Nystrand, M. (2006). Research on the role of classroom discourse as it affects reading comprehension. Research in the Teaching of English, 392-412.
In this journal, Martin Nystrand, examines the role of American classroom discourse and specifically at how discussions affect students within the language arts instruction and reading comprehension. Nystrand explains that there is already a vast amount of research related to classroom discourse and with recent research associated to the teacher’s discourse position. The author points out that efficient classroom spoken communication needs to be seen as a tool for instruction rather than a means to measure achievable gains.
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The analysis begins by looking at previous research to uncover the uses of classroom discourse in America that has not changed for more than one and a half centuries. This was done by reviewing how classroom discourse on reading comprehension was conducted by using previous empirical investigations. Previous research in American schools show a number of methods used such as narration which used to be the method of choice. Contrary to the European system, teachers generally used lectures to amass new knowledge in class according to Burstall (1909). It was evident that the two methods clashed as one would only display knowledge while the other was used to acquire knowledge and develop it as Stevens (1912) claimed. Benjamin Bloom (1954) stated that instructional time was used by the teachers at least 50% of the time and mentioned that discussion was better suited for problem solving. There seems to be two types of teachers, transmission-oriented teachers who impart information and interpretation-oriented instructors who encourage students to think outside the box.
While considerable progress has been made for example: genres of questioning, approaches to group discussions, and patterns of interaction between students, the author argues that a lot more work needs to take place. Unfortunately, the majority of these studies were only focused on middle and high schools which did not paint a full picture. Therefore, further investigations are necessary, for instance; looking into the effects of different negotiations on reading comprehensions or applying event history analysis that will analyse patterns and dynamics of discourse.
As time progresses, so does new theories and methodologies on how discourse has an effect on reading comprehension. What is of particular interest to me is the different types of teachers and where I fit in when I teach in relation to the article. It leads me to believe that teachers would need further training to find a balance between the two and elicit student’s creative thinking, something is not so common in the Eastern Asia.
Kayi-Aydar, H. (2013). Scaffolding language learning in an academic ESL classroom. ELT journal, 67(3), 324-335.
The author gives a comprehensive overview of the concept of scaffolding. The study reflects how learners and teachers are able to use scaffolding during three task interactions. The investigation concentrates on language and how it was used to build and mediate meaning and how “power relations” affect it within a classroom setting. It comprised of nine voluntary students and an experienced teacher in an advanced ESL to improve oral skills. Observation would take place for 15 weeks with only five hours of instruction time. An analysis of what was said, how it was responded to and what was accomplished, using an adapted criterion to formulate a hypothesis, was used to decide whether scaffolding was effective.
Formal lectures were led by the teacher who would introduce content she found important. This method turned out to be the most effective as the teacher’s active role of guidance enabled students to take turns and ask questions thereby allowing them to be more involved during the discourse.
Small group work had students work with their colleagues to complete tasks such as grammar or vocabulary exercises. One student was nominated as acting teacher role. During the task, students were not given equal opportunities to have their say and sometimes were not even acknowledged. This led to disinterest of the task and the group were not collaborating. The acting teacher became an evaluator and did not provide adequate guidance to the rest of the students.
The student-led whole group discussion was the least successful of the three. A student would be chosen as the discussion leader and given a topic to discuss. However, discourse only happened between outspoken students (“Power relations”) which dominated the lesson while others drowned in the process. A couple of examples of scaffolding occurred but only between the dominant students. It was unclear whether this scaffolded their peers’ learning.
Finally, the author gives a different perspective on traditional teaching methods by providing us with her study on “power relations” and scaffolding. She concludes from her evidence that, unless guidance is provided to support students, power struggles occurred. Strong accents increased difficulty in understanding. The classroom environment also became competitive rather than collaborative leaving students feeling reluctant to participate. This inhibited other learners from progressing which resulted there being no effective scaffolding.
This article provided me with a fundamental understanding that for any scaffolding to be successful, teachers would have to provide assistance but not so much that it over-empowers the discourse. Although it was a good idea to have students lead the discussion, the ‘power relations can dominate the overall experience leaving some students to feel left out. This is something which needs to be addressed by maybe having certain written guidelines for the student leading the discussion.
Morcom, V. (2014). Scaffolding social and emotional learning in an elementary classroom community: A sociocultural perspective. International Journal of Educational Research, 67, 18-29.
Veronica Morcom provides us with a qualitative study on social practices of two elementary classrooms from two socioeconomic areas for the duration of a whole year for both studies. The authors main focus is to understand the important role of emotions and relationships by scaffolding social and emotional learning through values education.
Morcom states that further research is needed to understand and help student’s social and emotional needs via scaffolding within a zone of proximal development (ZPD). Various theoretical viewpoints are described such as sociocultural theory, ZPD’s, assisted learning, collaborative learning, collaboration in a community of practice (COP) and lastly scaffolding within the affective ZPD which is where this study begins. The qualitative methodology of using a questionnaire was believed to be inappropriate and instead, an action plan was created to find the statistics by process of ‘plan, act and reflect’. Furthermore, since the teacher was conducting the research, it was argued that the study would be more authentic as there would already be a relationship established between the students and the teacher. Data would be pooled from various sources such as the students, parents and teachers. This would then be compared and analysed with the data from field notes, interpretation of video transcripts and class activities.
It is clear from the evidence that negotiated values during the social practices enable students to feel part of a community that shared the same values. They were then able to work together as a collective rather than as individuals and built friendships which provided a mutual ongoing support from their peers. The author states that this could probably be a positive factor as it demonstrates that relationships are key to ameliorating academic success. However, the limitations are that the teacher’s capacity to respond to students emotional and social needs would have to be developed in order to provide for them.
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Western education systems tend to lean towards creating a friendly environment as it can affect the student’s educational progress if they do not feel comfortable. The author draws on a student’s emotional needs within an educational environment and how it should be catered for which is a field I have not dwelled on before but is of great interest to me and my teaching practices in the future.
Anton, M. (1999). The discourse of a Learner‐Centered classroom: Sociocultural perspectives on Teacher‐Learner interaction in the Second‐Language classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 83(3), 303-318.
In this article, Marta Anton sets out to study students immersed in negotiation with the intention to demonstrate how various communicative moves and linguistic forms help to accomplish functions of scaffolding within a zone of proximal development. She focuses on learner-centered and teacher-centered dialogue between the two in a second language classroom. Based on Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), classes would benefit and progress by switching from traditional teacher-centered methodologies to a learner-centered classroom environment. To maximise the student’s communicative potential, CLT expresses that students should work in small groups and that it is the teacher’s responsibility to engage the students in situations that will promote communication. Various researchers convey that traditional approaches to discourse is often limited as the teacher dominates the interaction in the attempt to transmit their knowledge onto the learners.
After describing sociocultural theory, scaffolding and the zone of proximal development, the author explains how two types of classes proceed. The Italian class that sees the dominant teacher-centered approach and a French class that focuses more on the learner-centered approach with assistance. The data showed that learners working in collaboration, as stated by CLT, can contribute positively towards the understanding of form and meaning. Examples showing various methods of scaffolding taking place are given where the teacher provides adequate support for the students to find a solution in a grammar presentation. This communicative move is known as dialogic or proleptic teaching as it does not follow the traditional inductive methods where students focus on structures and guess linguistic patterns themselves. There was also a transfer of negotiation of responsibility which is considered an imperative feature of proleptic instruction. Other functions in the French class included actively engaging the students to focus and reflect on forms, simplification of the tasks, turn allocation and providing feedback.
The research successfully proves that when learners engage in negotiation with their teachers, scaffolding does take place away from the confines of traditional teacher-centered techniques.
It is evident that group work has a positive effect on language learning through discourse within a learner-centered environment which gives me a deeper understanding about group work as a whole. Although I agree with the argument in general, I believe that cultural differences exist that may withhold certain groups from participating and engaging in discourse fully which could limit scaffolding from taking place correctly.
Xie, X. (2009). Why are students quiet? Looking at the Chinese context and beyond. ELT journal, 64(1), 10-20.
In this article, Xiaoyan Xie attempts to ascertain whether teacher-student interaction can reveal how teaching practices in China prevent students from interacting and developing their own ideas. Contrary to the Western world, previous research suggests that Chinese students seem to have something preventing them from participating further in class and researchers believe that this was due to their ‘cultures of learning’ and traditional values. The author suggests that these are not the only factors and that only a certain kind of environment can produce and promote good interaction for cognitive development coupled with adequate assistance. According to the author, if teachers were less controlling over certain elements of the class, then students would be far more productive and willing to participate.
The study investigated two groups of thirty students and two very skilled teachers to instruct Integrated Reading over the course of a two-and-a-half-month timeframe. Teachers followed mandatory textbooks but could choose which sections they were going to teach. Students and teachers could reflect on the lessons and make suggestions through stimulated reflection (SR). The data was collected and ran through a qualitative data analysis computer software where recurrent trends were shown. The author states that in the cases of both groups, the teachers followed strict controlled classroom interaction procedures which is believed to be detrimental to the student’s negotiation skills and learning opportunities. It was clear after the SR’s that the teachers were narrowminded as they would reject what was said or would signal an undesired reply. When students contributed through an Initiation, Response, Follow-up sequence, the teacher overtook the student’s ideas and developed it herself. Teachers had only prepared for certain answers and did not know how to respond which deprived students from discussing the topic further and expressing themselves. Furthermore, the teacher did not take into consideration students personal experiences and saw responses as errors because they did not match her personal views. In all the SR’s, students expressed their wish for further discourse.
Finally, the author makes it clear that the teachers play a huge controlling role and not allowing students to contribute. The question of how much freedom to allow in classroom participation remains unclear.
I agree with the author and the significance of this article which clearly demonstrates that a student’s ability to interact in Eastern Asia is bound by what teachers believe to be true. The author implies that the teacher only follows strict rules therefore limiting the student’s communicative competence.
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