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Stoking the fire: TA follow-up talk in group discussion tests

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Christopher Leyland


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In EFL contexts like those typically found in Japanese universities, large class sizes often necessitate oral assessment tasks that take place in small groups rather than in pairs or individually and these tests can sometimes involve a fluent English-speaking TA whose role it is to engage the test-takers in conversation. One very real concern for these TAs is how best to encourage the test-takers to speak without dominating the conversation themselves. This study employs micro-longitudinal Conversation Analysis (CA) to examine one TA’s follow-up contributions in a series of such group discussion tests. By tracking the TA’s interactional practices across 18 test groups, it was possible to observe how she adapts the design of her turns by aligning more towards those of the novice English speakers. While this appears to be successful in gaining more timely and related uptake from the test-takers in some instances, the student talk tends to resemble a series of monologues rather than deep discussion. The TA initially attempts to make use of rhetorical discourse structures in her contributions, such as by playing devil’s advocate and providing up-shot summaries of the test-takers’ prior talk; however, a detailed sequential analysis of the talk reveals that such strategies do not generate significant follow-up contribution from the students. These practices will be analyzed in the presentation through a number of exemplary cases from the data set. Adopting a micro-longitudinal CA approach provides insight into the way the TA, as a novice language teacher, develops her pedagogical tactics in loco according to the style and level of the students with whom she is interacting. As such, the study provides valuable insight into the natural acquisition of teaching skills, and more generally into the way that speakers adapt their interactional practices across multiple and subsequent episodes of a given conversation. The presentation will reflect on repercussions for both Japanese EFL learners and for novice language teaching professionals.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Leyland C, Greer T

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Unknown

Conference Name: American Association for Applied Linguistics 2015

Year of Conference: 2015