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Interaction dynamics of classroom discourse

Khoo, Rosemary Ghim Choo (1988) Interaction dynamics of classroom discourse. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Most classroom research carried out in Singapore involves correlational studies which employ quantitative research methods. Such studies have limited usefulness in offering insights into the human and social aspect of events that are accomplished through face-to-face interaction, such as classroom lessons. This study sets out to rectify the dearth of qualitative research on Singapore classrooms by presenting a descriptive account of the working of social and linguistic processes in the recurrent patterns of interaction in lessons. Such a description should provide valuable microethnographic information on the Singapore classroom.

Our conception of the lesson is of an educational encounter, and classroom interaction is social action which is characterised by negotiative activity as teachers and pupils participate actively in the joint act of creating a lesson. Thematic and interactional aspects of classroom management constrain the ways in which both parties communicate and participate and the teacher's verbal strategies are made in response to pupils' communicative behaviours. The research procedure used is ethnographic investigation which subscribes to a holistic conception of the lesson considered as an analytic whole. The corpus of data comprises the complete transcripts of a theoretical sample of 16 lessons which have been videorecorded in upper secondary English language classrooms in Singapore, supplemented by observed data from field notes and informal discussions with teachers.

The complexity of discourse analysis is first highlighted in the discussion of conceptual issues underlying the theoretical position taken in this study. These include the various relationships that exist between utterance, meaning and context so as to explain the basis of interpretive procedures used in the analysis. The approach adopted in the analysis of classroom discourse is eclectic to enable insights from linguistic and sociological disciplines to be used in the interpretation of utterances. A typology of situation types ('sit-types') is described, that is, the established patterns of organisation of interaction of the Composition and Language Practice lesson respectively, obtained from the analysis of classroom lessons. This is followed by an analysis of the interaction of selected episodes and of a whole lesson to illustrate the negotiated character of lessons as the teacher adopts management strategies in relation to a lesson's academic and social goals and in the face of typical pupil behaviours, such as silence and reluctance to answer.

An implication arising from this study is that the direction for effective pedagogic innovation and change lies first in the recognition of the practical and ideological constraints which influence a teacher's communicative strategies in the classroom.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): O'Toole, Michael and Malcolm, Ian G.
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