Analysis of pupil - pupil talk during game playing : a tool in the formative assessment of bilingual pupils
There is currently much debate amongst EAL specialist teachers in the U. K. regarding the assessment of bilingual pupils. Several studies, including inspection evidence, highlight the consistent failure of some groups of minority ethnic and bilingual pupils within the current summative assessment arrangements. This study is an attempt to refocus concern back to the processes of teaching and learning and hence the formative assessment of bilingual pupils. More specifically, this study investigates whether analysis of pupil-pupil talk during game playing can reveal information about how bilingual pupils are learning English as an additional language in the context of U. K. classrooms, and whether this information can be used by teachers to promote such learning (i. e. as a formative assessment). The fieldwork was undertaken in four schools across Newcastle Upon Tyne, three of which have large and diverse bilingual and minority ethnic pupil populations. The investigation was achieved by video recording small groups of bilingual pupils working and talking together whilst playing specially designed board games which focus on aspects of English language learning in accord with the National Literacy Strategy. Each group interaction was then transcribed and analysed using a discourse analysis system designed to reflect the behaviour of pupils playing the games. This initial analysis was then used to facilitate a deeper, more qualitative and interpretive analysis informed by sociocultural theory where learning is viewed as a socially situated activity mediated by language. This theoretical structure provided both a conceptual framework in which to understand the role of language and collaborative interaction in learning, and an analytic framework through which to observe and interpret such learning. As such, an holistic and essentially qualitative approach was adopted. The resulting information about pupils' learning was then fed back to the class and EAL specialist teachers. The results clearly demonstrate that specially designed board games are an accessible and empowering context for bilingual pupils' learning of English in U. K. classrooms. Moreover, the analysis of pupils' interactive behaviour whilst playing such games reveals constructive information about how bilingual pupils are learning English, their motivation and confidence in approaching this learning, as well as what they have already learnt or are in the process of learning. This thesis exposes the exact nature of such learning. The results also reveal that, although time consuming, the information resulting from such analyses can help guide teaching and learning needs, and is especially useful for those bilingual pupils most reticent to talk in front of adults in the classroom. The results of this study broaden our understanding of the nature of L2 language learning as a socially situated interactive activity from both a theoretical and pedagogical perspective. In particular, by hybridising the process of sociocultural analysis with the pedagogic process of formative assessment, this research has profitably extended the scope of application of sociocultural theory. Furthermore, it raises some interesting policy implications in regard to the purpose and form of the assessment of bilingual pupils in the U. K.