31 SES 08 B, Language and Literacy Learning via Dialogic Practice
In primary education, the teacher often has a dominant role in whole class interaction, limiting the students to more responsive positions (Howe & Abedin, 2013; Littleton & Mercer, 2010; Mercer & Dawes, 2014). In these monologic forms of interaction, the teacher allocates turns and the discourse often follows the IRE-pattern in which the teacher takes initiative by asking a known-answer question and evaluates the response of the selected student (Mehan, 1979). Looking at turn allocation procedures, language acts and linguistic complexity of speakers’ utterances, we see that in dialogic forms of interaction students take more initiative, share and discuss different ideas, provide arguments and try to come to a joint conclusion, while the teacher has less influence on the turn allocation procedure and is less concerned with testing and evaluating students’ knowledge but more with leading a discussion (Alexander, 2008; Van der Veen, 2017; Walsweer, 2015). This type of interaction has been found to contribute to students’ development on several domains, such as the learning of content in different areas (Rojas-Drummond, 2019). However, rather than arguing for whole class interaction to be exclusively dialogic, a combination of monologic and dialogic forms of interaction is necessary to create a meaningful learning environment (Gosen, 2012; Mercer & Dawes, 2014). Given the dominance of monologic forms of interaction, it is important to include more dialogic forms of interaction in whole class contexts in order to achieve such a meaningful learning environment.
As is the case in many European countries, the linguistic diversity in Dutch classrooms is increasing. It is therefore important to consider the relevance of interaction for the language learning process. Through interaction with native speakers of the instruction language, students with another home language can increase their proficiency in the instruction language (Lightbown & Spada, 2013). Therefore, also for multilingual students it is important to engage in more dialogic forms of interaction in which students share, discuss and provide arguments for their ideas in the language of instruction. Besides this, the importance of the home language must be recognized concerning students’ identity and the transfer of knowledge and skills from other languages to the instruction language (Cummins, 2007). The use of home languages in education can increase students’ wellbeing as well as their learning performances (Rolstad, Mahoney & Glass, 2008; Reljic, Ferring & Martin, 2015). In the context of multilingual education, as is the case in the schools participating in this study, it is therefore important to not only consider the discourse practices but also the languages used.
This study focused on the discourse practices and the language use of both teachers and students in whole class interaction in primary schools in Fryslân, the only bilingual province of the Netherlands. The linguistic diversity in this province is therefore not only related to migration, but also to the regional language which is officially recognized and included in education. The study is part of a larger project concerning the inclusion of multilingualism in Frisian primary schools (http://3mproject.nl/). During this project, activities aiming to include multilingualism in the classroom were developed with and implemented by teachers. The following research questions are addressed in this presentation:
1) What are the discourse practices of the teacher and students in whole class interaction?
2) Which languages are used in whole class interaction by both teacher and students?
3) For which functions do the teacher and students use other languages than the instruction language in whole class interaction?
The data in this study consisted of video-recordings of whole class interaction in six different primary school classrooms in Fryslân. All six teachers participated in the aforementioned project and followed a professionalization program based on the principles of Educational Design Research (EDR) (Plomp & Nieveen, 2013), in which the aim was to enhance both interaction and language practices of the participating teachers and students. The fragments in which a whole class conversation took place were transcribed, according to Conversation Analysis (CA (Mazeland, 2003)) principles, to analyze the interaction on three aspects. First, regarding the discourse practices, the mean length of turn (MLT) and mean length of T-Unit (MLTU) were analyzed as measures of linguistic complexity, while language acts were analyzed (by using Deunk (2009)) as an indicator for the complexity of meaning. The turn-taking procedure was also analyzed as part of the discourse practices (using principles of CA (Mazeland, 2003)), since combined with speech acts it indicates the opportunities of speakers to participate in the interaction and the influence they have on this interaction (O’Connor & Michaels, 1996). For the measures language acts and turn allocation procedure, proportions were used for further analyses. For all measures, a comparison was made between teachers and students to describe the discourse practices of the participants in whole class interaction. Second, each T-Unit was also coded for the language in which it was spoken. Due to the low frequency of use of languages other than Dutch, these languages were combined into one category. Also for this measure, proportions were used for further analyses and comparisons between teachers and students were made. Third, in order to analyze the functions of using other languages than Dutch, translanguaging sequences were identified in which at least one speaker used at least one other language than Dutch. The translanguaging function of each sequence was typified by using Duarte’s (2018) classification of symbolic, scaffolding and epistemological translanguaging functions.
The results of the analyses regarding the discourse practices in whole class interaction confirmed the dominant role of the teacher and responsive role of the students found in previous research. Teachers had significantly longer turns and T-Units than students and took turns more often on their own initiative, while allocating students’ turns. Besides, teachers used more initiating language acts while students used more responsive language acts. These results are also in line with an IRE-pattern that is often found in monologic interactions, in which the teacher takes initiative and manages the turn allocation procedure. However, we also found that teachers asked predominantly information seeking questions (ISQs) instead of the known-answer questions (KAQs) typically found in monologic IRE-patterns. This type of questions is often found in dialogic forms of interaction, therefore these findings might indicate a fifth participation framework in addition to those found by Walsweer (2015). Lastly, teachers used relatively more analytical statements than students, indicating that students were not often stimulated to move beyond the here and now to make comparisons or provide conclusions for example. There were thus not many opportunities for students to engage in dialogic forms of interaction. Teachers used other languages than Dutch for only less than 10% of their utterances, while students used other languages for less than 20% of their utterances. Students used other languages than the instruction language relatively but not significantly more often than teachers. The function of all translanguaging sequences in the dataset was symbolic. Teachers asked students to translate single words to other languages than the instruction language and/or compared words between different languages. In conclusion, while other languages than the instruction language were not used relatively often by the speakers, when these languages were used this use was of a symbolic nature and limited to word level.
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