22 SES 11 D, Teaching and Learning: Students' Experiences
In this paper, we present some results of a research focused on understanding the interactive situations that take place in the university classroom. We study those situations taking a microanalytical, situated and real-time approach in order to understand:
a) How university professors—into a structure of discursive interactions—interpret, evaluate and answer to their students' contributions during the lesson;
b) Which are the repercussions of their answers in terms of the students’ learning.
Classically, the interactive situations in the classroom have been studied discursively under the triadic pattern of the IRF (Initiation/Response/Follow-up), proposed by Sinclair & Coulthard (1975). This unit of analysis has been criticized for its rigidity and linear reductionism (Chin & Osborne, 2010; Orsolini & Pontercorvo, 1992), while other more bidirectional patterns have been proposed, in which the student can initiate the exchange or actively contribute to the confirmation and follow up processes (Sánchez et al., 2008).
In addition, the analysis of these sequences has often been carried out from a positivist perspective instead of an interpretative, naturalistic and situated perspective (Howe & Abedin, 2013). At the same time, often, the co-protagonist role of the contributions of students in the construction of the teacher's response has not been sufficiently considered (Trigwell & Shale, 2004).
Taking these elements into account, our research has advocated the use of a unit of analysis that reverses the traditional teacher-student-teacher sequence. Instead, we attend to a different pattern in which the student initiates the interaction spontaneously, resulting in a new unit of analysis: S-T-S’ (student-teacher-student). Specifically, this proposal considers:
- S, as the initial spontaneous contribution of the student;
- T, as the processes of identification and evaluation of that contribution by the teacher and the subsequent process of response construction;
- S’, as the possible follow-up response of the student in reaction to the teacher response and the repercussions in terms of learning.
This proposed unit of analysis remains closer to the genuine interactive situations in which the student takes an active role and the teacher must create an ad-hoc response considering the student's contribution, instead of a one prepared in advance. In addition, it allows us to pay attention to the negotiation of meanings that is taking place between both and to the intersubjective component of their discourse.
In this communication, we present the analysis of one of the events analysed in our research project. It corresponds to an interactive situation between a health science teacher and a student, which took place in the subject ‘Pediatric Oncology’ of a Nurse Master's Degree (of the Autonomous University of Barcelona). Specifically, the event corresponds to the response offered by the teacher to the doubt of a student about whether a bone marrow donation can be made more than once. This event, beyond allowing us to observe how the teacher makes a correct didactic interpretation -as the student later corroborated in the subsequent interview-, allows us to deepen into the construction of his response and, especially, in the tension between answering the student’s question without straying too far from the teaching and curricular agenda of the lesson and the subject.
It is precisely the management of this tension by the teacher and how this materializes in the answer what we found more interesting and what we wanted to represent in this paper.
The research method we have used has been an Ethnography of Communication (Hymes, 1962). This method allows for the analysis of the communicative events and the relevant linguistic, cognitive and sociocultural factors related to the communicative interaction in a specific linguistic community. More specifically, in our work, we developed this method based on sociolinguistics in its microsocial approach. The objective of this double approach was to achieve an understanding of the verbal and social interactions between teachers and students, moment by moment, unravelling from them the sense and meanings that they put into play in the interaction, both verbally and nonverbally. Thus, our approximation is in a present, naturalistic, inductive and microanalytic time. The participants in our study were five health sciences teachers. We observed and video-recorded them doing class for a total of 22 hours. From those 22 hours recorded, we selected 36 episodes of different length that involved classroom interaction between the students and the teacher. The five teachers were interviewed (three of them, twice), generating 12 hours of video-recorded interviews. Concurrently, the 22 students involved in the episodes selected were also interviewed, for a total of 8 hours of video-recorded interviews. Finally, the 42 hours video-recorded were transcribed and analysed. The methodological process of the research can be summarized in the following phases: 1) Non-participant observation of the classroom and its recording; 2) Edition and analysis of the video recorded to select S-T-S’ sequences; 3) Video-stimulated recall interviews (to teachers and students), to allow the participants explicitly state the meaning and intentionality of their actions and speeches occurred in the preselected sequences; 4) Parallel transcriptions (Weston & McAlpine, 2002) of the previous phases. This method allows to organize the data of an interactive situation as well as the subsequent interviews in a synchronized way by representing the different perspectives of the same event simultaneously and chronologically. Thus, it is useful to analyse concurrent data about a shared experienced and its dynamicity, and to offer a clear perspective of the flow of the interaction and the thoughts of the participants involved; 5) Micro-analysis, focused on the thinking and the action of the teacher; 6) Holistic analysis (relational, contextualized and triangulated with the protagonists and specialists in the content of the lesson taught).
From the analysed event, where the teacher constructs a response to the question of whether bone marrow can be donated more than once, we can draw some interesting conclusions: A) The teacher faces a tension between giving an answer to the student’s spontaneous question and not getting too far away from the program of the subject and the specific session: "This happens sometimes ... you want to prepare the classes with a structure, but the students ask questions that break it. […] I would have expected that question much more when we talk about transplants, but ... ". B) The teacher understands that the learning processes of the students are not linear and do not always conform to the content that she would like to address at that moment: "You have to answer now, because you have been asked now". C) At the time of constructing the answer, the teacher takes into consideration the disciplinary structure and her pedagogical content knowledge: "Maybe, I should have clarified a bit that it cannot be done repeatedly... but if I clarify a little bit more, then I would also have to explain all the compatibility mechanism, the histocompatibility complex... [...] Possibly, according to my experience of previous years, they would have asked me how to do it, how to become a bone marrow donor ... and we would go completely from where we were". This last reflection corresponds to the moment in which the teacher decides when and where to set a restriction in her answer, considering the tension mentioned above, in order to satisfactorily answer the student and complete her teaching agenda. At the same time, it allows us to see the dynamic interaction that takes place between the pedagogical and disciplinary knowledge of the teacher and the student’s learning process.
Chin, C. & Osborne, J. (2010). Supporting argumentation through students’ questions: Case studies in science classrooms. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 19(2), 230-284. Hymes, D. (1962). The ethnography of speaking. Anthropology and human behavior, 13(53), 11-74. Orsolini, M. & Pontecorvo, C. (1992). Children’s talk in classroom discussions. Cognition and Instruction, 9(2), 113–136. Sinclair, J. & Coulthard, M. (1975). Towards an Analysis of Discourse. Oxford: Oxford University. Trigwell, K. & Shale, S. (2004). Student learning and the scholarship of university teaching. Studies in Higher Education, 29(4), 523–536. Weston, C. B. y McAlpine, L. (2002). Parallel transcripts: an innovative approach for capturing the impact of reflective teaching on student learning experience. New Orleans: Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association. Sánchez, E.; García, R.; Rosales, J., de Sixte, R. y Castellano, N. (2008). Elementos para analizar la interacción entre estudiantes y profesores: ¿qué ocurre cuando se consideran diferentes dimensiones y diferentes unidades de análisis? Revista de Educación, 346, 105-136. Howe, C. & Abedin, M. (2013). Classroom dialogue: a systematic review across four decades of research. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(3), 325-356.
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