Approaches to Gender and Spoken Classroom Discourse

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FPDA suggests that the ceaseless interaction of competing discourses means that females and males will continuously fluctuate between positions of powerfulness and powerlessness both within the same context and across different social contexts. With close reference to samples of spoken interaction taken from a whole class discussion in English, I will use the FPDA approach in order to illustrate the complexities of analysing gender relations within classroom spoken discourse.

I will propose that the view of much language and gender research that girls are being systematically silenced in the classroom is too simplistic. Nonetheless, there are ways in which institutional discourses work together to produce girls as more silent and boys as more talkative - particularly in public settings such as a classroom discussion.

The process of designing the instruments was not an easy one. It was an evolving process that led me to draw on final interpretations and conclusions, in which the primary source of data transcripts from video recordings , has to be compared and contrasted in a parallel way with other instruments field notes and interviews that support and give account for what has been observed and interpreted from the transcripts. This instrument, taking into account the kind of data that was going to be analyzed spoken , as well as my unit of analysis, give account of how students construct their identities as learners.

In This Article

The objective when designing the transcriptions was trying to adapt a model that allowed me as researcher to have easy and clear access to the data in order to facilitate the further process of categorization. Here, I consider important to show the way I carried out this process in its preliminary stages, before reaching the establishment of categories and sub categories. The first stage in the analysis was assembling the data, in which my task as a researcher was to pull together all the data collected through a specific period of time.

Then, I started a process of "scanning" of that data in order to get preliminary ideas and impression from it. In this stage, broad patterns started to emerge and they certainly helped me in order to come up with commonalities among the information collected in the different instruments.


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In this research project, this process of assembling was undertaken by gathering the information collected through the use of two instruments: transcripts and interviews. After scanning all the information produced by both, I figured out some general reflections that were very helpful when defining the categories of analysis. These reflections were presented in the preliminary categorization. Appendix 1. Secondly, I started a process of data "coding" in which I gave specific names to the patterns previously found in the data.

The purpose was reducing the large quantity of data in to more specific concepts or categories in order to get to interpretations in the clearest way possible. This process of coding in the process of analysis consisted on giving names to the events described in the data in order to find further common characteristics. As a third step, I started to establish connections and relationships among patterns regarding the different data collection instruments. At this point, all the information was organized and displayed in order to get clear and supported interpretation of the data analyzed.

Appendix 3. Finally, I moved from the description phase to what Burns calls "make sense of the data". It demands the articulation of concepts and the development of theories. As stated before, this interpretation should be supported by the data itself and should also let some room for reflection and further questions, always keeping in mind my research questions and their possible answers. For this section of my research project, I included 4 sessions one hour and a half each , out of the nine I recorded.


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After examining in a very detailed way the video recordings and transcripts, I selected this sessions under the figure of telling cases Mitchell, which were the most significant cases to my perspective as a researcher. Taking into account the principles of grounded approach under the light of critical ethnography Kumaravadivelu, , each one of the five transcripts have gone through a process of coding and establishment of patterns in order to find the category and sub categories.

All of them are the product of a careful analysis of spoken interactions undertaken in an EFL university classroom, and complemented under the light of theoretical support that closely relates to the findings of this project. In this first category, there are three subcategories that depict the way students try to discursively fght for a negotiation that either positively or negatively contributes to the process of identity construction. The use of the mother tongue becomes an essential resource for classroom interaction in the context of this project.

Approaches to Gender and Spoken Classroom Discourse

Each one of the actors students and teacher , makes use of L1 with different purposes and in different occasions, but definitely with an evident effect on identity construction through the interaction process. First of all, students' use of L1 is directly related to two main purposes: the first one is to check for understanding on the contents being taught in class, when the interaction is different from the one of giving the answer requested by the teacher. These different directions are related to express full ideas on what is being discussed in class, to check and show understanding on what the teacher is saying, to prove that they might have more knowledge on the subject than the rest of their classmates, to talk to each other when undertaking group activities, and when addressing the teacher for individual questions.

This fact is illustrated in excerpt 1, where the teacher and one of his students are trying to figure out the definition of passive voice and its relation to a specific field, art. Excerpt 1 Context: English class with students who belong to level basic 3. Observe the use of the L1 one the teacher makes in his turns. T: how do you define that? What would be the passive voice? T: excuse me? Las cosas hablan por si solas Things speak for themselves It is not that they speak for themselves, art also needs noise to express, I mean T: so you are associating passive voice with art The use of L1 in this university classroom unveils a process of identity construction that works towards a common goal which is the learning of a foreign language, but it is undertaken using the L1 nonetheless.

This situation, that is due mostly to a serious language constraint, could shape students' vision of language as an instrumental one, which coerces the negotiation of the self that allows students to position themselves as "more" or "less" powerful within interaction, unless Spanish is used.

2. The Forms of Classroom Discourse

The language constraint is acknowledged through short entries in the mother tongue, and the struggle of Spanish use is resisted by the teacher by speaking in English no matter if the students address him in Spanish. They are constructed as subjects able to comprehend rather than subjects being able to use and produce language. The concept of L1 as a strategy in this specific classroom setting might differ from the purpose L1 one is supposed to entail. Thus, I find a kind of mismatch between what it is evidenced in the data, and what studies and scholars state about the role of L1 in EFL classroom, especially in the code switching phenomenon evidenced in the teacher's talk.

According to Turnbull, , the target language must be understood by students.

In order to accomplish this goal, the first language use can facilitate intake and thereby contribute to learning. In regards to this issue, code switching arises as a contextualization cue Gumperz, , that organizes and structures talk. This phenomenon can also serve important identity related functions as a means to construct interactants as either bilingual or as a way to struggle with the learning of a second language from a monolingual perspective, as a means to display relationships between language and social categories.

Recalling Turnbull's words , if we consider the language learner not as an imperfect monolingual speaker of the second language but as a budding, incipient, multilingual whose model is the multilingual speaker, it seems reasonable to expect and allow code switching and in general, the use of the first language, to emerge naturally within second and foreign language classrooms.

Throughout the analysis of the data, power struggles for who holds knowledge were observed. Taking into account teacher's long entries compared to the short answers provided by students, one might think that the teacher is the "holder of knowledge" and students' role is either a "translator" or "reproducer" of language rules. Nevertheless, a deeper look at the data made evident some patterns that give account of a process of "power circulation" Foucault, , that makes knowledge an object of a high value in order to position both teacher and students as active members of the community of practice Wenger, , that represent this EFL classroom.

Más títulos a tener en cuenta

Excerpt 2, in which both the students and the teacher are arguing about the past tense of the verb "take" within the correction of one of the grammar exercises students were doing, serves to illustrate this point. Excerpt 2 Context: English class with students who belong to level basic 3. Observe the comments students make after the questions and answers provided by the teacher.

T: What can we use here? S3: took T: yeah, take? S3: mmm hesitates T: what do you say? S4: no, pero es T: can you please spell it? S4: In Spanish teacher? Ss laughs T: come on! These struggles for knowledge among students and teachers are undertaken in two different scenarios. The ones about the language and the ones about the previous experiences that students hold, that might contribute to the development of the class. In the struggles about language, students sometimes position themselves as knowledge holders, since they are giving the teacher instruction on what should or should not be used regarding a specific grammar structure.

Since the teacher depends on their answer to continue with the exercise, he cannot avoid the fact of having students telling him the steps he has to follow. In these cases of power circulation, laughing seems to be the reflection on students' reaction of being the ones who tell the teacher what the correct grammar form is, and more so, when the teacher seems to get confused about students' comments.

However, the teacher resists this loss of control by ignoring what students are suggesting him to do. Although students do not reply or argue the teacher's final decision, which acknowledges students are right in the answer, they certainly transform the vision they hold about the teacher as the "know it all" that is privileged in the class. The fact of having students positioning themselves and being positioned by the teacher as the ones who answer have several implications depending on two main aspects.

Students are "free" enough to speak at any moment, given the fact there is no nomination or pointing from the teacher; however, the "choral responses" give account on how the teacher expects students to have the right answer, assuming general understanding of the grammar contents being taught in class. Excerpt 3 Context: English class with students who belong to level basic 3. Observe the way the teacher elicits for specific information and the strategy students use to respond to it. T: I have some sentences that we are going to distinguish You understand it?

I can't stop loving you, right? T: Le tengo miedo a volar, yeah? T: gracias por venir hoy, good? Thanks for coming today, good? Related to this position of students "passive" agents of knowledge, when students are able to develop their own strategies and meanings for doing what it is expected from them in the classroom, they learn to view themselves as capable members of a community engaged in learning. According to Wenger , when their ideas and explanations are accepted in a classroom discussion, others also recognize them as members of the community.

On the other hand, students who do not have the opportunity to connect with knowledge in this case language knowledge on a personal level, or are not recognized as contributors to the classroom, may fail to see themselves as competent at learning and understanding. The role of "answerers" that reflects a hierarchy in teacher-student relation, might suddenly change when it is the teacher the one who is forced to be the one who answers.

In some stages of this particular classroom, the one who questions is the one who has the power. Even though the role of answerer has different implications depending on who assumes it, this struggle for power definitively shapes the way students identify themselves as part of the classroom community. If the teacher asks, students are expected to give the right answers in order to fulfil a learning goal as seen in excerpt 2. Therefore, the status quo seems to be saved. On the other hand, if it is the student the one who asks, the teacher is required to give account for the same knowledge he is teaching, and any misunderstanding leads students to, again, change their position from the ones who know less than the teacher, to the ones who can know as much as he does.

Interestingly enough, the moments in which this shift was produced, students' participation increased, even using the L1. According to that, the struggles for power that were mediated through the teacher's and students' discourses are strongly connected to their visions of language as seen in the previous sub-category. The dichotomy between communication and form is explicitly expressed but implicitly fought nonetheless.

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There is an imposition of a vision of language teaching and learning that does not entirely fit students' interest and capacities as to their learning process. There is a contradiction between what it is said and what it is done in this classroom, where it is claimed the importance of communication for learning. It is unveiled in the power exercised in a pedagogical practice based on how language works. In conclusion, this analysis intended to show the concept of power as a critical standpoint in order to understand what goes on in classrooms.

Indeed, the interaction carried out in the setting of my research project allowed me to see that discursive practices are ritually organized in order to produce and reproduce practices which maintain persistent and unequal power relations. Understanding identity construction as a dynamic entity that is socially produced, it can also reveal social arrangements which maintain such power relations. However, they can also be contested and transformed. The process of analysis of different interactions in this university EFL classroom made me realize about the different ways in which both teachers and students can certainly create environments that facilitate the negotiation and construction of identities despite of the "static" behaviors both actors enroll in a so-called typical English class.

The use of L1 is a valuable strategy for students to get to an understanding of the topics studied in the class, as well as the main way of communication when teacher student interaction is not taking place. It is a way to position themselves as subjects of knowledge that, beyond the constraints in the foreign language, are able to express and give meaning to the interactions that are taking place in the classroom. This phenomenon appears to be an important point when it comes to justify the reasons why students use Spanish in the English classroom, as it was show in excerpt 1 where students were trying to use the L1 in order to provide an answer to the teacher's question.

At first glance it seems to be an effective strategy in order to "set the right environment" and get students engaged into the use of the foreign language. It is impossible, then, to think of an individual construction of identity bearing in mind the social one in which the teacher, with his beliefs and thoughts about teaching and learning, plays a key role. The way he conceives language, its nature and the way it must be taught or used according to the vision, certainly shapes students as language learners.


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In this particular classroom, for instance, the learning of English as a foreign language is held by communication that uses primarily the L1, but it is resisted by the teacher who just uses it when code switching, shaping the vision and perspective of language learning as an instrumental one that does not certainly relate to the students self as a whole, and an identity of learners who "work for the moment", without any meaningful insight of learning a second language.

Just in the way students struggle in order to understand how the language works and how it can be internalized, teachers also deal with issues related to what is the best way to engage students into the learning process. However, it is inevitable that a pattern of teaching that is influenced by teachers' beliefs and background experiences stand out among his clear conscious as to how every student has a different way to learn a language.

On the other hand, power struggles in the classroom that affect the "regular fow" of this university classroom is directly related to knowledge and how it is constructed, imposed or owed in a community of practice. Since these struggles make the teacher lose face in front of his students, and changes the role of students giving them the power to hold the knowledge, role positioning becomes a cycle that is supposed to be closed when the teacher recovers his discourse identity Gee, , and students return to their positional identity Holland et al, in which they are supposed to get to the apprehension of their social position in a given community.

The fact of having students resisting some of the rules implicitly imposed by the teacher, does not mean, however, that they do not legitimate the teacher as "the one in charge" when it comes to the shaping of the teaching learning process.

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That is precisely when the struggle for power takes place. This is the second of a two-course sequence. The course will provide graduate students interested in Education, Applied Linguistics, Cultural Studies and beyond with methods for producing a language of description for modes of representation such as reading, writing, speaking, various types of performance, visual, gestural, and kinesthetic, how these modes interact, play their role in key communicative practices and are rooted in social relationships, especially relationships of power.

Though we may consider discourse analysis through an interdisciplinary lens and through traditions that range from interactional sociolinguistics and narrative analysis to conversation analysis, our primary interest is in traditions of critical discourse analysis. Course explores perspectives on discourse analytical research that primarily studies the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in social and political contexts. Elaine Richardson.

Ethnography of communication as an approach to community-based expressive forms. Folklore GIS course. Gabriella Modan. Discourse analysis special topics. Structures of talk bind us together in unimaginably delicate and complex ways, and the course is designed to suggest to you how this is so. It will lead you through some of the substantive findings on classroom speaking structures, and begins with a focused introduction to a powerful analytic apparatus for understanding classroom and other interaction—the sequential analysis of conversational structures.

These studies begin to give us access to both the complexity and the delicacy of social interaction, and what is robust about the interactional work of achieving common understanding. It offers a disciplined way of making sense of what people actually say, and thus do, together. Carmen Taleghani-Nikazm. This course focuses on the languages of Latino communities in the United States.

Course material is drawn primarily from ethnographies of language, which provide a richly contextualized approach to the relationship between language s and culture s.