Learning discourse : classroom learning in and through discourse : a case study of a Norwegian multiethnic classroom
Appears in the following Collection
- Psykologisk institutt 
AbstractÅ lære samtalen for læring: Klasseromssamtalen som læringsredskap - En kasusstudie av et norsk multietnisk klasserom
En stor utfordring som Norge og andre Europeiske land står overfor, er hvordan man skal forholde seg til det språklige og kulturelle mangfoldet elevene i dagens klasserom representerer, og hvordan man kan bedre minoritetsspråklige elevers muligheter for å lykkes i skolen. Siden det er behov for en bedre forståelse av hvordan elever tilegner seg kunnskap i skolen, er studier av hvordan klasseromssamtaler utspiller seg av sentral betydning.
Klasseromssamtalene i en barneskoleklasse, der om lag halvparten av elevene har minoritetsbakgrunn, er temaet for avhandlingen til Lutine de Wal Pastoor. I avhandlingen drøftes utfordringer ved klasseromssamtalen som et verktøy for formidling og læring i en klasse der elevene har ulik språklig og kulturell bakgrunn. Avhandlingen fremhever både klasseromssamtalens komplekse karakter og hvordan forskjellige samtaleaspekter påvirker elevers deltakelse i samtalen. Analysen av samtaleepisoder viser at misforståelser som oppstår ofte er resultat av en uoverensstemmelse mellom læreres implisitte antakelser om hva som er allmennkunnskap og minoritetselevers manglende kulturelle bakgrunnskunnskaper. Resultatene viser at dialogisk utformede samtaler lettere avdekker misforståelser og samtidig gir mulighet for ny forståelse og utvikling av felles kunnskap.
Samtaleanalysene avdekker videre at deltakelse i samtalene krever mer enn å kunne norsk hverdagsspråk. Elevene må mestre forskjellige samtaleformer som gjelder for skolens ulike fag, som har hvert sitt særpregede vokabular, genre og diskurs. Minoritetselever må altså lære seg mer enn et nytt språk, de må lære seg ulike normer og former for samtale som bare kan læres gjennom deltakelse. Det at samtaledeltakelse er både middel og mål i læringsprosessen, fører lett til en ond sirkel for elever som ikke behersker det norske språket godt nok. Lærerens rolle i tilretteleggingen av klasseromssamtalen som læringsredskap for alle elevene – uansett deres språklige og kulturelle bakgrunn – understrekes i avhandlingen.
Undersøkelsen er en kvalitativ kasusstudie av en tredjeklasse i Oslo. I tillegg til norsk er ni andre språk representert i klassen. Data til undersøkelsen ble samlet inn i løpet av et skoleår gjennom ulike etnografisk orienterte metoder som klasseromsobservasjon, lydbåndopptak, videoopptak, kvalitative intervjuer av elever og lærere, samt innhenting av skriftlig materiale.
The aim of this doctoral thesis is to explore the mediational role of classroom discourse in the development of knowledge and understanding in the multiethnic classroom. Using a sociocultural and dialogic approach, it describes and examines both the way discourse is used and constructed in various classroom contexts and analyzes the role of language and discourse in the development of shared understanding. Special attention is paid to the impact of minority pupils’ linguistic and cultural backgrounds on their opportunities for participation and joint meaning making in and through classroom discourse.
The classroom data were collected by means of an ethnographic case study of a multiethnic classroom in Norway. The research class is a third grade class with 24 pupils, 13 pupils are from an ethnic minority background. Besides Norwegian, nine other mother tongues are represented in the class. The class was observed throughout a school year. The observations differed in terms of the number of hours and the extent to which they were accompanied by some kind of recording. In all, about 80 lessons were audio recorded, of which 30 were video recorded as well. The study is based on qualitative analysis of authentic discourse excerpts, using transcribed audio and video recordings, field notes, interviews, teaching materials as well as school and policy documents.
A set of three research questions relating to discourse and learning in the multiethnic classroom has been addressed in the papers presented in the thesis. As to the first question concerning the specific nature of classroom discourse as educational practice, the focus has been on dimensions and qualities of discourse that promote pupils’ participation and engagement. The analysis of the communicative interaction in the observed lessons shows how social-interactional, instructional and interpersonal dimensions of discourse jointly create the discourse framework affording opportunities for participation and learning. The findings suggest that certain discursive scaffolding strategies may increase the quantity as well as the quality of pupils’ participation in discourse. Attention is drawn to the use of joint attention and joint involvement, to dialogic question and answer practices, and to affective support as mediational devices in discourse-based instruction.
With regard to the second question, which is related to learning as cultural activity, there is an investigation of how classroom discourse may bring about the development of shared understanding in classrooms where pupils have diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. The analysis of the discourse used calls attention to the culturally based nature of language and discourse as well as to the particular forms of discourse employed. It becomes clear that misunderstandings in classroom discourse frequently originate from a discrepancy between what teachers assume to be ‘common knowledge’, and the different cultural funds of knowledge minority pupils resort to. The findings underscore the importance of a dialogically organized discourse in the multiethnic classroom as it makes way for pupil contributions, opens up for bridging between new and prior knowledge, as well as allowing meaning negotiation in the development of shared understanding.
In relation to the third question, which gives emphasis to learning as discursive activity, there is an examination of how pupils may appropriate the language of academic disciplines, such as mathematics, through participation in classroom discourse and practice. Discourse excerpts from a number of mathematics lessons are investigated with regard to teachers and pupils’ collaboration and communication during mathematical problem solving. It becomes evident that pupils’ problems in getting access to the discourse of mathematics is often due to a mathematical vocabulary based on everyday concepts that are ambiguous or not familiar to them. Besides, pupils with diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds may experience difficulties in solving word problems that ask for a mathematical transformation of unfamiliar everyday phenomena. The findings imply that in order to support pupils’ problem solving and appropriation of mathematical language and discourse, pupils need assistance – explicit as well as implicit – from more skilled others through guided participation and apprenticeship in mathematical discourse and practice. In conclusion, the study demonstrates that classroom learning in and through discourse makes intricate demands on teachers as well as pupils, particularly minority pupils. Language minority pupils do not merely need to learn another language, they need to learn several varieties of that language, that is, learn the various forms of language and discourse that count as knowing in the school setting. To be able to succeed in school, minority pupils’ linguistic as well as cultural backgrounds need to be taken into account. The findings of this study emphasize the importance of making explicit the taken-as-shared premises classroom knowledge builds on. In order to transform classroom discourse into a ‘discourse of teaching and learning’ for all pupils, allowing multiple ways of sense making and including diverse pupil voices, rethinking and redefining are required. Expanding the instructional repertoire and reinforcing the dialogic function of classroom discourse may make way for diversity as well as equity in classrooms with diverse and multiethnic pupil populations.
List of papers
Paper 1: Pastoor, L. de Wal (2007). Classroom discourse as educational practice: Exploring pupil participation and engagement. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Paper II: Pastoor, L. de Wal (2005). Discourse and learning in a Norwegian multiethnic classroom: Developing shared understanding through classroom discourse. European Journal of Psychology of Education, 20 (1), 13-27.
Paper III: Pastoor, L. de Wal (2007). The mediation of mathematical knowledge in and through discourse: A situated and sociocultural approach. Manuscript resubmitted for publication.