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Journal Review VIII
Classroom Discourse Analysis in EFL Elementary Lessons
This journal was written by Dorota Domalewska and published by International Journal of Languages, Literature and Lingusitics.
Successful language learning depends on classroom communication, i.e. interaction learners engage in with their teacher and other learners. The discourse among students and the teacher and among students themselves is central for foreign language learning as it contextualizes learning experiences while active participation in classroom discourse engages learners in the learning process. A characteristic feature of classroom discourse is the teacher’s control of the interaction. A large body of research proves the unequal roles of participants in classroom communication with the teacher managing the conversation and turn-taking. However, the control over the classroom discourse leads to limited learning as there is no place for meaningful, spontaneous and natural interaction. Students can only acquire the language through involvement in interactions and relationships formed when they take part in communication. Language thus activated and internalized becomes part of the students’ cognitive resources. Learning needs to be meaningful as it allows “new pieces of information [to be] attached to existing knowledge so that a new, meaningful whole, like the completed puzzle, is formed”. Learning needs to be based on the processes of assimilation, accommodation, developing meaningful cognitive sets), and using advanced organizers. Meaningful learning allows the information to be retained for a longer period of time; the information may be retrieved faster; furthermore, the student’s cognitive structure is developed. Teachers tend to limit speaking opportunities for their students by asking questions that fulfil educational goals but prevent interlocutors from developing conversation and also violate pragmatic conventions of conversation.
In conclusion, The analysis of classroom discourse shows that one-way communication prevails in the lessons with the teachers leading teacher-fronted discussion and students listening and then either repeating or responding briefly. The teachers provide the only authentic language input and classroom materials in the observed lessons are limited to the textbook. Given that the major driving force for L2 learning is exposure to language input, the impoverished input the students have received cannot lead to fast rate of acquisition. Furthermore, the students are not involved in high-level discourse. Rather, strict teacher control over the lesson limits their speaking opportunities and autonomy. If the students are engaged in a discussion, they are asked mainly comprehension, assent or educational (grammar and vocabulary) questions, which results in limited conversation.