analysis, social organization, classroom talk

Friday, December 16, 2005

how strange yet marvellous

Today I have been working my way through a chapter by John Heritage in David Silverman's edited book - Qualitative Research: Theory, method and practice. What I decided to do was to rethink my analysis using the "places" suggested by Heritage as a way to get into the conversational analysis of institutional interaction. As I went through the process, I used some data from my PhD that I have already analysed -it is the basis for the article that i am writing and have written about previously, in "appearing not to hear" posts.

Heritage proposes six "places" to prob when conducting analysis of institutional interaction(see p. 225 of the article).
1. turn-taking organisation
2. overall structural organisation of the interaction
3. sequence organization
4. turn design
5. lexical choice
6. epistemological and other forms of asymetry

I bit the dust on overall structural organization of the interaction. Not surprising to me cos i had encountered difficulties with this in my PhD although wasn't thinking of it, at the time, in relation to Heritage. Previous examples that i have seen that illustrate clear cut structures often illustrate two party talk, where only two people are physically present. For example, psathas and his examination of the blind student and teacher. Ditto, direction giving (was that also psathas, can't remember?).

Anyhow, trying to analyse the structure today, by writing about it, was interesting because I realised for the first time (and this isn't CA analysis talk here) that throughout my transcript data none of the kids were talking spontaneously about their writing. To better explain I wrote the following in my notes:

During independent writing the students were not sitting around writing and talking about that writing and related ideas. Rather they kept returning to their individual writing. Hence, their interactions with others appeared to take away from the task that they have to complete. Rather than sharing their writing they continually returned to doing their writing. There was no talk in this lesson where students told each what they were writing or read the writing of others and talked about it, save for questions about whether the writing of others was what they should be writing. Talk about writing occured only when others asked for information from someone else.

After having written that, I realised that it was strange in relation to previous research that has established the integral role of talk about writing in writing lessons. There is a great body of rich and fascinating literature about children's talk when they write, and yet on this day and in this lesson, no-one was talking about their writing.

Could it be the task? Gut reaction -yes. Could it be that over the course of a year in the classroom, informed by a writing program that emphasised tasks, students focused on doing tasks? Could this impact on students' interactions so significantly? can a CA analysis address this? don't know.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

More about 'appearing not to hear'

The days have flown past and I am still working on the journal article. Last post I wrote how I had sorted out the transcript - finding utterances that appeared not to make sense in the context of turns at talk, returning to recordings and discovering things I had missed in my "final" transcript for my thesis. I thought I had it sorted until today -as I was checking over my analysis I returned to something that had bothered me for a long time. One student takes a lot of time to help another record a word ('eat'), but in the end writes the last letter himself and walks away. It always niggled me that after some minutes of talking through what letters to record, and waiting, the student just picked up a pencil and wrote the letter 't'. Today I watched the recording AGAIN and listened to the audio recording. Sure enough -things I had missed that led to more changes to the transcript and a different understanding of actions.

Lest I sound inefficient, or worse -bothered by minutae to the point of seeming ridiculous-the continuing process of reviewing and rethinking the transcript and my analysis post PhD has taught me so much more about analysis from the perspective of ethnomethodology/conversation analysis. Without fail, things that don't make sense for me in the actions of young students (only 5 and 6 years of age) turn out to be things that I have missed, rather than because they are the actions of young children (that don't necessarily make sense, according to some adult views of things).

In relation to 'appearing not to hear', I have a strong sense of the ways in which children manage their interactions in a situation where many things come to bear. Children seated at a table, at a time when the teacher is not managing interaction, are able to manage their own activity, including not interacting with others, in ways that are orderly.

Now if I can just finish that article ...