Conversation Analysis in the Classroom


Griffith University


As a form of institutional talk, classroom interaction shows characteristic features in terms of the “distribution of knowledge, access to conversational resources, and to participation in the interaction” (Drew & Heritage, 1992a: 49): the teacher is the one who mainly imparts knowledge to students, generally corrects students and controls turn-taking and sequence organization, and who has greater rights to initiate and close sequences.

While some early studies within Ethnomethodology and CA focused on classrooms and educational settings (e.g. Cicourel, 1974a; McHoul, 1978, 1990; MacBeth, 1990; Mehan, 1979), the late 1990s saw significant growth in this area—research on classroom interaction came to occupy a prominent place within the research agenda of talk-at-work (Drew & Heritage, 1992a). Firth and Wagner’s (1997) controversial critique of mainstream Second Language Acquisition from a CA perspective in the Modern Language Journal provoked numerous responses, both sympathetic and hostile. Since then, there has been an increase in interest in the talk of second-language speakers, and some of this has focused on classrooms.1

While there appear to be a number of fundamental structures and practices of classroom interaction that are, broadly speaking, shared by both language and nonlanguage classrooms, it is fair to say that language learners have an additional task: conducting their interaction ...

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