"Learning discourse" : learning biographies, embedded speech and discoursal identity in students' talk
The main research question of this study is: What discourses of learning and identity do students develop in relation to their individual learning histories, their experience of learning and of knowledge-acquisition in the HE environment, and how critically reflective are students of the positioning enacted through the dominant discourses of the HE environment with particular regard to institutional discourses of academic learning and knowledge? Rationale: The university is seen as a significant stage in the development of students' learning histories, of particular relevance for the students' perceptions of self, learning and knowledge. The role of discourses of knowledge acquisition and learning in talk - 'learning discourses' - is examined against the background of general study conditions for students poised between study and work. The case study: methodology and methods The dissertation, which is an example of computer-aided qualitative research, describes a small-scale ethnographic study of students at a German university. The researcher adopts a broadly ethnomethodological approach. The data was collected in a limited number of individual in-depth research interviews to construct a language corpus. Other data regarding the research site was collected via observation and from documentary sources. Data analysis: the interview transcripts were analysed using a mixture of conversation analysis; institutional discourse(s) analysis and narrative analysis. Results: the study provides evidence of the production of learning biographies in interview talk. Evidence is also produced in this study of the 'biographization' of students' talk. The coherence of students' discourse practices in relation to their experience of learning is underlined and the researcher argues that the student respondents negotiate the intrinsic difficulties of asymmetrical institutional talk by deploying a range of discourses, both institutionally-generated as well as individual discourses of resistance and opposition. The evidence of individual discourse practices provided by the data employed here is seen as a strong argument for a low-inference approach to data analysis. The results produced by analysis of the interview transcripts demonstrate the central importance of heteroglossic elements in talk, - here described as 'embedded speech' and understood to function as a ’plausibility device' - in the process of self-expression and the production of own discourse Relevance This research is seen as relevant for university learning strategies, for the appreciation of student self-perception, their discourses of knowledge and resistance to the prevailing 'human capital' discourses of learning, exam success and career orientation of HE study.