Teaching and learning through interaction : a case study of Japanese children learning English as a foreign language
This thesis presents an analysis of interaction within an EFL classroom in a Japanese primary school. Adopting a sociocultural perspective of learning, the study explores the applicability of "guided participation" (Rogoff, 1990) as an approach to understanding the process of classroom language learning. It is a concept in which learning is Viewed as increased "participation" ("Participation metaphor" Sfard, 1998) in the activities of a community, achieved by mediation through language use and structuring. Drawing on sociocultural theory, a method of discourse analysis was developed to reveal the educational processes involved in discourse. Data obtained from eight lessons was transcribed and coded for discourse actions, actions whose pedagogic functions are realised through the mediational use of language. Seven discourse patterns emerged, among them capturing the major characteristics of participation. One pattern in particular involving teacher assistance emerges as having the potential to promote a transformation of pupil language use and participation. Discourse patterns were further examined to identify how opportunities / "affordances" (Gibson,1979) for participation emerge. Drawing on an ecological perspective, a method of analysis for "affordances" in the EFL classroom was developed. Six dimensions of affordances were identified and an examination of the interplay of these dimensions in each discourse pattern carried out. As a result, four types of affordance were identified, two of which, "Strong affordance" and "Contingent affordance", emerge as the most effective for enhancing pupil participation. Analysis further revealed (1) the existence of multiple affordances within a task or an activity, (2) the importance of the teacher's role in the facilitation of affordances, (3) the importance of the active agency of a learner and (4) the complex interplay between learner and environment, the ecology of the classroom. The research also analysed a problematic class to identify causes of negative participation. The thesis concludes that the process of "guided participation" is observable in classroom discourse as pupils make use of affordances available in the environment,, suggesting that a sociocultural method of discourse analysis along with the concept of affordances and an ecological method of analysis for affordances is a valuable means of illummating the complex, social and interactional nature of language learning in the primary EFL classroom. Finally, the findings of the study imply that a greater focus by teachers upon "guided participation" has the potential to enhance the learning process in the formal world of the primary classroom.