Dialogic Inquiry in the foreign language classroom Noriko Iwasaki, SOAS firstname.lastname@example.org Why this topic? To discuss a teacher’s personal take on language teaching practice in the seminar series. Students’ statements invoked my interest to find what elements in the course might have made the students engage in critical thinking more (than my other reading courses and/or other teachers who teach comparable courses in the same institution.) Disclaimer My training was: My teaching experiences were: in psycholinguistics (word retrieval, sentence production, word recognition) Experimental methods, quantitative analysis Much more in lower levels (beginningintermediate courses) with emphasis on speaking Today’s talk will reveal: more about what made it difficult for a teacher to carry out ‘effective’ dialogs than the interaction that was effective. Students’ statements A student’s actual statement on a course evaluation was: “(She) Encourages students to think and ask questions, instead of just feeding information to students.” (In an introspective interview, to a question asking what helped him read critically.) “I don’t know. I think really what helped me was the discussions that we were having, like not just on a page, but like, oral dialogue about it. That was, that was really helpful.” (S12) “Dialogs” in education (Wells 1999: 119) The crucial mediating role of discourse in knowing and understanding has come to be increasingly appreciated, and with it the significance of the Bakhtinian emphasis on dialogue, attention has turned to the critical role of teacher in initiating and guiding this dialogue (Applebee, 1996; Mercer, 1995; Nystrand, 1997). [More] radically, the creation of the kind of classroom community in which the search for understanding, and the dialogue through which this is accomplished, pervades all areas of curriculum… ‘Triadic dialogue’ The ubiquitous structure of spoken texts of classroom interaction is IRF (Sinclair and Coulthard 1975) or ‘triadic dialogue’ (Lemke 1990): Initiating move by the teacher (I) Responding move by the student (R) Follow-up move by the teacher (F) It can “take a variety of forms and be recruited by teachers for a wide variety of functions (Nassaji & Wells 2000) Analysis of ‘Triadic dialogue’ (Nassaji & Wells 2000) Six categories of follow-up moves: Evaluation Justification Comment Clarification Action Metatalk Three categories of information Assumed known information Personal Information Negotiatory information (where the ‘answer’ is to be reached through open-ended discussions between teacher and student together). Problems General (excessive) emphasis on form (vocabulary and grammar) in the Japanese language programme Meanings/contents are often trivialized or neglected in activities of all skills. Language classes construed as: transmitting knowledge and information about language and cultural facts a place for students to “practice” language skills (Kubota 2004; Wallace 2003) Problems Emphasis on the literal comprehension of texts (Alderson and Urquhart 1984; Kern 2000) ‘Reading’ materials as language samples to provide students to learn and practice grammar and/or vocabulary Culture is often taught as essentialized and static especially because of the misconception that Japanese society is ‘homogeneous’. Need for diverse and dynamic perspectives of culture (Kubota 2003) Action Research Action research is simply a form of selfreflective enquiry undertaken by participants in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices and the situations in which the practices are carried out (Carr and Kemmis 1986: 162) Action Research: First attempt (Iwasaki & Kumagai 2008) Incorporated elements of critical approaches in the course “Readings in Japanese newspapers and magazines” to promote: Sensitivity to author’s language choice Consideration of the author’s intention and purpose of writing an article Self-reflection by both teachers and students leading to “problematizing” or “interrogating” the taken-for-granted concepts Students’ critical consciousness (Kubota 1996, 47). Challenges encountered (Iwasaki & Kumagai 2008) Teacher’s difficulty to carry on dialogues with students (when there is no ONE answer) An episode in which a student’s response would have provided an opportunity to critically consider ideology of dialects was missed. (The teacher asked about the ‘feel’/nuance that the Osaka Dialect オモロ イおばさん might have; a student responded ‘sounds like an idiot’.) Similar to what Kumagai (2007) reported about a teacher who did not seize the opportunity to discuss the use of katakana to alienate the language spoken by ‘foreigners’ (and the speakers themselves). Challenges encountered (Iwasaki & Kumagai 2008) Ineffective ways of asking questions: Often yes/no-type questions Questions that students could not answer (due to students’ lack of sociocultural knowledge) Not ordered in such a way that reflects ‘critical’ orientation (i.e., a series of comprehension questions before questions about textual features, or author’s intentions) Readings in Japanese Traditional Culture Continued action research aiming to: highlight both the content (traditional Japanese culture) and form (writers’ language choices) carry on more dialogues by: Asking critical questions upfront Open-ended questions Follow-up questions e.g., ‘Why do you think so?’ *Note from my teaching log (27 Jan 2008): Colleague: “So.. students will learn Japanese by reading about traditional culture.” Me: “Well, students will read and think about traditional Japanese culture and learn Japanese at the same time.” Context: Japanese language programme Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Autumn Winter Spring JPN 1 5 h/week JPN 4 5 h/week JPN 111 4 h/week Reading JPN 2 JPN 3 # of students 250-180 JPN 5 JPN 6 125-90 JPN 112 JPN 113 75-40 Courses 10-20 Students (N=12) Gender First Lang Heritage S1 F Cantonese Chinese S2 F Cantonese Chinese S3 F English European S4 F English Euro/Japanese S5 M English Euro/Japanese S6 M Mandarin Chinese S7 M Mandarin Chinese S8 M Eng/Jpn Japanese S9 M Cantonese Chinese S 10 M English European S 11 M Mandarin Chinese S 12 M English European Goal 1: Traditional Japanese culture as “dynamic and diverse evolving cultures” Cultural contacts Regionality Okinawa (vs. Japan) Western Japan vs. Eastern Japan Traditional Japanese culture as “dynamic and diverse evolving cultures” Diachronic changes (evolution of traditional Japanese performing arts) Modern twists Goal 2: Reading between lines Author’s intentions and language choices Styles (plain, polite, and mix/shifts) Sentence-ending expressions (i.e., modal expressions: epistemic modals, interactional particles). Vocabulary Sino-Japanese, native, loanwords (from English) Mimetic words Orthography (from three scripts: katakana, hiragana, kanji) 言葉、ことば、コトバ Polite Style, Plain Style, and Shifts “Today is Wednesday.” Plain: Kyoo-wa Suiyoobi da. today-top Wednesday copula Polite style: Kyoo-wa Suiyoobi desu. Super polite style: Kyoo-wa Suiyoobi degozaimasu. The plain and the polite forms in spoken and written languages have very different meanings. Speakers also shift their styles both in speaking and writing to and create desired contexts (Cook 1996, Maynard 1991, Noda 1998, Okamoto 1999) Reading material selections Views and opinions (rather than factual information) Selections from books (some in interviews/dialogues in which performers express their views) Articles from magazines and newspapers (“traditional culture” as “news”) Introductory books on Japanese music and on Japanese performing arts (Rakugo, Kabuki, Bunraku, Kyogen, Noh). NHK textbook (and TV programmes on Japanese performing arts) Magazine AERA Newspaper articles (BBC, Mainichi Newspaper) Essays from magazines Special issue of Taiyoo Research Questions What factors might have led to or prevented the teacher from achieving dialogues in a foreign language classroom, which sought knowledge of: Traditional Japanese culture Language choice (Styles: the plain style, polite style, mix) What might have led some students to think that they had more opportunities to think in this course? Data My teaching logs, reflective journals, and questions emailed to a peer teacher-scholar during the term (About 120 entries, in Japanese) Teacher-student comments on students’ writings (English) Retrospective interviews with 6 volunteer students (out of 12 students) in the spring term (English) Notes: Though retrospective data may not be informative to learn whether something was effective, it is informative to learn what aspects the students think contributed to their learning. Why not audio-/video-taped classroom discourse? Difficult to get approval from the Internal Review Board Where “dialogues” can happen Teacher-Student Student-Student In the classroom On their writing assignments By email In the classroom (pair and class discussions, student-led discussion) Course website Teacher-Peer Reflective practice (Teacher, Student) General Class activities (100 min x 2/week) Prior to class: Students read materials and answer questions on a worksheet. In class: Comments on homework (writing assignments) Some discussions from the last class Discussions based on the worksheet questions Further discussions (e.g., use of video clips) Student-led discussions (once a week) Preview of what is coming up What the teacher logs tell us Constant struggles (Log entries 11/1/08-) Students often produce short utterances reflecting superficial or factual observations. Teacher failed to: ask effective ‘follow-up’ questions, unsure of how to guide students to think more deeply provide enough time for students to think and respond because she was overly concerned with class management, or not sure how much critical thinking she could expect of students. Recorded interactions were mostly triadic dialogues with evaluation or short comments at the end. Only a few instances of clear sequences of follow-up questions were recorded on the logs. A few examples *All retrospectively re-constructed on the logs, and translated to English: 1. About interpretation (T-S dialogue) 2. 3. Meaning of a word The writer’s stand (neutral or not) About traditional culture (S-S dialogue) About plain vs. polite forms (T-S) [in English] Discovering different interpretations for a loanword Saikederikku “psychedelic” S7: I was surprised (by the sentence “Bunraku is psychedelic”). T: What is the English equivalent? S7: ‘Psychedelic” T: Does it mean the same thing? S7: Almost the same… T: What does it mean in English? S7: …having illusions by taking illegal drugs… T: Illegal? Like..? S7: For example, like hippies in the 70’s. T: So is the meaning unfavorable for you? S12: Yes. T: But in this case, it may not be so negative, considering what Hanabusa-san did… S12: It means appealing to one’s psychology deeply. T: Yeah. The words seem to have different meanings, don’t they? By uncompleted sequences About a BBC news article on a sumo scandal. T: Do you think this article is written from a neutral position? S7: Yes, I think so. T: Why do you think so? S7: Because the writer is a foreigner and does not have a direct relationship with sumo. T: Maybe so. He may not be biased. But I wonder if not knowing helps one to be neutral or if knowing a great deal helps one to be neutral…. Student-led discussion: Ice-breaker to rethink ‘traditional culture’ (Log 25/1/08) Student discussion on shamisen. Having realized the classmates had not read the assigned reading, one of the two student leaders provided a summary. Leader1: Why was Sanshin so popular in Okinawa? S12: it was tashinami (enjoyment/hobby for well-bred people) at the time. Leader1: China was very powerful and had economic power. So (due to trading with China) Okinawa also flourished. (Showing Sanshin and the Chinese instrument Sanxian) What is different between them? (pause) It is the top part, top part. Student-led discussion: Ice-breaker to rethink ‘traditional culture’ (Log 25/1/08) Leader1: What is the definition of ‘traditional Japanese culture’? S4: Culture before the Meiji era. S5: Culture unique to Japan. Leader2: well, then what about Sanshin? It came from China. S5: (a bit taken back) But, Japanese people changed it. It is Japanese tradition. Leader2: Then what about cultural exchange? Is it good? S8: There are good things and bad things. It is not good to copy…. Thinking about styles (Log 25/1/08) [Some questions about styles on slides] T: How did you choose your style when you wrote the class essay? Sa: We were told to write in desu/masu whenever we write. Sb: Desu-masu is more polite. T: Actually, that depends on whether you are speaking or writing. The meanings of styles are very different in spoken language and written language. S12: I intuitively chose them. T: Right. Native speakers may not necessarily consciously select styles, and they probably intuitively select the style as you probably do when you write in English. Thinking about styles (Log 25/1/08) T: What did you consider when you were choosing between the styles? S7: Audience. T: Right. What else? S5: Content. Whether you are writing a letter or academic essays. *** One student asked whether you create distance between you and the reader by choosing certain styles. T: What style makes you sound closer to the reader? S7: The plain style. T: Yes, but are there any other ways? S12: The use of particles. T: What kinds of particles? S12: Particles such as ne, and yo. Findings from the teacher logs Dialogs did not happen when: The teacher was overly concerned with managing the class (when planned materials were too much) and did not give students sufficient time to think and respond. The teacher was unsure of how to guide students to think beyond superficial facts of culture, or what types/levels of thought to expect to elicit. In these cases she ended up providing her own interpretations, explanations, or justifications. Findings from the teacher logs More dialogues occurred when: The question was sought to discover a student’s views (their favorite sentence) with follow-up questions for reasoning: language as a tool/resource, whose use is also an educational objective for the foreign language classroom Teacher as a non-primary knower. The teacher took advantage of multiple views and interpretations of texts Student and teacher close to equal as ‘knowers’. What retrospective interviews tell us A challenge that students bring based on their experiences and histories: Language class as a place to learn more words and grammar. Perceived role of class discussions as a tool for knowledge construction as the object of learning. Language learning is about learning vocabulary What did you expect to learn in this course “Readings in Traditional Japanese Culture”? S7: I expected to learn a lot more vocabulary … and be familiar with the, more not common grammar points and to learn pretty much how the natives speak because what we studied is textbooks, textbook Japanese, and it pretty much isn’t what Japanese people speak. S2:I expected to learn more …words, more vocabularies and expect to learn about Japanese culture. Class Discussions construed as helpful: Language as the object vs. tool of learning S7: [In another reading class] we looked at words.. for every short story, we would have like twenty vocab words per page. And even though we understood at that time, we understood it to understand the story, we didn’t exactly use it as much through verbal.., and it didn’t retain in the memory that often. … And then, in [this] class, we did have more discussions, and those discussions helped in reinforcing the vocabulary. Class Discussions construed as helpful: Language as the object vs. tool of learning S12: Well, I guess, uh a lot of times with the articles, I would read it through and I would think I understood it. Like I understood all the sentences. (They) kind of made sense. But then I would come into class, and you would be talking or we would have discussions, and I kind of realized that I didn’t really understand the points that the articles were trying to make? And I hadn’t really read it critically. So.. what does that mean? Uh, I guess it just means thinking deeper about and not just reading the article as it is, but drawing from other knowledge that you have too, and maybe, what else is going on in the world, or what are the implications. Um, you know. Class Discussions construed as helpful: Language as the object vs. tool of learning S12: [when I answer questions given on the worksheet] I think the information went like from here to here [gesturing the movement from one item to another item on the desk in front of him], and it didn’t actually go to here [pointing to his head]. (laugh). So when you’d ask a question, I would go like, Oh, wait, I don’t know. Then I’d have to look at the kadaishi [worksheet] for what I put down. Then I’d realize I didn’t really process it wholly. Maybe that’s why reading critically is like really, making the connection to the brain. Potentials for Dialogic Inquiry in the Foreign Language Classroom “Language” as both resource/tool and object of inquiry. Teacher as non-primary knower: When literal comprehension of texts and treatment of ‘culture’ as static factual information is discouraged, the teacher is no longer a primary knower of the knowledge to be constructed, creating a “more equal mode of participation”. Much more “Personal Information” and “Negotiatory Information” than “Assumed Known Information” Summary Teacher might have asked more open-ended and engaging questions than before. However, she continued to struggle to ask follow-up questions for more negotiation (justification, explanations, conjunctures) to allow students to think deeply and critically. Yet, there may have been more dialogues than in other foreign language courses they had taken, which gave them an impression that this course encouraged them to think. Could you summarize what you learned in this course? (S12) I guess what comes to mind is just uh how valuable culture is, and why we study it, and um, it’s kind of, kind of caused me to look at my own culture, and my own past. I think… um I think the course was very, what do you call it, like very intensely asking questions, about our society, about the culture, and we are at a period where things are changing so fast and people are kind of, leaving the past behind, and just, you know, the i-phone comes out and you get it, for… you know, new technology comes out and you get it, and there is not a lot of reflection. Not a lot of yeah, consideration about what you are doing. So.. just in a bigger sense, I think that was a very self-reflective course. And you know, and I am still, you know, I will I think I will carry this course with me for many years. I reflect… References Alderson, Charles J., and Alexander H. Urquhart, eds. 1984. Reading in a foreign language. New York: Longman. Cook, Haruko Minegishi. 1996. 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