Towards Learner Centredness in Higher Education: Exploring English Language Classrooms in the UAE.
Date: 4 November 2019
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy in Education.
This thesis presents an exploration into the manifestations of pedagogy intended to be learner centred and the effect of such pedagogy on learning and learners’ in English Language Teaching (ELT) classrooms, at a University in the UAE. As an insider researcher using a sociocultural perspective, I explored student perceptions in the ...
This thesis presents an exploration into the manifestations of pedagogy intended to be learner centred and the effect of such pedagogy on learning and learners’ in English Language Teaching (ELT) classrooms, at a University in the UAE. As an insider researcher using a sociocultural perspective, I explored student perceptions in the face of an educational reform: the implementation of learner centred approaches in my own English language classrooms to understand the way students’ construed the social reality of learner centred classrooms. Foregrounded by theories of social constructionism, this study uses Alexander’s (2004) principles of Dialogic Teaching that emphasise the communicative tenets of learner centredness through the development of classroom interaction that encourages student voice, engagement, critical thinking and active learning, to analyse the quality, dynamic and content of talk that occurred through various teacher led interventions. Considering learning and development as social processes, the study assumes a poststructuralist stance to understand how discourse shapes one’s sense of self and self-worth. Grounded by these theories, this thesis explored pedagogy that aimed to be learner centred by investigating the way students and teacher used shared talk in ELT Classrooms to extend and develop their learning and by extension their identities. Interpretive data collection methods were used to collect video recordings of lessons, semi-structured interview data as well as written response data over the course of one semester. Using the Nvivo software, transcribed data from the development of shared classroom talk was analyzed to understand how the teacher attempted to implement learner centred instruction and how learners experienced it. Findings indicated that classroom dialogues were of low dialogic quality, consisting of limited, brief exchanges that were teacher fronted. Further, findings also revealed the complexities in implementing dialogic, learner centred practices which reinforce such instruction as being theoretically rich but difficult to apply. While researchers theorize the way learner centred, dialogic instruction needs to occur, the subjective and fluid aspects of learning and learners, who prefer the familiar and resist change, result in manifestations of this instructional approach to appear quite differently in the reality of the classroom context. Despite the low educational value of current classroom talk, the results demonstrated that the development of learner centredness through dialogic instruction has been initiated within ELT Classroom contexts and are in a ‘fledgling’ stage. In recognizing that the analysis of classroom discussions revealed an inherent ‘talk norm’ that was teacher directed and teacher dominant, shared whole class interactions demonstrated attempts by myself as the teacher to model dialogic talk. Two things emerged as a result of data analysis, first that attempts to implement learner centred instruction is made during whole class interactions, however such instruction is not very dialogic in engaging learners with the learning; secondly the potential for such learning to develop further to become more dialogic is apparent through the ‘talk awareness’ that participants demonstrated during the interactional episodes.
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