Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Secondary Education

Major Professor

Camilla Vasquez

Keywords

conceptual thinking, language teacher education, mediation, post-observation conference, sociocultural theory

Abstract

The post-observation conference offers a potentially fecund context for promoting language teacher learning, but very little research has been conducted into how this actually happens. Taking Vygotskian sociocultural theory as its theoretical framework, this study examined the mediational discourse of a series of post-observation conferences between a mentor and two practicing English language teachers to investigate the nature of the discourse and the relationship between the mediational discourse and the language teachers` learning. Features of mediational discourse identified a priori (such as intersubjectivity, graduated and contingent help, and externalization of reasoning) were present in the data, but were found to be inadequate to lead to insights into the relationship between the language of the mediation and the development of the teachers` ability to think conceptually about language teaching. What emerged from closer analysis of the language was how the mentor`s discourse prompted the teachers to think conceptually about language teaching and modeled conceptual thinking by encapsulating the lived experience of the classroom through different types of verbal, and therefore conceptual, abstraction. Constructed dialogue was also found to be a salient feature of the discourse, and to have a cognitive function within the mediation. In terms of the relationship of the dialogue to the language teachers` learning, a micro-level analysis of single post-observation conferences revealed the dynamic flow of the mediation and instances of uptake of conceptual thinking by the teachers. A more macro-level analysis which followed mediation on a single topic for each teacher found evidence for the development of conceptual thinking in one teacher`s data but less so in the second teacher`s, and reasons for this are suggested. The results of the study also constitute a revealing account of the nature of the mediational discourse, suggesting a possible cognitive function for the different types of conceptualizations in the discourse, which has the potential to increase understanding of how verbal mediation interacts with learning, and to inform how post-observation conferences are conducted with a view to maximizing the development of conceptual thinking. The taxonomy of conceptualization identified within the mediation discourse points towards an understanding of how the idealization of lived experience and subsequent re-concretization reflect the role that language plays in the development of conceptual thinking.

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