My paper will address the issue of scaffolding as a classroom social practice with the purpose of analyzing how EFL elementary learners respond to their teachers’ guidance and actively influence the course of teaching and learning events. I.e., how are EFL elementary learners- in the Language Seasonal Program at the Public University of Puebla, Mexico- are constrained in the ways they areexpected to talk and act, by their relationship with their teachers. Consequently, this paper focuses on how in talk and joint activity teachers and learners contribute to the development and understanding of knowledge. My objective is then twofold:
1. To systematically keep a qualitative account of the learning experiences by writing up entries/research logs in my personal research journal basedon five scaffolding strategies as a labeling system of categories proposed by Bailey (1997).
2. To adopt the Gibbon’s (2002) Instructional Practices for English Language Learners (IPELL) questionnaire aimed to educators which intends to measure the frequency in the use of scaffolding techniques to support students’ understanding so as to accomplish any instructional goal by adjusting theamount of support and assistance that is provided throughout various stages of instruction (see appendix1). Good!
I will hence argue that the classroom culture is cooperatively built through the teacher/student’s face work, stance and footing within the discursive practices of every day lessons.
I. The Guided Construction of Knowledge
Mercer (1995) focuses his research on thecommunication process in which one person helps another to develop their knowledge and understanding— process which he calls the guided construction of knowledge. His particular interest is in how such construction occurs in classrooms, which he investigates through analyses of the talk between teachers and learners, and between learners, who are working together. His analysis of talk is based on asocio-cultural approach which holds that knowledge is socially constructed and that people use language as a social mode of thinking. In framing his theory, he draws on the now familiar socio-cultural, constructivist, approach which gives explicit recognition to how people construct knowledge together. Not surprisingly, therefore, he draws heavily on the work of Vygotsky and Bruner, particularly thelatter’s notion of scaffolding, since it represents both teacher and learner as active participants in the construction of knowledge.
Any theory that purports to explain educational phenomena must of course incorporate the special nature and purposes of formal education, i.e. take into account the nature of schools and educational institutions (Mercer, 1995). One of the more crucialdifferences between classroom education and other informal kinds of teaching and learning is, of course, that in school there is a curriculum to be taught. Mercer deals with this aspect by drawing on the concept of discourse. He argues that one of the most important goals of education is to help pupils acquire, recognize and develop specific ways of using language, and that learners can only developconfidence in using new discourses by using them.
Mercer argues that discourses are forms of language which are generated by the language practices of a group of people with shared interests and purposes. So while all pupils engage as a matter of course in educational discourse, they need opportunities to practice being users of educated discourse. Teachers have to use educational discourse to organize,energize and maintain a local mini community of educated discourse. He usefully conceives of teachers as discourse guides, and each classroom as a discourse village, a small language outpost from which roads lead to larger communities of educated discourse. In other words, teachers are expected to help their pupils develop ways of talking, writing and thinking which will enable them to travel...
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