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A Conversation Analytic Study on Participation Practices in the American Graduate Classroom: East Asian Students Vs. L1 English-Speaking Students

Takahashi, Junko

In an increasingly global world, there has been a steep rise in the population of East Asian students (EASs) arriving in the United States to pursue post-secondary degrees. This has made EASs’ reticent and passive behaviors in the American classroom—a problem that has been raised and discussed for years—more salient today than ever before. While there has been a sizable amount of previous research investigating EASs who did not participate in class, very little attention has been paid to EASs who did participate and how they participate. This study examines EASs’ participation practices and how they differ from those of native-English-speaking students (NESSs). Using the conversation analysis (CA) method, I examined 38 hours of video-recorded and transcribed graduate classroom sessions from a university in the U.S., paying particular attention to both linguistic and non-linguistic features as well as various facets of embodiment, including gaze, gestures, and body movement.

The analysis shows that both EASs and NESSs undertook three distinct stages of self-selection: namely, registering, gearing up, and launching. While EASs tended to faithfully follow the three full stages, NESSs tended to economize their process to reach self-selection faster and more effortlessly. In addition, in responding to teacher questions, EASs typically utilized the answering style that pursues a narrow focus on answering the teacher question, while NESSs were found to engage in the exploring style without such a narrow focus. Finally, in making affiliative or disaffiliative contributions to class discussions without any teacher questions or prompts, EASs were found to display a factual stance, without much use of affective elements, while NESSs tended to express an affective stance. Findings of this study contribute to the literature on EASs’ class participation as the first CA study on this topic and to that of classroom discourse in general. Pedagogically, these findings can constitute a useful basis for equipping instructors with better tools for working with EASs and training EASs to develop a more effective style of participation in the American graduate classroom.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Waring, Hansun Zhang
Degree
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 21, 2020