Tasks as meaning making social practices: a functional model and analysis . . Bernard Mohan, King's College London & University of British Columbia in collaboration with Tammy Slater, Iowa State University . Describing purpose in tasks.
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Bernard Mohan, King's College London & University of British Columbiain collaboration with
Tammy Slater, Iowa State University.
“Social behaviour is the structured product of the joint actions of intelligent and knowledgeable agents acting to further some end or other. It is not the effects of causes” (Harre 1993:107).
Therefore, a major need is to support and assess language and meaning/content in academic content tasks.
The ‘gap’ in assessing wording and meaning in tasks content areas (Janzen, 2008)
‘a piece of classroom work that involves learners in …mobilizing their grammatical knowledge in order to express meaning,and in which the intention is to convey meaning rather than to manipulate form” (Nunan 2004:4).
Major Assessment measures in TBLT research:
Accuracy (errors in language form)
Complexity (syntactic T-units etc.)
Fluency of speech.
Needed: a linguistic theory and analysis of meaning-making in texts and tasks.
Language as a resource for making meaning
Language form related to meaning
Text makes meaning using language resources in context
Relates language system to text and values both
Language learning as extending resources for making meaning in context
Evaluate text as making meaning with resources in context
MODE continuum. Action & Reflection. and Learning about language (Gibbons 2002: 40)
Action discourse - in magnetism task
Text 1: (spoken by three 10-year-old students, with accompanying action) This ...no, it doesn't go...try that.
Reflection discourse (specific)
Text 2: (spoken by one student about the action, after the event) We tried a pin... some iron filings...the magnet didn't attract the pin.
Reflection discourse (general, in part)
Text 3: (written by the same student) We discovered that a magnet attracts some kinds of metal. It attracted the iron filings, but not the pin.
Reflection discourse (general).
Text 4: (taken from a child's encyclopedia).A magnet...is able to pick up, or attract, a piece of steel or iron because its magnetic field flows into the steel or iron, turning it into a temporary magnet. Magnetic attraction occurs only between ferrous materials.
" and Learning about languageTheory and practice are dialectically related,
with theory being developed and tested by application in and reflection upon practice“.
Context and text are dialectically related
Engaged purposeful agency in context (typical of tasks)
Knowing expressed in explicit statements.
Abstract definitions. Disengaged, disinterested.
FIELD: IDEATIONAL MEANING reflection (after Charles Taylor)
Ideational meaning covers three main realms of experience. Each main realm roughly correlates with a main class of verbs (note the colours!).
Science theory discourse includes two types of patterns (Halliday, 1998):
Also, scientists reflection (after Charles Taylor)inquire into science research questions, linking together taxonomies and causal explanations.
Teachers guide learners to inquire into science questions and link these things together e.g.
Teacher: I want you thinking about (Inquiry) what things (Taxonomy) are attracted to the magnets (Cause-effect explanation).
In science practice (e.g. experiments), taxonomies relate to actual things and explanations relate to actual processes.
How do tasks use ideational meaning to:
Note the theory-practice dialectic e.g. how in these tasks the magnets make the texts comprehensible
Using A Wand Magnet to lift an iron bar doing in context
Teacher: I want you thinking about what things are attractedto the magnets… and why. What is similar about all these things?...
Abby: (trying a magnet on a key) Hey it doesn’t.
Teacher: It doesn’t. Why doesn’t the key… what do you think Janie?
Janie: It doesn’t. That key’s small.
Teacher: Your experiment today is to discover which sides of the bar magnet, the norths and the souths, which ones repel and which ones attract. You’re going to put the two south poles together. Then you’re going to put the two north poles together, and then you’re going to put the north pole and the south pole together and observe what they do. What’s the rule of when things are attracted and when they are repelling?
Teacher What’s the rule? S S means? doing in context
Teacher: Repel. N N means?
Teacher: N S means?
Teacher: What’s the rule? What poles attract? ... You just use your letters…You put the letters of the two poles that attract.
Teacher: Opposite? Opposites attract.… Okay
Teacher: So… what happenedhere?
Students: It repelled.
Teacher: They’re repelling. Right. They were repelling and I’m going to turn this one over. What do we callthis? North or south?
Teacher: North. It doesn’t matter. I’m turning it over. What…Student: Attract.
Teacher: Okay. So tell me about these magnets? Do they have a north and south?
Teacher: How do we know?
Jack: Because we trieditout.
Teacher: And? What did we discover?...
Jack: Because if you turn it around it won’t attract [sc. it repels] and if you turn it around [sc. again] it’ll attract.
Action and reflection (“Mode Continuum”) academic discourse in content tasksin Online discourse .
Text 1. Actual Online discussion.
‘Hi, I would also like to share my point of view about the article by Carter. I do agree with Natasha that teachers should be aware of the educational background of their learners.’
Text 2. Interview about online discussion.
‘... at the beginning, I was a little bit reluctant. I didn’t want to participate [in OD]’.
Text 3. Interview about online discussion
‘[OD] improves English, especially the writing skills.’
‘... [OD] should be somehow between casual and academic writing.’
‘[OD] improvesEnglish, especially the writing skills.’
FEELING and SAYING
‘...ESL students, to a certain extent, would feel more comfortable and less inhibited communicating their ideas [in OD].’
"theory and practice as dialectically related, with theory being developed and tested by application in and reflection upon practice“. (Carr & Kemmis 1986:4 4)
Beckett and Slater (2005). assessment of project-based learning.
Japanese students in a 14-week, content-based ESL course at a Canadian University. Students were not familiar with a content-based academic discourse socialisation approach.
The students worked in small groups to choose, develop and present a term project. All students used the Project Framework on a weekly basis to record their learning experiences.
Data: students’ weekly portfolios of their research projects, end-of-term reflections, student interviews. Data analysis showed that the majority of the students (79%) clearly acknowledged that they saw how they learned language, subject matter content, and academic skills simultaneously
S: To stop the brain’s aging, we can use our bodies and our heads. Like walking make the circulation of the blood better. If we supply nutrition to our brain cells, we can prevent the destroy of the cells…
T: [RECAST] So, we can prevent our brains from getting weak by being physically and mentally active?
LEARNER REFLECTION ON PBL presentation of project on the brain.
Tako: I learned English by going to conversations class, essay writing, and . . .So, I didn’t believe her [the teacher] when she said we can learn English this way, too.
She explained it in class and showed it to us by the visual [the Project Framework].
She told us to learn to speak when talking
to the librarian and presentation, learn to write when we take notes and write report.
I did that and I understand she taught us the new
way. Now, I know how to learn English another way.
Results: presentation of project on the brain.
Register analysis of ideational meaning plus action/reflection can trace the theory/practice dialectic of learning in tasks and can trace meaning-based formative assessment .
The task concept is a very rich and valuable one (agency, meaning-making and reflexivity…). Register analysis of language as a means of learning in tasks extends the significance and contribution of TBLT research to education as a whole.
Meaning-based formative assessment of tasks can make a major contribution to student learning.
An exceptionally clear presentation of SFL as a theory of learning and of register along with a detailed analysis of the development of ideational meaning in early childhood.