Discourse Analysis & the Study of Classroom Language & Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective

Discourse Analysis & the Study of Classroom Language & Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective

Discourse Analysis & the Study of Classroom Language & Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective

Discourse Analysis & the Study of Classroom Language & Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective


The authors present a social linguistic/social interactional approach to the discourse analysis of classroom language and literacy events. Building on recent theories in interactional sociolinguistics, literary theory, social anthropology, critical discourse analysis, and the New Literacy Studies, they describe a microethnographic approach to discourse analysis that provides a reflexive and recursive research process that continually questions what counts as knowledge in and of the interactions among teachers and students. The approach combines attention to how people use language and other systems of communication in constructing classroom events with attention to social, cultural, and political processes. The focus of attention is on actual people acting and reacting to each other, creating and recreating the worlds in which they live. One contribution of the microethnographic approach is to highlight the conception of people as complex, multi-dimensional actors who together use what is given by culture, language, social, and economic capital to create new meanings, social relationships and possibilities, and to recreate culture and language. The approach presented by the authors does not separate methodological, theoretical, and epistemological issues. Instead, they argue that research always involves a dialectical relationship among the object of the research, the theoretical frameworks and methodologies driving the research, and the situations within which the research is being conducted. Discourse Analysis and the Study of Classroom Language and Literacy Events: A Microethnographic Perspective: *introduces key constructs and the intellectual and disciplinary foundations of the microethnographic approach; *addresses the use of this approach to gain insight into three often discussed issues in research on classroom literacy events--classroom literacy events as cultural action, the social construction of identity, and power relations in and through classroom literacy events; *presents transcripts of classroom literacy events to illustrate how theoretical constructs, the research issue, the research site, methods, research techniques, and previous studies of discourse analysis come together to constitute a discourse analysis; and *discusses the complexity of "locating" microethnographic discourse analysis studies within the field of literacy studies and within broader intellectual movements. This volume is of broad interest and will be widely welcomed by scholars and students in the field language and literacy studies, educational researchers focusing on analysis of classroom discourse, educational sociolinguists, and sociologists and anthropologists focusing on face-to-face interaction and language use.


O body swayed to music

O brightening glance

How can we know the dancer from the dance?

—W. B. Yeats, Among School Children. 1928, p. 215.

This excerpt, aptly quoted by Bloome, Carter, Christian, Otto, and Shuart-Faris from Yeats' own attempts as a school inspector in Ireland to understand classroom discourse, provides the leitmotif of this challenging and important book. In the context where it is cited, the authors use it to argue that “people are situated, they act in terms of the situation in which they find themselves whilst simultaneously creating that situation. ” More broadly, it signals what they mean by a microethnographic perspective and what they hope to accomplish by applying it to classroom events and practices. They are critical of approaches that start from too far “outside” of classroom “events”: Rather, they want, to “hover low” over the immediate data, as Geertz would have it. As observers, researchers, and participants in such events we cannot just bring with us some prior definition—such as what constitutes a “dance”—before we actually see the people “dancing. ” The book is full of accounts of the dance of the classroom—teachers speaking and gesturing, students responding, students talking irrespective of the teacher, texts weaving through the talk, researchers commenting—how can we know the dance from these dancers?

The authors build upward and outward from the participants and the events in which they participate. They argue that we can only claim a “warrant” to draw larger inferences when research is “grounded in the setting itself. ” But this does not mean that they are focussed only on the “micro. ”

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