Last Updated 01 Feb 2021

Culture Representation

Category Culture
Essay type Research
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This study presents a multi-faceted analysis of EFL learners’ voices in a Thai context, aimed at testing a hypothesis that the discourse of foreign, western-compiled textbooks project identities disconnected from EFL learners’ lived experiences, adversely affecting their meaning-making during discursive practices.

I employ a multi-modal, multi-case study for data collection:

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  1. the use of two sets of materials in mini-course action research with two groups of learners — one group using published materials selected from New Headway Elementary Course (Soars & Soars, 2000) and the other using modified, parallel ‘Third Space’ materials;
  2.  audio- and video-recordings of classroom interactions and their transcriptions;
  3.  post-lesson and post-course questionnaires;
  4.  semi-structured interviews; and
  5.  video-based stimulated recall interviews.

Drawing from Bakhtinian-Vygotskian sociocultural theories, I show through a microscopic analysis of learners’ interactions and utterances how dialogic relations between Other-discourse and Self-discourse shape learners’ meaning construction during their appropriation of mediating discourse for activities such as role-play. A macroscopic analysis of learners’ attitudinal voices based on the questionnaires and interviews is then provided for triangulation.

The findings are:

  1.  both groups have marked potential to infuse their contextual meanings into the Other-discourse of their materials for Self-representation;
  2.  ‘Third Space’ materials have more potential to enrich linguistic resources and opportunities for learners’ meaning-making and scaffolded learning than ‘Headway’ materials;
  3.  the majority of participants prefer the coexistence of voices and meanings between their culture and Other cultures as the mediating discourse for i speaking activities, rather than the conventional models.

The study thus supports the use of a dialogic framework for inclusion of cultural voices and representations in EFL materials design, and also offers other implications for pedagogy and future research. ii Declaration of originality I hereby declare that I have composed this thesis myself, and that it contains no material previously submitted for the award of any other degree. All work presented in this thesis is my own, unless specifically stated otherwise. Phaisit Boriboon iii Acknowledgements

First I would love to express my utmost gratefulness to the Royal Thai Government who granted me the scholarship covering travel costs, tuition fees, and living stipends throughout this academic journey in the UK, without which the completion of my study would not have been possible. As traditionally practised by Thai students, I am now considering myself a student of Mikhail M. Bakhtin, Lev S. Vygotsky, and their followers. I am grateful for their wisdom which I have explored through my reading of their works and appropriated for the present study.

True to what Bakhtin has said about the construction of an authorial voice which grows out of a dialogic encounter, I would not have been able to complete this thesis, had I not engaged in intellectual conversations with certain people over the course of four years. My heartfelt gratitude goes to the main dialogic interactant, Professor John Joseph, my research supervisor, for having been the greatest source of encouragement, insightful and detailed feedback, as well as relentless, benevolent assistance in shaping my academic voice. Thanks also to Dr. Tony Lynch, my second supervisor, for his invaluable instructions and comments on my work. I wish to thank the teachers and students at the University of Edinburgh from whom I reaped helpful comments and suggestions at various occasions: the participants of the Language in Context Research Group, the Theoretical and Applied Linguistics Postgraduate Conference, and the Institute of Applied Language Studies Research Seminar, who were present in my paper presentations. I thank Barry Campbell, the sound technician, for his technical assistance. My sincere iv ppreciation extends to all my friends, Melada, Thanawat, Porpot, Sasithorn, Jit-apa, Tim, Hannele, Sherry, and Frances, who helped out during the materials adaptation stage, and to Aileen who advised me on the use of VocabProfile. My special thanks also go to Assanee for his kindest assistance in binding this thesis. Thanks so much to all my dear friends, Vipas, Somchai, Pajaree, and Sherice among others whose names are all too many to be included here, for their emotional support and encouragement during the difficult times of my intellectual endeavour.

I am indebted in particular to my friend and former colleague, Aric Letzring, for his inquisitive mind that always led to our interesting conversation about cultural phenomena in the EFL classroom, which initially sparked my interest to pursue this line of research. I would like to thank all the people at Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University, Thailand, who allowed my fieldwork to be undertaken with ease and convenience. Special thanks have to go to all the students who were part of such a pleasant and rewarding experience of data collection.

Lastly, although I acknowledge that the voice I have at present is the product of dialogic interaction between myself and many significant others, any flaws that may arise from this thesis are my own responsibility.

This chapter gives an overview of Thailand and Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University located in north-eastern Thailand in particular within which the present study was undertaken, the general state of education and the current condition of English teaching in this social context. The discussions are set out to show the interrelationship among these constituents, which has given rise to the perceived problem and consequent questions of this research. The information given in this section is necessary since it helps to provide a clearer picture of why I have become interested in the causal elationship between the macro-level of societal factors related specifically to ‘sociocultural identities’ and the micro-level of EFL pedagogical practices and learners’ behaviour and performance during discursive practices. In addition, this information helps to legitimate the approach for which I have opted in this study, and to show the value of my investigation with regard to its potential contribution to EFL pedagogical practice as well as to knowledge construction in applied linguistics as a whole. I divide the information in this chapter into two main sections: section 1. provides information on the society, education, and EFL education at both macro-level and micro-level, and section 1. 2 covers the background to the problem, the basic research problem, and the organisation of this study. In section 1. 1, I begin by giving an overview of the social and educational context at the national and regional levels (section 1. 1. 1). A discussion of the role of English and the general state of English as a foreign language at the national level is provided in section 1. 1. 2. The institutional background, with a summary of the goals Chapter 1 Introduction of educational management, is given in section 1. 1. 3. Section 1. 1. 4 delineates the institutional role of EFL provision. In section 1. 2, I provide background to the problem and state the basic research problem in sections 1. 2. 1 and 1. 2. 2 respectively, followed by the organisation of this study in section 1. 2. 3. 1. 1 The Thai context 1. 1. 1 Thai society and education The present study has grown out of concerns arising from the roles I have as both an educator and an applied linguist.

While the study is applied linguistics in its essence due to my educational and professional background as well as my research interests, my hope of acting as a mediator of educational change and development is also an important motive. This study was thus, to an extent, also geared toward increasing the understanding and knowledge essential for the development of education in general in my society. I hope that the research findings will have some implications for educational changes besides their contribution to the mprovement of EFL practice in this particular context. Therefore, a discussion from an insider’s perspective on Thailand — its society, economy, and educational system — is provided in the following pages. This information is vital for understanding the concerns I have from the position of an educator, and will give a clearer picture of both the ‘sociocultural identity’ embodied by the population used in this study and how this identity has been shaped by Thai society at large before their entering English lessons. Thailand is a developing country.

In recent years, capitalism has played a major role in driving Thai economics, although quite a large segment of the 2 Chapter 1 Introduction population are still agriculturists like their ancestors. The fact that 90 percent of the parents of the informants in this study are farmers clearly suggests that this is still overwhelmingly the case. Unlike farmers in more developed parts of the world, who have large plantations, use high-technology equipment, and make a large profit from their crops, thousands of farmers in Thailand are rice farmers who do not have their own land to farm.

Rather, they are hired by others to grow rice for meagre daily wages several times a year, or in the worst cases just once a year, depending on the amount of rain. These farmers have to work odd jobs out of the farming season, such as labouring at construction sites, and thus tend to live a more restricted and underprivileged life than do their counterparts in developed countries. As in many other developing nations around the globe, social inequality is one of Thailand’s main problems.

Wealth and resources are not equally distributed among the regions, and the gap between rich and poor is enormous. Although recent industrialisation has raised the total and per capita income of the nation, income inequality has worsened (Tinakorn, 1995, p. 230). How this social imbalance translates itself into other social categories can be seen in the hierarchical structure of educational institutions at all levels. According to Khoman (1995), although education has expanded rapidly as a consequence of current ndustrialisation and higher income, ‘the quality of education remains a key concern and improper targeting of beneficiaries has led to problems of regional disparity, inequality of access and inefficiency of resource use’ (p. 302). I can say from my own experience, both as a student and now as an educator, that these problems persist today. High-ranking institutions are usually richer in terms of student input quality, human and material resources, whereas low-ranking ones are 3 Chapter 1 Introduction poorer in all respects.

That is, high-ranking institutions draw mainly students who have higher academic performance, and teachers and lecturers with higher academic degrees, greater research experience and expertise, and have been granted more funding by the government. This pattern has existed in Thai education for years. It is a self-perpetuating cycle that needs to be altered, but this process will be difficult because Thai society is still greatly marked by relations of power associated with its long-standing hierarchy, which operates at every level of social activities.

While some people may want to see low-ranking universities receive the same level of budget and other resources from the government as higher-ranking ones, many others think that low-ranking universities do not deserve the same treatment because of the lower quality of their students. The social inequality is also characterised by the different degrees of access to educational opportunity among people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Those who have more power or cultural capital usually have a greater opportunity to receive a ‘better’ education.

For underprivileged individuals to be able to climb the social ladder and obtain what is most valued by society, including getting to where ‘better’ education is provided, they need to be especially driven, with a strong urge to compete, marked perseverance, willingness to work hard, and determination to obtain the best chances in life. In the past decade, policymakers and educators alike have come to realise that the Thai culture of learning over-emphasises rote learning and places too little value on critical and analytical skills.

This has led to recognition of the vital need for educational changes to ensure that Thailand can compete economically with other countries in the globalisation era (Hallinger, 2003). The economic and financial turmoil of 1997 provoked a strong awareness of the flaws in the national educational 4 Chapter 1 Introduction system among all agencies involved in education provision and management. A number of people held failing education responsible for this crisis (Phungphol, 2005, p. 8).

According to Phungphol (2005), education reform in Thailand, addressing particularly the importance of learner-centredness instead of the traditional teachercentred approach, has swept across the country as a consequence of the enactment of the National Education Act in 1999. Since then, central organisations, in particular the Ministry of Education, have constantly arranged training programmes and activities for schoolteachers and educators nationwide so as to instigate measures for promoting educational priorities, including the learner-centred approach to teaching.

In response to the demand from society for educational improvement, institutions of higher education, especially publicly funded universities, have also undergone massive change for nearly ten years (Kirtikara, 2002; Prpic & Kanjanapanyakom, 2004). In 2004, small-sized institutions of higher education, such as the Rajabhat Institutes and the Rajamangala Institutes of Technology, were also designated as universities, a status which requires them to be more autonomous in virtually all aspects of their management — academic, personnel-related, and financial.

How these universities will perform after obtaining their new status is at this stage uncertain, but the task of moving forward is not an easy one, and it may take years before they can stand on their own feet. 1. 1. 2 Thailand and EFL English is part of the educational curriculum at all levels in Thailand, and has been a compulsory subject for students beyond Grade 4 since 1921 (Aksornkul, 1980, as cited in Foley, 2005). This means that the role English plays in the social 5 Chapter 1 Introduction and economic development of the country has long been recognised.

Nevertheless, the fact that most Thai students cannot use the language to communicate effectively in spite of years of continuous English classes remains a major problem that is still waiting to be solved by educators and teachers. As recently as 2001, Wiriyachitra (as cited in Foley, 2005, p. 231) noted that Thai students have an unsatisfactory level of English in basically all skills despite the fact that the 1996 National Curriculum of the country made English a compulsory subject for students starting earlier than before in Grade 1 (Foley, 2005, p. 24). Wiriyachitra’s report of the below-average proficiency of English among Thai students should serve as a call for serious attention from policymakers, educators, and teachers. All agencies involved in the educational development of the country are already greatly concerned with English teaching, because while there is an everincreasing demand for international communication skills, Thai students’ low English oral proficiency is deeply unpromising for the development of the country in general.

The Ministry of Education has thus constantly emphasised that teachers need to reform their teaching approach to put less stress on rote learning, memorisation, and the grammar-translation method, and to implement an approach that enhances communicative skills. They also declared 2006 a year of English teaching reform. 1 With regard to the emphasis on communication in the classroom, English teachers in Thailand have kept themselves abreast of innovative ideas for teaching disseminated from western agencies in the past years. Following the global trend of 1

Source: ‘Education goals should be “lifted”’, The Nation [On-line], Retrieved April 6, 2006, from http://www. nationmultimedia. com/2006/03/28/national/national_30000359. php 6 Chapter 1 Introduction ‘communicative language teaching’ (CLT), university teachers across the country have attempted to implement this approach (Saengboon, 2002). According to Wongsothorn (2000), schoolteachers have also set the development of communication as a main goal in their teaching since 1996, and have adopted what is described as the ‘functional-communicative’ approach (as cited in Foley, 2005, pp. 24-5). The CLT core tenets are also in line with the premise of ‘learner-centredness’ set out in the 1999 National Education Act (Phungphol, 2005). Discussions and debates about CLT and its implementation in learning and teaching contexts still appear to be vigorous. While some scholars are sceptical of its worth, calling for its modification or its replacement by other approaches (Bax, 2003; Harmer, 2003; Hu, 2005), others are insistent that CLT should be adopted in its entirety without taking account of contextual factors (Liao, 2004).

Certain key researchers in CLT have been promoting CLT relentlessly but have to some extent compromised its principles for the sake of its translation into different contexts (e. g. , Savignon, 2003, 2004). Scholars’ perceptions of CLT still lack unanimity, and this leads to the question as to how much CLT and its tenets can accommodate the current need of language teachers to help learners exploit the classroom time and resources available so as best to serve their practical needs. The answer may be elusive and the reality of classroom teaching as far as CLT is concerned is probably messier than one can imagine.

Based on my own experience and the information gained from conversations with my counterparts, English teachers are likely to end up combining an approach resembling CLT and other approaches in their actual teaching. As Bax (ibid. ) states, a more traditional method such as Grammar Translation still reigns over CLT in many global settings (p. 278). 7 Chapter 1 Introduction Notwithstanding its shortcomings, however, CLT is still seen by stakeholders in language policy and planning as an approach that will help improve learners’ communicative competence and is a fact of life that many teachers, myself included, need to grapple with.

My stance is that since CLT is premised on the interdependence of language and communication, and the encouragement of studenttalk through pair and group activities or problem-solving tasks (Richards & Rodgers, 1987, p. 66), it will also be useful when communicative self-expression is emphasised. This is when learners generate their own meanings through utterances based on their intentions and thoughts, ideally using as much of the foreign language available in their identity repertoire as they can.

My experience suggests to me that the aim of realising the communicative possibilities implied in the notion of CLT is still a valid and feasible one. The greatest challenge, though, is not to perceive the means to achieve this aim as a monolithic, prefabricated set of principles and actions applicable to every single context and every task or activity. I suggest that we look further into classroom processes to analyse how an interaction between contextual factors at a macro-level and classroom events with different characteristics can have an impact on learners’ ‘communicability’ or ability to engage with ‘meaningful’ conversations.

I believe that learners’ sociocultural identities should be taken into account in teachers’ decisions as to how to maximise language learning opportunities for learners. To this end, I propose in this study an example of how the interrelationship between identity and various concepts like community, motivation, investment can 8 Chapter 1 Introduction be explored, which are of high interest among applied linguists at the moment. 2 By doing so, I hope to shed light on the notion of ‘communicative’, in order to understand better what scholars generally hold to constitute a communicative approach.

For example, Saengboon (2002) refers to two core tenets of CLT: meaningfulness of tasks and authenticity of texts, and students as autonomous learners. Sullivan (2000a) points out that western-style CLT tends to value the notion of ‘reality’, which encourages students ‘… to give real information about real events, and to do real tasks that relate to the real world’ (p. 120). All these ideas about learners, texts, meaningfulness, reality and the real world need to be clarified in order to better understand CLT or any ‘communicative’ approach to language teaching. 1. 1. Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University (SNRU) and education Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University, formerly known as Rajabhat Institute Sakon Nakhon, is located in Sakon Nakhon Province in north-eastern Thailand (see Figure 1). Sakon Nakhon is about 647 kilometres from the Thai capital, Bangkok. Initially established as a teacher’s college, the institution then became a Rajabhat 3 institute, and changed its status to a university four years ago. It has provided education to people in Sakon Nakhon and nearby provinces, namely Nakhon Phanom, Mukdaharn, Kalasin, and Nong Khai, for more than four decades, and is 2

For example, the theme of the Japan Association for Language Teaching Conference held from 2-5 November 2006 was ‘Community, Identity, Motivation’. Tim Murphey, the Conference Chair, states on their website that we may ask in the classroom who we are asking our students to be, what groups they identify with and to what end, what kind of community we are asking them to participate in and how, what their motivations are and how they are related to their communities and identities, and how we can use this information to help them learn more effectively. Retrieved April 9, 2006, from http://conferences. alt. org/2006/index/call [Online] 3 The name was granted by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand on 14 February 1995. Retrieved May 18, 2007, from http://www. snru. ac. th/history. php (My translation). It means ‘government official’ as teachers are regarded as government officials in Thailand. Retrieved May 18, 2007, from http://www. thai2english/com/dictionary/11229. html 9 Chapter 1 Introduction currently composed of six faculties at the present time: education, humanities and social sciences, management science, science, agricultural technology, and industrial technology.

The philosophy of the university is as follows: ‘Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University is an institution of higher education which provides academic excellence grounded upon morality in order to contribute to local development as well as social development in general’. 4 Hence it is crucial that this university caters for the personal and social development of the local population through the provision of adequate and appropriate education. The people in these provinces (see Figure 2) are generally from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Sakon Nakhon was ranked 67th among the 76 provinces in Thailand for per capita income in 2000, and the situation is not very different in the other provinces nearby. 5 It is thus understandable that students are hopeful that Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University will help them to acquire the social and academic skills deemed essential for paving the way to a ‘better’ life. For the majority of SNRU graduates, a new life awaits them in the capital and other large cities where jobs in tourism, service industries, business companies, and factories are on offer.

While the institution makes every effort to ensure that the curriculum is beneficial for their future, pedagogical implementation and practice are always difficult, particularly because the majority of students who flock to this university each year are not at the top of the academic pecking order. This situation is connected with the social inequality discussed earlier. The Thai educational system is strongly bound up with social reproduction, with students continuing to compete with one another based 4 5 Retrieved May 18, 2007, from http://www. snru. ac. th/mission. hp (My translation) According to the data provided by the Ministry of Finance on their website, http://www. mof. go. th/provice_data. htm, Mukdaharn was ranked at 55, Nong Khai 64, Kalasin 68, and Nakhon Phanom 74. 10 Chapter 1 Introduction Figure 1: Map of Thailand showing the research site in the red line, Source: Modified from http://www. lib. utexas. edu/maps/middle_east_and_asia/thailand_admin_2005. jpg Figure 2: Map of northeastern Thailand showing the provinces where SNRU students are mainly from (within the yellow line), Source: Modified from http://www. thailand. om/travel/map/map. htm 11 Chapter 1 Introduction on their academic attainments long after they leave the system. The disparity between universities along the hierarchical order being great, the best students always choose to enter more reputable, long-established public universities located in big cities. Those students who can afford high tuition fees and living expenses usually opt for private universities, either in Thailand or overseas. Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University has thus become the refuge for students who have failed academically or whose families do not have much money.

A large number of them fall into both categories. It is not feasible in this thesis to pinpoint where the origin of this problematic condition lies; society and education are tightly bound up with each other, and the problems are complexly interconnected. The problems that occur in society will certainly affect education and give rise to educational problems. Those of us who teach in such a situation at times find it disheartening, but it is our task to find innovative ways to improve our classroom practice and the educational experience for our students. . 1. 4 EFL at Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University Sakon Nakhon Rajabhat University provides three degrees in English: Bachelor of Arts (English), Bachelor of Arts (Business English), and Bachelor of Education (English). Students who enrol for these degrees are required to take a group of English subjects generally aimed at developing their English proficiency in all four major skills. The difference among students of these three majors is that BA (English) students and BA (Business English) students have to do a job pprenticeship in the business sector, whereas BEd (English) students do a teaching practicum in local primary or secondary schools in the last semester of their fourth 12 Chapter 1 Introduction year. The curriculum in use today is the same as that laid down in the 2000 Curricula Handbook written in cooperation with the other Rajabhat Institutes located in northeastern Thailand since before they were designated as universities. As discussed in section 1. 1. 1, the economically and geographically divided structure of Thai society to a large extent determines the types of students who enrol at our university.

In Lin and Luk’s (2005) terms, the majority of students have an ‘identity of failure’ 6, which stems from their being regarded as under- and lowachievers. Students who major in English tend to have a very low level of English proficiency to begin with. They are not, however, wrong to believe that the identity of ‘English-major graduate’ which they hope to construct will be their passport to a world of careers beyond the rice fields and farms in which they have grown up. In today’s society, there are always more opportunities for people with some English skills.

Most of these students move from their hometowns to live in big cities where chances are more plentiful after their graduation. Nevertheless, their career aspirations are usually low; for example, most students aim to work in hotels, tourist resorts, guest-houses, tour agencies and companies, and factories because they believe that these jobs are what their academic skills can afford them. 1. 2 The present study 1. 2. 1 Background to the problem The main courses aimed at developing the speaking skills of English majors in our institution are Listening and Speaking 1, 2, 3, and 4 (see Appendix 1 for course The notion of ‘identity of failure’ was used in Lin and Luk’s (2005) manuscript, but they do not use it in the published work. I think it serves the purpose of describing the students in this research well, so I use it in this paper. 13 Chapter 1 Introduction descriptions). The time these students spend in the classroom studying these subjects is one of the rare opportunities they have to practise English communicative skills, since there are not many foreign visitors with whom they can interact.

Although the English curriculum has been in place for many years, we still lack the time, financial and human resources to write and develop our own set of textbooks to be used for teaching these courses, as our faculty of about 15 English teachers is responsible for 500 students in both regular weekday and adult weekend classes. In addition, we also have to provide fundamental English courses to other non-English-major students at the university. The teachers assigned to Listening and Speaking courses are allowed to select textbooks and design lessons as they see fit for specific groups of learners.

The time constraints associated with this overwhelming workload, together with the influence of the dominant ELT ideology, means that we tend to turn to the resources readily available on the market, starting with foreign, western 7-compiled textbooks. We rely on them because they are part and parcel of ELT methodology as disseminated from centre agencies. These textbooks have their good points: the contents and linguistic skills are systematically presented, and they are convenient to use.

Yet, the model dialogues presented for practising communicative skills mostly revolve around cultural events, places, practices, and values outside learners’ lived experience, and the cultural meanings, artefacts, and visual signs embedded in these textbooks are disconnected from students’ social backgrounds. Coming from low socioeconomic levels, their social experience and physical worlds are largely different from those projected in these materials. 7 The term ‘western’ is used here to represent how people in Thailand normally conceive and refer to European and North American countries, from where ajor publications of ELT materials are imported, particularly from the UK and USA. 14 Chapter 1 Introduction As a teacher, my perception has been that this condition hampers learners’ potential to contribute verbally in the classroom. I remember one day in 2003, not long before I was granted a PhD scholarship, when an American colleague walked into the office frustrated. He had just finished a Listening and Speaking class using a textbook published by an American publisher. My colleague then commented that certain students he had just taught did not understand the concept of ‘shopping’.

I was at first bemused before asking him for more details of what had happened around this ‘shopping’ incident. One thing he told me has reverberated in my mind since the day we talked. He pointed out that many of these students were poor, and that as they had little money to live on, they may never have been ‘shopping’ in their lives. The closest thing to going shopping would be going to the market. Indeed, this is not just one of many examples. Going on ‘holidays’ away from home is another experience the textbooks assume to be universal, but which very few of our students have ever experienced.

I had taught this course myself on several occasions, and had often wondered how effective it was to use foreign, western-compiled books as mediating texts. Although apart from occasional signs of disinterest and non-motivation on some learners’ part, I had never experienced such an incident where codes, concepts, and meanings in texts became as explicitly problematic as this American teacher had, I had thought all along that appropriate texts should reflect both old and new experiences, combining existing voices with new voices for learners to interact meaningfully in the classroom.

The points my colleague made about texts and their meanings and the learners’ identity help confirm that, for mediating speaking activities, the contrast between, on the one hand, properties of identity, voice, or role 15 Chapter 1 Introduction assigned to students by the text and on the other, the learners’ actual sociocultural identities, can be a source of tension and deserves further investigation. I argue that learning about the ‘target culture’ 8 is one thing; we would not want to exclude it from foreign-language learning and should encourage our students to acquire cultural knowledge.

But speaking is a different situation. It involves thinking before uttering words to make meanings, and must engage the speaker’s mind. Otherwise, speaking activities amount to parroting meaningless discourse, rendering the lesson unimaginative, ineffective, and boring. 1. 2. 2 The basic research problem Following the above discussion, I can state my basic research problem as follows: Mismatches between learners’ lived experiences and the voices and representations in the discourse that dominates in textbooks, task materials, and the like, can adversely affect learners’ learning experience.

Discursive construction — speaking for purposes of communication — is when this experience can be affected most strongly. The mismatch renders the discourse ‘illegitimate’, as opposed to Bourdieu’s (1977, 1991) sense of ‘legitimate’ discourse that comprises certain characteristics, including the user’s right, subjectivity, and power to use that discourse with a receiver who is in a social position suitable for that discourse.

The dominant discourse in foreign, western-compiled textbooks is ‘illegitimate’ for use as mediating discourse for discursive construction in the speaking mode for learners in this context. It is illegitimate where learners’ agency, right, subjectivity, and power 8 The notion of culture is used in this study to refer mainly to ‘how people live’. The full definition will be given in section 2. 12 where working definitions of key terms are presented. 16 Chapter 1 Introduction are concerned, because these are important determinants of the ‘meaningfulness’ of learners’ speaking activities.

The dominant discourse as presented in foreign, western-compiled textbooks is illegitimate because it constrains learners’ possibilities for interactional opportunities with representations, and deprives them of social positionings that allow them to exercise their own linguistic resources for their voice construction and local creativity. This is not to say, however, that this type of discourse is not suitable to be used in learning a foreign language in general, just in activities specifically aimed at being ‘communicative’.

The illegitimacy can lead in the worst instance to lack of motivation and unwillingness to communicate. All these entangled problems have led to a series of five research questions which will be presented in section 2. 13. 1. 2. 3 The organisation of the present study Chapter 2 is a review of the literature, which summarises both the literature of the broad multidisciplinary theoretical framework and that concerning Vygotksy’s and Bakhtin’s sociocultural theories, as well as scholarship which has adopted and applied their tenets to investigate certain aspects of identity and language learning relevant to this research.

A review of literature related to identity and its representation in textbooks is also offered in order to show the different ways researchers have looked into identity representations and their effects on learners and their language learning. I provide a review of identity, motivation, and investment in language learning which summarises the current stance on how to look beyond learners’ motivation as an affective factor that defines their learning behaviour and outcome. As this study deals with representations projected through cultural content, 17 Chapter 1 Introduction brief section on the current views of the interrelationship among the English language, culture, and the thematic content of ELT materials, as well as a review of how materials designers and developers are currently treating cultural representations in ELT materials are also given. There are separate discussions of my conceptualisations for this research and of working definitions for certain notions. The chapter ends with the outline of research questions. Chapter 3 provides the details of my research methodology, and outlines the stages of how this study was planned before it was actualised in my fieldwork.

There will be a discussion of the rationale for the materials adaptation and design, as well as the characteristics of the alternative materials. This chapter also explains the procedures of data collection, and addresses the problems encountered and how they were solved at each stage of data collection, including the methodological changes made. Chapter 4 offers an analysis of dialogic interaction at a micro-level. It highlights selected episodes of learners’ discursive activities on the basis of interactional voices between learners, their identities, and the mediating discourse or teaching materials.

It gives an analysis of learners’ discourse or utterances within the Bakhtin-Vygotsky sociocultural framework, theorising their discourse produced during speaking activities as different degrees of dialogic interaction between learners’ identities and mediating discourse. There follows a discussion of how voices and meanings embedded in mediating discourse that are orientated to distant life-worlds, as opposed to their current life-worlds, shape learners’ meanings as they appropriate mediating discourse.

A conventional view of learners’ discourse is also provided for comparison. 18 Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 5 presents an analysis of dialogic interaction at a macro-level. The data have been drawn from learners’ attitudinal voices collected from questionnaires, interviews, and video-based stimulated recall interviews, particularly their attitudes towards the English lessons they attended as well as towards the roles and identities they engaged in so as to make meaning during speaking activities, such as role-play.

The discussions further involve learners’ attitudes towards their own culture and other cultures, and their beliefs about the right place for these cultures to be present as mediating discourse in the classroom. These attitudinal voices are aimed at triangulating the interactional voices presented in Chapter 4. Chapter 6 discusses implications related to the designing of ELT materials for learners to speak English in order to enhance dialogism in the classroom. In light of the findings and current theories of language and culture pedagogy, it considers how ‘culture’ should be re-theorised as emergent dialogically in the English classroom.


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