From Teacher Talk to Student Talk: Repositioning Learners for Success in the Language Classroom

From Teacher Talk to Student Talk: Repositioning Learners for Success in the Language Classroom

Janice E. Jules (The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9228-0.ch005
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Informal observation in the Caribbean seems to indicate persistent application of traditional teacher-dominated strategies. For this chapter, data were collected from fifty-one Grade K to 3 teachers from six Caribbean countries, including three twin islands, to investigate the application of student-talk as an instructional strategy in repositioning learners for success with oral language skills. The data included an online survey and non-participant classroom observation using a mixed-methods research design drawing on qualitative and quantitative indicators. The study revealed that along with some evidence of student to teacher interaction, talk in the classrooms was primarily teacher-directed and students were usually expected to be silent except when responding to questions posed by the teacher. In addition, it was found that student to student talk was not encouraged generally, and the representation of a classroom environment favorable for the development of oral language skills was limited.
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As a result of socio-historical factors associated with colonisation and slavery, the Caribbean is a diverse region with a number of complexities linked to its cultural features (Alleyne, 1987; Roberts, 2008). This diversity in areas such as customs, arts and language influence all the social institutions, inclusive of education. Pai, Adler & Shadiow (2006) state that schools are specialised social institutions specifically designed to transmit the culture of the larger society to the young. For this reason, in the Caribbean, the adage ‘Children should be seen and not heard’ is an example of a pervasive and deep-rooted cultural more. This proverb appears to be foundational to the philosophical and cultural upbringing of society’s young and impressionable learners. In the school context, this cultural belief regarding learners and their process of learning can lead arguably to the notion that talkativeness and unintelligence are synonymous.

Just like members of a community, Caribbean teachers can be considered in the group of persons who even after migrating may retain a common system of behavioral standards. As a demonstration of the cultural impact, they maintain a way of perceiving, believing, evaluating and acting, generally called their culture (Kramsch, 1998).Another manifestation of the cultural influence is observed in the traditional Caribbean classrooms as teachers typically dominate and direct most, if not all activities (Warrican, 2012).Generally, many of these professionals seem to adopt a lecture-style of delivery as learners sit passively and listen. For this reason, the views of persons like Warrican (2012) present the perception of the Caribbean teacher as the source of all knowledge, who as customary provides all the content during lessons. Such teacher dominated instruction takes place against the backdrop of education practitioners who highlight research which validates the belief that effective language teaching and learning requires a shift from teacher-talk to student-talk (Cadzen, 2001; Crowe & Stanford, 2010; Gillies, 2014). For the most part, with classroom instruction in the region, there seems to be a need for language pedagogy which attends to more student-centered instruction with direct focus on student-talk as an instructional strategy.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Student Engagement: The degree of motivation, interest and attention a student demonstrates in the learning process.

Classroom Environment: The classroom setting linked to social, emotional, and physical aspect, and how they affect the learners and teachers. The context created in the classroom by the teacher and learners for the process of teaching and learning.

Teacher-Fronted: A teaching style with which activities are directed solely by the teacher.

Paradigm Shift: A change in the previous established method or process of thinking about something or performing some action.

Idiolect: An individual’s language identity associated with his or her unique and distinctive language use and behavior.

Instructional Conversation: Talk used during instruction to promote or encourage student participation. Teacher-talk used to encourage responses through student-talk.

Language Pedagogy: A specific theory and philosophy which guides and directs the instruction used in teaching language.

Repositioning: Placing an entity in a different position. Making a change to an entity’s previous position.

Teacher-Dominated: All or most classroom activity and talking are done by the teacher while s tudents are passive recipients.

Student-Centered: An approach in which the student is an active participant. The student’s learning needs and interest are priority and the main focus.

Student-Talk: Students’ verbal responses to share ideas and participate in the learning process.

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