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Title: An enquiry into the construction of classroom culture : the case of two language classrooms in Singapore
Author: Sandhu, Parveen Kaur
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2002
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This study is an ethnographically-influenced investigation into the ways teachers and students co-construct language classroom culture. Classroom culture is viewed as comprising classroom discourse and action. The everyday interactional discoursal practices and actions of teachers and students are cultural practices which on the one hand represent and reflect the culture of the classroom, and on the other make, maintain and develop this culture. Data is drawn from two multilingual and multicultural Secondary One English language classrooms in the same school in Singapore. These classrooms were selected because one is composed of supposedly more competent language learners than the other. This lends to the study a comparative dimension where data from one classroom is matched against data from the other, allowing for an exploration of similarities and differences that facilitate data interpretation and analysis. To describe and understand the coming about of classroom culture, a range of data was collected and analysed: • non-participant observation audio-recordings of 28 lessons, as well as field notes on the physical organisation of the classrooms, non-verbal features of teacher-student interaction, and both pedagogic and non-pedagogic events that occurred during lessons • interviews with the two teachers, their students, the Principal and key staff • student questionnaires • supplementary documentary data in the form of the school diary, school yearbook, and photographs of the two classrooms • descriptions of the social context of the school (including field notes of daily morning assemblies and weekly school assemblies) Data analysis was qualitative, and focused chiefly on classroom observations. Analysis was data driven, and through a process of progressive focusing, led to detailed descriptions of observations and recordings of episodes where teachers: • explicitly install systems of behaviour (classroom procedure); • practice discipline and control (classroom management); • issue procedural instructions Attention was also given to student questioning behaviour which emerged as a research interest. Interpretation and explanation of observed patterns of classroom discourse and action are proposed using analytical tools such as participant structures, and participant role relationships. Research findings indicate that both English language classrooms share similar cultural traits, and that these traits mirror the macro social contexts, i.e. the culture in the general education system and that in Singapore society. More interesting and unexpected however, are findings that point at the differences between these microcultures. It appears that the striking differences in microcultures are attributable to the different roles played by the teachers in their attention to classroom procedure, classroom management, and procedural instructions. Teacher differences seem to encourage student questions in one class, and to deter them in the other. In exploring the relationship between classroom interaction and the evolving classroom microculture, this study captures an insider's view of how in one class there is the socialisation of academic success, and in the other, there is the socialisation of failure. Conclusions are drawn from the study for further research into classroom culture in general and student questioning behaviour in particular. Recommendations are made for pre-service and in-service teacher training which aim at improving the ways in which the education system in Singapore serves society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available