Classroom discourse in EFL teaching: A cross-cultural perspective
This study analyses examples of classroom discourse, one of the most important influences on students’ experience in schools, in EFL classes. The central idea of the author’s enquiry is to compare classroom discourse in two secondary schools in two European countries, namely Austria on the one hand, and Spain on the other hand. The focus of the study is on EFL classes taught by a team of a non-native speaker teacher and a native speaker assistant.
The purposes of this study are to gain insights into classroom communication, to compare classroom discourse in two different countries to see whether culturally specific rules of classroom communication might apply, and to investigate the contact situation of two different (if existent) communication strategies in classroom discourse. Therefore, the study aims to answer the following research question: Do the cultural modes of classroom communication in EFL classes (taught by a team of a teacher and an assistant) differ from each other? The data needed for this study were collected by means of video-recording; audio-portions were transcribed; and the data was analysed using methods of Conversational Analysis. The author focuses in particular on turn-taking, the occurrence of the IRE / IRF sequence and simultaneous speech, as well as restarts and pauses.
The analysis shows how certain conversational structures, such as simultaneous speech or the IRE / IRF sequence, work in classroom discourse. The results hint at different cultural modes of classroom communication, the main differences concerning the presence of the teacher in the discourse, the degree of smoothness with which the discourse proceeds and the students’ degree of involvement in communication. Furthermore, the data shows that different communication strategies are indeed used in classes taught by a team. Interaction with an assistant might increase students’ talking time and might, if the assistant is given enough freedom, also result in more fluent student discourse. In addition, the data suggests that some communication strategies are preferable in the context of EFL teaching with the aim of enhancing communicative competence, namely not interfering with regard to content, not selecting next speakers, and offering open discussion activities.