analysis, social organization, classroom talk

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

production machinery

Originally uploaded by angie cat
I've been happily updating my CV this week as a few things have turned over. Following my acceptance for a panel (symposium) at the International Pragmatics conference next year, I've also been invited to contribute a chapter to a book that is being written by panel members. I am very, very excited about this wonderful opportunity and will work hard to make a really strong contribution.

Yesterday I sent off a draft journal article for review. I have sent it to a journal that has published one of my articles previously. It would be good to be published again in the same journal. My writing is definitely getting faster (and clearer). Or, maybe my thinking is definitely getting clearer and so my writing is faster?
So what will I do next? I definitely want to produce a strong abstract for the EM/CA conversation next year. It would be really good to have back-to-back conference papers to give (why go all that way to Europe and pay all that money just for one paper, right?). I am waiting with fingers crossed to hear about AERA (New Orleans, 2011). Successful abstracts will be announced at the end of October and that will give me time to try for another conference if I need to do that. I have in mind a big qualitative research conference in Illinois as a very acceptable alternative.

Monday, September 20, 2010

back to Reader Rabbit

Originally uploaded by angie cat
I'm now back to working on my draft of what I hope will be a published journal article in the future. I'm looking at helping talk during use of the computer. Some of it looks and sounds a bit like this:

107 H: °Kylie° (0.8)↑oh and Kylie
108 (2.0)
109 H: remembe::r
110 (1.0)
111 H: when you get to::: the mon:th
112 (1.0)
113 H: press go::: ((pointing to screen))
114 (1.0)
115 H: um (0.6) click the ↓do::wn button
116 (0.6)
117 H: and look for the one that looks ↑li::ke (0.4) tha::t
118 (0.4)↔((A pointing to screen))
119 H: okay?
120 (0.6)
121 H: starting
This section of talk occurs during a part in the game of Reader Rabbit where the young child Kylie (4 yrs) is going to have to type in her birthday. Her sister, Hannah (7 yrs) anticipates a problem and gives Kylie instructions for what to do next. It's a nice little section of data consisting of a series of directives for what to do next.

I've completed the analysis and now need to draw out my key points for discussion. That is always challenging for me i.e. taking the analysis where it needs to go. The rest of the article is in good shape and I hope to have it concluded pretty soon. This morning I'm going to work on it from 7-ish until around 9 and hope for a break through.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A big week

I'm just now recovering from a busy few days. First off, I had a presentation for the staff here on an aspect of my research. I spoke about ethnomethodology and conversation analysis and some of the challenges presented by applying them to the examination of young children's use of computers. the day after I did a presentation for a (very) small group. The presentation was initiated by Christine Edwards-Groves who is keen to get up a local chapter of ALEA.

On Saturday I had some good news. I had recently sent off an abstract for this. Although I haven't published in the area of restricted interactional activities per se, I have certainly examined examples of institutional talk in my PhD. So I thought to have a go for the symposium which is proposed for the International Pragmatics conference in Manchester in 2011.

Anyhow, Fabienne Chevalier got back to me with an acceptance and I was really chuffed about it. I put a lot of time into the abstract and so felt "rewarded" for that effort. Really, however, I am very happy at the prospect of presenting with folk I don't know (yet). After that success, I have decided to put up an abstract for the CA conference which comes back to back with the one in Manchester. Now I will have to think of something very good for that!

Plenty to do.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More intricate words

saddle bag embroidery
Originally uploaded by angie cat

This morning I've been reading a book by Susan Speer. I've really enjoyed it a lot:
Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk: Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. London, Eng; New York, NY: Routledge.

I've mostly been reading sections that address her take on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. She presents ideas very clearly plus gives some words over to discussion some of the bigger issues and points of disagreement within the approaches. Her comments got me thinking about how to do my own writing more ethnomethodologically (something that I have been toying with lately). This morning's reading has generated some fresh thinking (for me) about how I want to shape up the paper I'm currently working on (Social organization of helping talk during computer use in the home -working title). It was amazing to return to my own writing and see how much I had missed in my analysis to date, and how I might shape up the paper in a richer way.

Something fell into place during the reading of the book (it was a pretty loud noise when the penny dropped). I hadn't made the (now obvious) link between feminist CA work and Garfinkel's ethnomethodologu -it was Agnes!

"One of the earliest studies to shed lght on the situated accomplishment of gender, was conducted by the ethnomethodologist, Harold Garfinkel .... Agnes learnt how to be a woman by studying behaviour and becoming highly attuned to, and aware of, conventions and expectations around gender, and the habitual but typically unnoticed working of social structures. In this sense, Agnes had become a 'practical methodologist' (1967: 180), applying her findings to her own actions. " (pp. 67-69)

Note here: Carolyn Baker suggested to me in the early days of her supervision of my PhD, that the young boy in my study who constantly approached others asking them how to write was like an ethnomethodologist. I didn't get it at the time but I think I do now.

In my own work using EM/CA, I have not addressed many of the complexities of the approaches although I do understand some of the tensions. Speer's work goes deeply into the former. She considers, for example, she considers ontological matters concluding that "ethnomethodology is relativist to the extent that it highlights the work that gives gender dualism its appearance as natural.

"Many conversation analysts, like the ethnomethodologists discussed in Chapter 3, typically resist the suggestion that their work is constructionist (Wowk forthcoming). However, others (e.g. Buttny 1993; Potter 1996b) have argued that there is a significant constructionist undercurrent in CA. Indeed, in her CA work on male-female laughter, Jefferson (2004) notes that she tends to think of the categories of 'male' and 'female' as something like careers rather than conditions i.e. as constructed rather than biologically intrinsic' (2004: 118, emphasis added)." (p. 91).

Speer goes on to say that she treats CA as "compatible with a constructionist agenda" (p. 91)

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Wish I'd said that but I said this

Originally uploaded by angie cat
I'm always on the lookout for writing that describes what EM and CA work is about. Today I found some in an article by Pilnick et al., (2009) who provide an overview of the CA work in the field of medical encounters. Here are a couple that I circled as I read:

"In particular, CA notes that in all interaction, people are ongoingly attentive to the talk and visible conduct of their co-participants. Indeed, they rely on each other to make sense of emergent conduct by virtue of what has happened immediately before; that is in light of the sequential context." (p. 788)

So, those familiar with CA will recognise that the ideas here are not new and in fact are central to doing CA, however, the way the ideas are put is particular and specific to the authors on this occasion of its use.

"A related aspect of the collaborative nature of interaction is that actions are typically accomplished via sequences, where one participant initiates a sequence (e.g. asks a question, makes an offer, presents a proposal), making it relevant for the recipient to produce the second part (e.g. to answer the question, accept or decline the offer, agree or disagree with the proposal (Schegloff and Sacks, 1973)." (pp. 788-789)

I liked the sound of "systematic study of medical interactions and detailed specification of recurrent international processes ... " (p. 788)

The article was written to introduce a themed issue in Sociology of Health and Illness. For me, it provides a very good example of how guest editors would do such work. So, there is a long-ish introduction which introduces EM and CA using some of the ideas I have quoted above, and concluding with implications for the application of CA to medical encounters. The article then provides a paragraph that draws out major themes of thirty years of CA work in medical encounters, and then considers key issues addressed in the work such as:
* how patients are able to put their concerns into talk
* "how to direct the doctor's attention toward and away from certain diagnostic possibilities" (p. 789)

The authors then extend the consideration of issues beyond doctor-patient interactions to those encompassing other medical personnel (so, practitioner-patient, including healthcare practitioners). The authors then consider new technologies and healthcare interactions.

After this scene setting, the authors introduce and briefly consider the contributions of each of the articles that form the themed issue.
"The papers that we have selected for this special issue build on the established tradition of applying CA to medical interaction, and many draw heavily on the key themes and findings that we have summarised above. Critically, they advance this work by unpacking some of the distinctive practical problems or institutional dilemmas that arise in different healthcare settings. The authors of these papers also reflect upon the practical relevance of their work, and the ways in which the understandings they present may be used to address these dilemmas. As the title of the collection suggests, the themes of policy, participation and new technologies are at the forefront of the analyses presented here, just as they are at the forefront of many recent developments in healthcare." (pp. 793-794).

I was surprised to see policy etc described as being "at the forefront of the analyses", however, I am also interested by this way of describing and presenting CA work. By that, I mean that I've always shied away from "the bigger picture" aspects that I can't find in the data (even though I might suspect they are there). There were a number of examples in my PhD work for example. The analysis of classroom talk provided a number of illustrations of encounters where interactions might have been influenced by literacy policies, professional development or ideas. However, I struggled over how much could be made in relation to those. For example, I had a number of sequences of talk where the teacher avoided providing specific information when it was was requested by students ("How do you write like?"). The insertion of a question ("What does it start with?") enabled the teacher to direct the student to a way of working out the spelling of the word, without spelling it for him/her by naming the letters. I also noted that a number of older children never asked the teacher how to spell words. Was it possible for me to claim that over time these children had learnt not to ask for the spelling of words? Further, were these interactional encounters linked to policies and understandings about literacy education that sought to promote children's working out of spelling as an aspect of independent activity during writing lessons?

Today, I'm back to thinking about some of those questions -promoted in part by the article I've been reading this morning. I've produced this working (rough) abstract:

Studies have established the restricted interactional activity that occurs during teacher-led lessons in classrooms (Freebody et el., 1995; McHoul, x). However, little attention has been given in conversation analysis to the interactional accomplishment of classroom activities during lessons when children work alone or in small groups. This paper presents an analysis of restricted interactional activity during an independent writing lesson where young children aged between five and seven years of age produced individual written texts. During this time, the children frequently needed help and sought help from others; some children asked the teacher for help. The analysis of these interactions during an independent writing lesson establishes two related interactional dilemmas managed by the teacher and children and illustrates how institutional activity may be constrained by institutional representatives orientations to policies and perspectives, in this case by curriculum guidelines that inform teaching and learning in classrooms.

Initiating help from the teacher presents one interactional dilemma that is managed and mutually resolved by the teacher and children during occurrences: the teacher avoids providing specific information that would help, and the individual children seek other means for working out how to write words they don’t know. The recurrence of these sequences of interaction illustrates one way that the teacher’s activity during independent writing was restrained so that children would learn to solve their own writing problems; that is; they will seek other solutions rather than ask the teacher. Some children never asked the teacher for help or information, although they did ask each other. A second dilemma resulted when the teacher directed what children should do during interactions with each other. When children complied with the teacher’s directive, they systematically withheld information in many of the same ways as the teacher herself did during her helping activity with individuals. Constraining help by not telling produced interactional trouble for the children and resulted in sequences of talk that extended over many turns at talk when providing information by telling would have addressed the trouble in talk.

Discussion considers how the teacher’s orientations restricted the interactional activity of helping and reflected institutional policies about instruction including: learning by working out rather than learning through telling. Although children oriented to restricted activity when directed by the teacher or interacting with her, their other interactions during independent writing establish their practice of telling when not in range of the teacher. It is concluded that interactional encounters with the teacher during independent writing produced interactions and activity that were restricted and produced the practical accomplishment of more extraneous institutional objectives.