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Social semiotic approaches to pedagogic discourse. Workshop Kristina Love The University of Melbourne. Overview. A brief history of classroom discourse analysis Transcription and analysis as theory The theory of social semiotics

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social semiotic approaches to pedagogic discourse

Social semiotic approaches to pedagogic discourse


Kristina Love

The University of Melbourne

  • A brief history of classroom discourse analysis
  • Transcription and analysis as theory
  • The theory of social semiotics
  • Social semiotics and the institution of schooling: the formation of social identities
  • Social semiotics and the enacted curriculum: visible and invisible pedagogies
  • Social semiotics and the enacted curriculum in cyberspace: transformation or reproduction?
  • Social semiotics and teacher stance: APPRAISAL
classroom discourse analysis a brief history
Classroom Discourse Analysis: a brief history
  • Broadly interactionist (ie not linguistic) perspectives
  • Flanders’s (1970) focus on teacher talk
    • Asking questions
    • Giving directions
    • Accepting feelings etc
  • Barnes (1971): impact of patterns of teacher talk on student learning
    • Eg Teachers’ use of closed questions required one-word answers
    • Student learning through small group discussion
  • But interpretations often idiosyncratic
sample 1
Sample 1
  • Teacher directed lesson section
  • Write your own transcript of this section
  • What does the transcript tell/not tell about the interaction?
sample 2
Sample 2
  • Later in the same lesson
  • What are some of the patterns of language use here?
  • How are they different to those identified in the earlier stage?
  • How may the earlier discourse patterns have set up the learning evident here?
linguistic approaches
Linguistic approaches
  • An early ‘rank-scale’ model - Sinclair & Coulthard (1975)
    • Lesson
    • Transaction
    • Exchange (IRF/ IRE)
    • Move
    • Act
  • Stubbs (1976, 1986)
T. Hey Dai. Just stop a minute. If he’s killed a white person what are they implying?

S. That if he’d killed a black person it’s not so bad.

T. It’s not so important. Who are they saying is probably more likely to be a killer?

S. A black person

T. A black person! So if you’re in the South and you’re a male and you’ve killed a white person and are black, you’re in trouble, big trouble. Thank you for reading Dai. Catherine, in your hugest voice, please.

workshop task
Workshop task
  • Divide each turn into a ‘move’ (Initiating, Responding, Evaluating), including non-verbal moves.
  • Identify the smaller functional units (‘acts’) within each move
  • Discuss the value of the resulting description
  • What else is required of a description of the discourse
    • above the level of exchange
    • below the level of act?
above the exchange
Above the exchange
  • Ethnographic linguistics: Mehan (1979) and Cazden (1988)
  • Concerned with the routines or ‘rules’ (mostly tacit)ofclassroom social organisation
    • Verbal behaviours
    • Physical dispositions
    • Patterns of movement and interaction
  • Speech act theory: Gumperz & Hymes (1972)
    • Patterns of well defined classroom routines
    • eg greetings, storytelling
  • But still the need for something more?
    • Veel transcript (1997)

T. What distance do you have to measure?S. The distance.T. Which distance?S. The distance from the vertex.T. Which vertex?S. (pointing) That one.T. Can you be more precise?S. The top left vertex.T. OK. So what do we measure?S. The distance from the top left vertex.T. Good. To where?S. The outside of the other shape. T. I’m not sure what you mean. Where on the other shape?S. The bottom left hand corner.T. OK. And what do we call that shape?S. The object.T. OK. So the line’s going to …S. The bottom left vertex of the object.T. OK. Put that all together and tell me what you’re

measuring, what distance?S. The distance from the top left vertex of the image

to the bottom left vertex of the object.

below the act
Below the ‘act’
  • Ethnomethodology: Scheggloff (1972, 1982), Sacks (1992), Jefferson (1973)
  • Studies ‘human sociality’ at the micro-level of individuals interacting with other, rather than starting from a model of ‘an external social reality consisting of a set of fixed norms, beliefs and values’ (Gardner, 2000).
  • The ‘object’ of the enquiry is specifically talk, viewed as jointly accomplished activity
  • Talk emerges moment by moment in highly locally organised ways, with speakers and listeners showing split second sensitivities to others’ contributions
ca analytical techniques and focus
CA analytical techniques and focus
  • Turn-Taking
    • Transitional relevance points
    • Overlaps
    • Latching
    • Pauses (measured in micro-seconds)
    • Minimal feedback/Back-channel responses
  • Adjacency pairs
    • Expansions via ‘insertion sequences’
    • Preferred and dis-preferred responses
    • Preliminaries
  • Repairs
    • particular types of adjacency pair dealing with troubles of hearing, production or understanding of talk
some titles
Some titles
  • Scheggloff, E. (1982) Discourse as an interactional achievement: some uses of ‘uh hu’ and other things that come between sentences
  • Scheggloff, E. (1980) Preliminaries to preliminaries: can I ask you a question?
  • Gardner, R. (2000) Resources for Delicate Manoeuvres: learning to disagree (see transcript conventions in appendices)
ca and pedagogy
CA and pedagogy
  • Olympic swim race transcript
    • Note how the talk is co-constructed, moment by moment in highly locally organised ways, with speakers showing split second sensitivities to others’ contributions
    • Identify these unique accomplishments in each situation, rather than bringing beliefs about the local and institutional contexts to the analysis
  • Conversation analysis and language teaching: minimal feedback tokens (see article by Rod Gardner and transcript p33)
ca transcription and analysis as theory
CA transcription and analysis as theory
  • The search for order in talk, which is achieved as one of the most important rule-governed activities of everyday life.
  • A highly empirical approach to analysis, ie analyst uses no assumptions or pre-conceptions (eg about institutional roles, gender, etc)
  • Nothing is dismissed as disorderly, accidental or trivial
  • The analyst becomes highly familiar with the text of the talk before transcribing in microscopic detail
  • Context refers only to the immediate preceding and subsequent talk, not to the wider social context (either of situation or culture).
social semiotics
Social semiotics
  • Social practices, like CA, seen as enacted in language
  • But so too is the construction of various ideological positionings ie language is never neutral, serving to both realize, and silence, a range of values
  • Schools in particular work with and construct ideological positionings for their ‘pedagogic subjects’ (Bernstein, 1996)
the early school pedagogic subject
The early school pedagogic subject
  • What is the ‘ideal pedagogic subject’ under construction here?
  • What verbal routines support thisclassroom social organisation?
  • What physical dispositions (including location and movement) support thisclassroom social organisation?
systemic functional theory
Systemic Functional Theory
  • Halliday, Hasan, Matthiessen, Martin
  • Distinctive in at least 3 ways
  • The metafunctional organisation of language
  • Language as system
  • The relationship between text and context
language as a system
Language as a system
  • At the lexical level
    • eg ‘My [progeny] is at home’
  • Entry conditions
  • Sets of possible options
  • Realizations

Specify sex

Son, boy

Don’t specify sex

Child, brat, darling

Lexical choice, specifying sex



Specify attitude


neutral attitude

Child, son

Lexical choice, specifying attitude

at the syntactic level
At the syntactic level
  • Eg ‘Close the door’
  • Entry conditions - Mood
  • Sets of possible options - indicative (declarative or interrogative), imperative. If interrogative - wh or polar
  • Realizations
language as polysystemic register
Language as ‘polysystemic’:Register
  • Experiential, Interpersonal and Textual choices in one context of situation
  • BUILT Unit 1A - cooking
  • Field: Transitivity, specialised lexis
  • Tenor: Mood and Modality
  • Mode: Theme, Reference and Ellipsis
text context and genre
Text, context and genre
  • Spoken and written text
  • Context of situation (Malinowski)
  • Context of culture
  • Genres as ‘staged, goal-driven social activity’ (Martin & Christie, 1987)
curriculum genres in early primary
Curriculum genres in early primary
  • Morning News Genre
  • Initiation^[Nomination^(Greeting)^News Giving^Finish]n^Closure
  • Teacher direction -> Student Activity -> Teacher direction
  • Christie’s texts 2.1 page 38
curriculum macro genres
Curriculum Macro-genres
  • Curriculum Genres and macro-genres are ‘staged, goal-driven activities devoted to the accomplishment of significant educational ends … they are fundamentally involved in the organisation of the discourses of schooling’ (Christie, 2002)
the curriculum initiation of a macrogenre in art
The curriculum initiation of a macrogenre in Art
  • The goal-setting stage
  • Compare with the language of the prior initiating stage whose purpose is to engage students
curriculum development the exploration stage
Curriculum development: the exploration stage
  • Student oral language related to their roles as ‘explorers’
  • Teacher oral language for ‘point of need’ scaffolding and formulating
  • Focus on internal and external reference
1. T. Alright, are you going to be able to actually make it?

2. S. No, we were stuck while we were doing the front one. Because, we couldn’t pull it up.

3. T. Okay, right, good.

4. S. Look, we have this behind here and then we go ‘Woo …!!’.

5. T. Alright, good. Okay, now, you need to describe … in words … on your paper how that actually works.

6. S. Well, when you pull that up, that’s connected to that and it comes up.

7. T. James, are you listening so that you can write down what they’re saying?

8. S. Yeah

9. S. Well, they’re joined together ... it was pull the top James … you don’t pull the bottom, the top.

10. T. Have you all agreed on the way it works?

11. S. Yeah, when you pull this and it comes up …

12. S. …this is attached …

13. S. … and in the middle of the tower, it’s joined behind, there’s a bit of paper so when you pull that it comes up and then it goes ‘Waa… !’

14. T. Alright, just read me what you’ve got.

15. S. Um, when you pull the top, top object it pulls the bottom object upwards because it’s attached behind the thing.

16. T. Would somebody who just walked into this room, if they read that, would that actually help them to … would they know what you’re talking about?

17. S. No.

18. S. If they pull the fox up the ladder …

19. S. How about if you say behind the tower, they’re joined by …

20. T. Okay, that’s probably an important thing isn’t it? … that it’s a tower?

curriculum closure the presentation stage
Curriculum Closure: the presentation stage


  • Students’ more confident use of technical terminology
  • Students’ language less dependent on the context
  • ie more ‘written-like’ in its use of ‘internal reference’ and complete sentences (cf Veel)
field in the senior art classroom
‘Field’ in the senior Art classroom
  • Note the increased technicality and abstraction used in this Year 12 Visual Communication classroom
identifying abstraction
Identifying abstraction

1. T. Solution to what?

2. S. To the problem being given.

3. T. Problem, solution. Somewhere in between here, this sort of stuff might happen (pointing to words on board - 'ideas', 'drawing with a specific purpose'). It might happen here. Or it might happen here. If we go along a continuum. Although it's rarely like that. We're not just talking about things are we? Anyone? I mean, you can't just go out and buy a dozen ideas.

4. S. It's a process.

5. Yep, a process (writes this on board). Alright, it's really, really important to get hold of that idea. We're not talking about a thing, we're talking about a process. So if we're going to talk about what designers do, we're not talking so much about a product. We're talking about a process. And that sheet that I gave you, there's various sorts of titles, like Art Designer, Graphic Designer, Fashion Designer, Interior Designer, Furniture Designer.

register in upper secondary
Register in upper secondary
  • Field: increased language demands
    • technical language (eg ‘continuum’)
    • abstraction (eg ‘product’ and ‘process’)
    • nominalisation (eg ‘design problem’)
  • Tenor: a different ‘authoritative relationship
    • Contact
    • Distance
    • Affect
  • Mode
    • Use of more ‘written-like’ spoken language
    • modes ‘ancilliary’ to the spoken
methodology and sfl theory of human social behaviour
Methodology and SFL theory of human social behaviour
  • Genre makes explicit the relationship between language and context
  • Genre provides a principled basis for making selections of classroom text for analysis and interpretation
  • Commitment to collect and analyse the ‘whole’ text, not just ‘mine the data’
  • Allows examination of how the whole genre unfolds ‘logogenetically’
  • And allows principled comparisons between curriculum genres, including those across year levels
methodological principles selection of episodes
Methodological Principles: Selection of ‘episodes’
  • Located in the Curriculum development stage of a Health and Physical education curriculum macrogenre
  • Focus on the nature of teacher scaffolding in a multimodal context
other curriculum macrogenres
Other Curriculum Macrogenres
  • Upper Secondary English
  • Whole Class Text Response Discussions
  • Foundational reading^Developing Response^Consolidatin Response
  • David and Susan: visible and invisible pedagogies
online discussions
Online discussions
  • Social semiotics and the enacted curriculum in cyberspace: transformation or reproduction?
  • Lunchtime presentation
social semiotics and teacher stance
Social semiotics and teacher stance
  • Using APPRAISAL to track the evaluative stances in teachers’ ‘planning’ discourse
  • Love & Arkoudis, 2006 ‘