Theses Doctoral

Managing Multiple Demands in the Adult ESL Classroom: A Conversation Analytic Study of Teacher Practices

Reddington, Elizabeth

While much research on teaching has focused on what teachers know, less attention has been devoted to understanding what they actually do. This empirical absence can be felt in particular in the adult English as a Second Language (ESL) instructional context, despite the continued growth of the U.S. immigrant population. The current study addresses this gap by examining discursive practices employed by experienced teachers as they manage multiple demands in the adult ESL classroom. Data include over 25 hours of video-recordings and transcripts of interaction in four intact classes taught by four instructors at two sites: an academic ESL program, housed at a community college, and a community-based ESL program, housed at a school of education.

Microanalysis of teacher-student interaction, conducted within the framework of (multimodal) conversation analysis, uncovered three teacher practices for managing multiple demands. The first, voicing the student perspective, entails the teacher verbalizing how students (may) perceive or experience a pedagogic topic or task; the topic/task is framed in a way that acknowledges its difficulty or problematizes students’ engagement with it. By employing this practice, teachers simultaneously affiliate with the (potential) student perspective while preparing students for explanations of challenging topics or recruiting their participation. The second practice, binding student contributions, entails marking connections, verbally and/or non-verbally, between one student contribution and teacher explanation or the contributions or identities of other students. Through binding, the teacher displays responsiveness to individual contributions while promoting the engagement of (other individuals in) the class. The third practice, resource splitting, entails the use of verbal and embodied resources to simultaneously pursue different courses of action within a single turn, or the use of different embodied resources to do so. By “splitting” semiotic resources, the teacher can accomplish two actions at the same time: align as a recipient and validate one contribution while managing turn-taking or pursuing topic/task shifts. By providing empirically-grounded and fine-grained descriptions of actual teacher practices, this study contributes to explicating how the complex work of teaching is accomplished. Findings bring specificity to the conversation on what constitutes skillful teaching and may benefit teacher educators and novice (ESL) teachers.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Arts and Humanities
Thesis Advisors
Waring, Hansun Zhang
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
July 27, 2020