10 SES 08 A, Research in Teacher Education: Cultures and Methodologies
The practicum holds a specific place in second language teacher education programs. This is a delicate stage in which student teachers experience the complex and multi-faceted nature of teaching. Yet, they are not alone in this process, they are supported by mentor teachers in practice schools and supervisors on campus via the system of supervision.
Supervision, along with mentoring, facilitates a cooperative study environment for student teachers. A supervisor is “anyone who has… the duty of monitoring and improving the quality of teaching done by other colleagues in an educational situation” (Wallace, 1991, p. 107). Supervision aims to assist student teachers to identify and share their self-insights, construct their own knowledge and autonomously practice eventually.
In practicums, supervisors introduce student teachers to the practicing schools, assign them observation tasks to realize the realities of a language classroom, help them plan their teaching, observe their teaching and finally provide them with feedback right after their assessed teaching. In so-called post-teaching conferences also known as supervisory meetings, supervisors and student teachers come together, reflect on and discuss student teachers’ teaching.
These post-teaching conferences draw particular attention in the field since most of the time the nature of supervisor feedback is negative. Feedback in post-teaching conferences is based on the fact that it offers an alternative interpretation of the discussed teaching, contributes to student teachers’ raising awareness on the profession, and helps them alter their behavior and improve their teaching (Bailey, 2006). On the other hand, giving feedback “carries the potential of being an agonizing experience for both” student teachers and supervisors since there is the possibility of losing face as a result of delivering negative feedback, criticism (Shrigley &Walker, 1981 as cited in Bailey, 2006, p. 144).
The hierarchical positioning of student teachers and supervisors in the supervision system, and the face-threatening nature of giving criticism lead researchers to study supervisors’ speech and research their discourse (Akcan & Tatar, 2010; Roberts, 1992; Vasquez, 2004; Wajnryb, 1994). How student teachers respond to supervisors’ overall feedback particularly in the case of criticism is underresearched since their discourse has not drawn sufficient attention. Furthermore, what is overlooked in these supervisory meetings is the fact that these are not dyadic in nature in most of the contexts (Copland, 2011). In other words, there are more than one student teachers because student teachers attend these conferences as a group, which makes these meetings “semi-public platform events” (Copland, 2011, p. 3832). This peculiarity of conferences is missing in the studies which focused on supervisory discourse (Akcan & Tatar, 2010; Roberts, 1992; Vasquez, 2004; Wajnrby, 1994). In this sense, student teachers’ discourse as a group should be particularly explored in these meetings since, firstly, some face-threatening acts like criticism are acceptable and even unavoidable in these feedback conferences (Copland, 2011). Secondly, the unequal power distribution between student teachers and supervisors affects their discourse. Thirdly, student teachers attend these conferences as a group or pair, last but not least, their responses to criticisms have not been sufficiently explored. Therefore, this study aims to investigate how Turkish student teachers of English as a foreign language respond to a supervisor’s criticism as a group in an English-medium university in Turkey and what kind of solidarity seeking strategies they employ. In this regard, the following research questions lead the present study:
1. How do student teachers as a group respond to a supervisor’s criticism in post-teaching conferences?
1.a. What kind of solidarity seeking strategies do student teachers utilize to respond to a) the criticism addressed to one student teacher in the group and b) the criticism addressed to the whole group?
This pragmatics research utilized interaction and was built on naturally occurring data. Under the heading of interaction, authentic discourse-institutional talk was studied (Kasper, 2008). Institutional talk differs from an ordinary conversation which is not limited to any specific setting or particular tasks (Heritage, 1998). Talk is defined as institutional when “participants’ institutional or professional identities are somehow made relevant to the work activities in which they are engaged” (Drew & Heritage, 1992, p. 3). In other words, institutional talk is more restricted and context-specific (Drew & Heritage 1992). In this sense, post teaching conferences can be considered as institutional talk (Vasquez, 2004) since the language used in these meetings are relevant and specific to language teaching, limited to teacher education and only to this teacher education institution. The researcher examined four post-teaching conference sessions in order to explore solidarity seeking strategies student teachers employed as a group when they were criticized by the supervisor. These conferences occurred within the context of an English medium university’s foreign language teacher education program in Turkey. When the data were collected, student teachers were about to complete the first part of the practicum studies. Throughout the semester, student teachers taught four times in the practice schools. First three teaching tasks were graded by the mentor teachers while student teachers performed their last teaching, assessed teaching, in the presence of the supervisor. Student teachers as a group delivered teaching. In the following two-three days, the supervisor held post-teaching conferences with student teachers who attended these meetings as a group at the university site. One supervisor and ten student teachers participated in this study. Data for this study included video-recordings of four post-teaching conferences. The researcher attended all these sessions and took notes. Nearly all the times, both the supervisor and student teachers spoke Turkish, their native language in these meetings. For the presentation of the strategies they used to respond to criticism, the excerpts were translated into English. In total, the data for this present study were 145-minutes long. The video-recordings of four supervisory meetings were transcribed through interactional transcription (Jenks, 2011). The researcher notified the overlaps, notable pauses and laughter in the transcription through Jefferson notation (2004). The researcher asked a Ph.D. candidate to comment on her identification of strategies. This asking part functioned as peer audit (Creswell, 2013).
The analysis of the data revealed that in 145 minutes long supervisory meetings, there were 14 criticism instances in which student teachers responded as a group. Out of 14 criticism instances, half of them were addressed to one specific student teacher in each group while the other half were directed at the whole group. In nearly all these instances, student teachers accepted the criticism; there was only one case in which student teachers challenged it. In the cases of accepting criticism, student teachers as a group provided the reason why they behaved in a certain way as for the criticized issue. While responding to their supervisor, the student teachers made use of strategies to establish solidarity among themselves. In other words, student teachers’ speech indicated that they, student teachers, were a group who acted and thought similarly. For instance, they generally used “biz” (we in English) to underscore that they performed the criticized act together. Moreover, they repeated what other student teachers had previously uttered to seek agreement with the student teacher or they used lexical phrases like “aynen” (likewise in English). Supportive overlaps and instances where student teachers completed the unfinished sentence of their friends were also observed in the data for the purpose of showing solidarity. As for the use of strategies student teachers employed to justify the criticized act while addressing to the supervisor, they benefitted from various sources. They mainly disassociated themselves from the criticized act, accusing their mentor teachers or pupils they taught or they put the blame on the course book. They further put a distance between the task they prepared and themselves or the situation and themselves.
Akcan, S., & Tatar, S. (2010). An investigation of the nature of feedback given to pre‐serviceEnglish teachers during their practice teaching experience. TeacherDevelopment, 14(2), 153-172. Bailey, K. M. (2006). Language teacher supervision: A case-based approach. New York:Cambridge University Press. Copland, F. (2011). Negotiating face in feedback conferences: A linguistic ethnographicanalysis. Journal of pragmatics, 43(15), 3832-3843. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design. Choosing among fiveapproaches. (3rd Ed.) Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Drew, P., &Heritage, J. (1992). Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings.Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. Heritage, J. (1998). Conversation Analysis and Institutional Talk: Analyzing Distinctive TurnTaking Systems. In: S.Cmejrková, J.Hoffmannová, O.Müllerová and J.Svetlá (eds.)Proceedings of the 6th International Congresss of IADA (International Association forDialog Analysis), Tubingen: Niemeyer, pp.3-17. Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In: Lerner, G.H.(Ed.), Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation. John Benjamins,Philadelphia, pp. 43-59. Jenks, C. J. (2011). Transcribing talk and interaction: Issues in the representation ofcommunication data. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing. Kasper, G. (2008). Data collection in pragmatics research. In H. Spencer-Oatey (Ed.),Culturally Speaking: Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory (pp. 279-303).London & New York: Continuum. Roberts, J. (1992). Face-Threatening Acts and Politeness Theory: Contrasting Speeches fromSupervisory Conferences. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 7(3), 287-301. Vásquez, C. (2004). “Very carefully managed”: Advice and suggestions in post-observationmeetings. Linguistics and education, 15(1), 33-58. Wallace, M. J. (1991). Training foreign language teachers: A reflective approach. NewYork:Cambridge University Press. Wajnryb, R. (1994). Pragmatics and supervisory discourse: Matching method andpurpose. Prospect: An Australian Journal of TESOL, 9, 29-38.
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