Transforming Oracy on a Pre-sessional Programme: Language for Learning in Classroom Discussions

Elmslie, R. (2019) Transforming Oracy on a Pre-sessional Programme: Language for Learning in Classroom Discussions. BALEAP Conference 2019: Innovation, Exploration and Transformation, Leeds, UK, 12-14 Apr 2019.

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This paper reports on a small-scale study of how students’ speaking develops on a pre-sessional bridging programme for pre-Masters students in Accounting and Finance. The focus of the paper is on transformation in students’ speaking as they move from speaking as a product of learning to speaking as a process of co-construction of knowledge, using language as a “tool for thinking together” (Mercer, 2004: 166). Spoken interaction is important in learning and teaching contexts, including one-to-one interactions and seminars (Basturkmen, 2016) and tutorials, which are a site of discussion for learning and academic socialisation (Anderson, 1997). Participation in spoken classroom interaction is also generally expected of postgraduate students (Morita, 2000), while communication skills often feature in university statements of graduate attributes and are valued by Business and Accounting employers (Kavanagh and Drennan, 2008). Those making the transition to postgraduate study in the UK therefore need to understand such academic practices and develop the linguistic resource to participate in settings where language, meaning-making and contested knowledge are central (Lea, 2004). My study uses a methodology informed by sociocultural discourse analysis (Mercer, 2004). Although this framework has been used extensively in general education, it is less well known in EAP. The analysis considers the disputational, cumulative and exploratory talk of students (n=24) to capture emergent types of interaction in twice-weekly short classroom discussions over 4 weeks of a presessional programme. Disciplinary-specific vocabulary was added as a fourth category of analysis as an indicator of emerging discourse socialisation in student talk. I discuss changes in interactions and language used in peer-to-peer classroom discussions as students develop their language, oracy skills, and knowledge of their disciplinary subject. From samples of students’ classroom discussions, tentative findings suggest that over the duration of the programme, students used more lexis from course texts, while discussions became more interactive and aligned to the pedagogic goals of coconstruction of knowledge through exploratory talk. Reflective writing by students offered supplementary insights into what they perceived as elements of the pre-sessional course that supported their progress. I discuss implications both for course design and for research into classroom interaction.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Elmslie, Ms Rachel
Authors: Elmslie, R.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Modern Languages and Cultures > Language Centre
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