The author of this volume, Hansun Zhang Waring, is a well-experienced language teacher, teacher educator, and researcher in applied linguistics. She has published widely in a range of areas such as classroom discourse and conversation analysis (CA). This volume, Theorizing Pedagogical Interaction: Insights from Conversation Analysis, can been seen as the ‘organic outcome of such accumulative gains’ (p. 1) in her first-hand pedagogical encounters over the years. The main objective of this book is to reveal, through the lens of the microscopic CA, that in what ways teachers’ conduct can create opportunities for learning, and to demonstrate how findings in classroom discourse analysis enlightened by CA can contribute to building a theory of language teaching. The overall content of this book is thematically divided into seven chapters, which are outlined below. Chapter 1 opens the volume by presenting the structure of the whole book. In particular, Waring explains how her empirical work has inspired her to survey the landscape of pedagogical discourse and how she comes up with the idea of theorizing it through the powerful lens of CA. Chapter 2 presents the macroscopic context of classroom discourse analysis, that is, the classic and current research on classroom discourse. In terms of classic research, Waring states that classroom discourse is characterized by its distinctive hierarchical and sequential organizations, turn-taking system and activity types, which are normally unwritten and often mysterious to students. This classic scholarship of classroom discourse informs us about the relationship between talk and learning, and teachers’ important role in coordinating this relationship. As for the current studies on classroom discourse, Waring briefly describes various commonly used approaches to classroom discourse, for example, (applied) linguistics, sociolinguistics, critical discourse analysis, language socialization, and sociocultural theory, to synthesize and highlight their major findings. CA approach is thus situated within a broader landscape of research endeavours. In Chapter 3, Waring specifies that the CA approach can be employed both as a theoretical framework and methodological approach. She addresses controversial issues within the CA approach such as validity, reliability, and generalizability of CA findings. Validity and reliability are reformulated in CA, as opposed to those in typical quantitative research, to ensure that the analysis reflects the genuine interactional practice in question. Measures to resolve this issue include ‘high-quality recordings’ (p. 48) of the interaction, subsequent detailed transcriptions, and allowing readers equal access to the data for scrutiny. Generalizability in CA research is pertinent to possibility, that is, to conclude that something is possible, rather than generalizable in other settings. Then Waring describes the conception of context in CA, which maintains that context not only resides in, and can be uncovered by, detailed exploration of the interaction organization but also shapes how subsequent interaction unfolds. This resonates with the ‘context-shaped’ and ‘context-renewing’ (Seedhouse 2004: 14) nature of contributions to interaction. In the remainder of this chapter, research of CA approach on classroom discourse and its contribution to building a theory of teaching are examined. Having reviewed the research into classroom discourse and presented the rationale for CA’s potential role in building teaching theories, in Chapters 4–6, Waring elaborates on the three principles of pedagogical interaction: competence, complexity, and contingency with an extensive range of examples. According to her, competence refers to the learner’s ability to do something. She notes that assuming a learners’ competence is of paramount importance for them to achieve a certain degree of competence. Such a paradox can be best captured by the remark that ‘treating children as if they had abilities they do not yet possess is a necessary condition of the development of those abilities’ (p. 7). Evidence from cases of graduate seminar discussion, post-observation conference, and graduate peer tutoring are drawn upon to demonstrate learners’ endeavour to preserve their images of being competent. The second principle, complexity, maintains that teacher talk is multivocative. This refers to the fact that teachers’ particular utterance can be achieved by more than one voice or can do more than one thing. On the one hand, such multivocality can be an impediment. For example, explicit positive assessments such as very good in teacher talk can ‘stifle rather than promote learning’ (p. 96) in some form-focused contexts, as it conveys the closure of a sequence or case. This feature of multivocality may motivate us to re-examine the potential consequences of some routine teacher talk and to seek possible alternatives. On the other hand, however, multivocality can also be employed as a resource. For instance, a single practice such as how are you may also serve to strike a balance between exercising classroom control and fostering an open space for student involvement. This may inform us of the ingenuity of teachers’ classroom discourse and help them to better navigate the balance between centripetal forces such as exercising order and centrifugal forces such as building rapport. The last principle, contingency, resonates most strongly with Vygotsky’s (1978) theory of learning and teaching, such as Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) in that both of them emphasize teachers’ responsiveness to students or the pedagogical circumstances. In this chapter, multiple examples are employed to illustrate the three intertwined aspects of being responsive: (i) address the simultaneity of the moment, (ii) adjust to the shifting demands of the moment, and (iii) preserve the integrity of the moment (pp. 126–40). It goes without saying that being responsive is, in reality, not an easy job. It requires a teacher’s sensitivity and continuing adjustment to the on-site moment-by-moment situation, which may take years of practice and constant reflection. On the whole, as is claimed by Waring herself, competence can be considered the ‘overall ethos of teaching’ (p. 7), while complexity and contingency involve the ‘nature of teacher talk’ (p. 95). Complexity underscores the challenges of teacher talk, and contingency highlights its desired qualities, and there are inevitably some overlaps between them. These three principles are situated in a broad context of theory building in the concluding Chapter 7. They combine to constitute a unique landscape for researchers and practitioners to better understand the pedagogical discourse, and as such, to evoke continuous exploration of what makes a good teacher and why particular types of teacher discourse can better facilitate learning than others. The volume distinguishes itself with several impressive features. The most important point is that this research enriches the theories of pedagogical interaction enlightened by the CA approach. CA has proved to be a robust exploratory approach since its emergence in the 1960s in analysing ordinary conversation and later extension to institutional settings. It has transformed our understanding of the organization of second/foreign language (L2) classroom interaction. As opposed to the static and unidimensional nature of classroom discourse concluded from a discourse analysis approach (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975), CA has revealed that classroom context is a dynamic and complex interactional environment. An examination of minute details of the interaction is indispensable for a fuller understanding of the L2 teaching and learning process (Seedhouse 2004). However, one common issue of the CA approach is that few studies thus far are devoted to theorizing L2 pedagogy. Against this backdrop, this volume moves one step further to probe into the theorization of pedagogical interaction derived from CA analysis findings. In addition, this volume draws on a variety of interactional examples from a wide range of settings, such as graduate seminar, writing skills centre, after-school literacy programme, adult English-as-a-second-language classrooms, and post-observation conferences. Such broadness in exemplification contributes to the generalizability of the three proposed principles in various types of pedagogical contexts, rather than merely limited to classroom instructional settings. Nevertheless, this can also be its shortcoming in that such an extensive elaboration renders it to some extent devoid of in-depth analysis of particular aspects of the principles. Furthermore, despite that the volume centres on the three principles, each with its detailed elaboration, it seems to be more convincing if there is a further interpretation in Chapter 7 of the interrelatedness among these three principles. In conclusion, and to summarize the above merits and shortcomings, this volume represents an innovative attempt to theorize pedagogical discourse from the perspective of CA, and makes a substantial contribution to our appreciation of pedagogical discourse. The interpretation of pedagogical interaction in various contexts makes the book more reader-friendly and can provide a reference guidance for researchers, especially newcomers to CA who aspire to pursue a more thorough and in-depth analysis in any of the specific pedagogical settings. As such, this book can benefit practitioners and researchers in applied linguistics, educational linguistics, and communication studies who are interested in the classroom discourse of teaching and learning. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTOR Xinxin Wu is currently a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen, UK. Prior to her PhD study, she worked as an English as foreign language (EFL) lecturer at Dezhou University, China. Her research interests include classroom discourse analysis, CA, corpus linguistics, language teacher education, and teachers’ continuing professional development (CPD). She has published nine articles on EFL teaching and learning, (co-)translated two books, and co-edited two textbooks. Her recent publications have appeared in, for example, Language and Education and Discourse Studies [WorldCat]. Address for correspondence: Xinxin Wu, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB24 3FX, UK. <firstname.lastname@example.org> REFERENCES Seedhouse P. 2004 . The Interactional Architecture of the Language Classroom: A Conversation Analysis Perspective . Blackwell . Sinclair J. , Coulthard R. M. . 1975 . Towards an Analysis of Discourse: The English Used by Teachers and Pupils . Oxford University Press . Vygotsky L. S. 1978 . Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Mental Process . Harvard University Press . © Oxford University Press 2018
Applied Linguistics – Oxford University Press
Published: Feb 21, 2018
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