Creating Dialogical Spaces in Blended Environments: A Case Study of Classroom Design in Two English Literature Courses

Creating Dialogical Spaces in Blended Environments: A Case Study of Classroom Design in Two English Literature Courses

Kristin C. Ross (Troy University–Dothan, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5472-1.ch022
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This chapter presents a case study of two English literature courses (one graduate course taught in the Spring 2010 semester and one undergraduate course in the Fall 2011 semester) at Troy University's Dothan, AL, campus analyzing student engagement in relation to the learning environment. Both of these courses presented challenges in facilitating classroom discussion inhibited by the physical design of the learning space. To compensate for these physical limitations, both courses incorporated blended learning. One course was moved outdoors, thereby blending the traditional classroom with a non-traditional learning space, while the other incorporated a blended learning approach that used an online discussion board. Although such “relocations” of the learning space overcame initial barriers to student engagement and success, even the blended approach suggests that further research and investment in classroom design would improve student engagement in both traditional and blended classes by promoting dialogism in the classroom.
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Paulo Freire’s “banking method,” observed and theorized in the early 1970s, seems to have come full-circle in today’s classrooms. The “banking method,” with which instructors by now have become very familiar, positions the students as empty “receptacles” into which the knowledge of the instructor is deposited (Freire, 2000). Also familiar to instructors is Freire’s idea that this method is not one that actually teaches but only allows students to regurgitate facts the teacher provides them (Freire, 2000). Conversely, Freire advocates a pedagogy in which students are active participants engaged in the learning process, this participation taking the form of dialogue not only with the teacher, but also other students. Vygotsky’s (1978) ideas about the role communication plays in learning support Freire’s theories as well, and there is an established body of literature implicating dialogue and oral communication as necessary for student success (Cazden, 2001).

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