Academic journal article Babel

Why an Investigative Stance Matters in Intercultural Language Teaching Learning: An Orientation to Classroom-Based Investigation

Academic journal article Babel

Why an Investigative Stance Matters in Intercultural Language Teaching Learning: An Orientation to Classroom-Based Investigation

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

This paper develops the idea that classroom investigation can be an integral part of teaching and learning, an ongoing 'stance' that enables us to gather valuable information about teaching and learning that may otherwise go unnoticed. This information can in turn inform how teachers understand and develop intercultural language teaching and learning.

KEY WORDS

Intercultural language learning, classroom research investigative stance.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

INTRODUCTION

It may be natural to think of classroom investigation as something that can only happen 'in addition' to teaching and learning, something that can only be done after the learning needs of students have been met. Understood in this way, classroom investigations are not only seen as intrusions into teaching and learning in an ,already crowded curriculum, but also as requiring the teacher to take on the additional role of researcher. Moreover, traditional approaches to educational research have been difficult to apply to classroom practice (Hopkins, 2002, P. 35), and when teachers do conduct classroom research, this is often with a view to completing a particular project within an action research paradigm (Burns, 2005). This paper promotes a different view. It seeks to develop the idea that classroom investigation can be an integral part of the teaching process, an ongoing "stance' that enables us to gather valuable information about teaching and learning that may otherwise go unnoticed. This information, it is argued, is in turn crucial in informing how teachers understand and develop intercultural language learning for their students.

THE CLASSROOM AS A SITE OF INVESTIGATION

The emphasis on the value of investigating classroom practice has a history in education that can be traced back at least four hundred years (Hubbard & Power, i999, p. 5) and is supported by the literature on second language acquisition research. In relation to classroom-based research, the argument of scholars such as Allwright (1988), Chandron (1988), and Nunan (1989) that has become part of the vernacular of much language teacher education, is that language teaching needs to be informed in the first instance by an understanding not only of what ought to happen in classrooms, but also by what actually does happen. The force of this only becomes fully apparent when we recognise the implications of three further points: that the lesson is a social event, that teaching and learning are social activities, and that (as in all social interaction) there is no definitive interpretation of what 'it" is that is going on.

Understood in this way, the language classroom is not just a place where language is taught and learnt. Crucially, the classroom is itself 'peopled' (Candlin, 1999) and as such is a dynamic and complex sociolinguistic space in which meanings are variously interpreted by the teacher and students at every point in the lesson. This is not incidental to teaching and learning, but is a fundamental condition of the whole process. As Chandron (1988) has made clear, this variability of interpretation derives not from any inadequacy on the part of the teacher or students but from the fact that the lesson is, quintessentially, a complex social event in which 'no matter what the teacher does, learners derive information about their behaviour from the teacher's reaction, or lack of one, to their behaviour' (p. 133).

In this respect, the interaction between teachers and students, and students with each other is dependent on the perceptions that each individual brings to the constant mutual monitoring that is a condition of all social interaction (Goffman, 1959). As social actors, it is through their selection and use of particular 'methods' (Garfinkel, 1967) of talk, behaviour, and appearances that teachers and students competently enact their roles in the classroom. But to engage in interaction is not only to perform. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.