conversational analysis constituted the main motivation to do more research on the topic of classroom discourse in language classes.

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