The aim of this paper is to study different situations of classroom talk through the use of a methodology called sociocultural discourse analysis, which focuses on the use of language as a social mode of thinking. Specifically, we intend to apply the categories elaborated within the model elaborated by Mercer (2004). In particular, we refer to cumulative, disputational and exploratory talk in order to analyze data collected through ethnographic observations of 8th and 9th classroom grade interactions. We analyze the recorded school situations through the use of conversation and discourse analyses in order to verify the fit of the above-mentioned sociocultural categories. Our hypothesis is that within the Italian school context is possible to find regularities as signs of regulation’s processes within the school activity of social construction, as well discrepancies between the different forms of talk we are referring to. The findings of this study show regularities as concern the cumulative and disputational talk. Concerning the third category we found a level of “proto–exploratory” talk as hybrid category of classroom talk. We argue that the sociocultural discourse analysis is a valid methodology that can be used as a flexible model to analyze different levels of classroom talk.
The need to analyze and understand how spoken language is
used as a tool for thinking collectively is a major topic within the field of
educational sciences. Different methodologies have been elaborated and used to
serve particular research interests, such as to study how people pursue joint
educational activities. In this paper we intend to analyze different situations
of classroom talk, which focus on the use of language as a social mode of
thinking. We position our work within the sociocultural approach of discourse
analysis in order to highlight how language is a cultural and psychological
tool for getting things done. In particular, we will use a specific model of
analysis of classroom talk, in order to verify, in the Italian context, how
useful it could be within a sociocultural perspective.
The collective classroom talk
Often, researchers have examined the structure of classroom
discourse in order to study “what do teachers and students need to know in
order to participate effectively in classroom lessons” (Mehan, 1985, p.
119). As the first feature of classroom life we can consider the event (Hymes,
1974) as a segment of activity that regularly occurs within the frame of school
interactions. Classroom events have unique organizational features, such as
whole-group activities in which participants are assembled together with a
single focus of attention, or small-group activities, in which students can
conduct different activities in separate clusters. Classroom lessons are events
because of their interactional nature and their sequential organization, in
which talking shifts from party to party as the event unfolds and as a
hierarchic structure marked by recurrent behavioural configurations.
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