Journal for Language Teaching

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Constructing international floors for language learning ends: reflectng on a teacher upgrading course

Willfred J Greyling


The main aim of this article is to show that teachers, as superordinates in an authoritybased relationship, may consciously construct configurations of the interactional floor to achieve pre-selected language learning ends. The researcher, who participated as a teacher trainer in the TRANSNET-RIEP project, used classroom discourse as tangible evidence of teacher constructions of the interactional floor. Following Jones and Thornborrow (2004: 399-423), he argued that the teacher's discourse competence had to include the ability to construct activity-specific floors to achieve language learning ends. Arguing from a constructivist perspective, he selected the construct ±discursive initiative as framework. The pole initiative implies that the teacher tightly controls learners' contributions to the discursive process, while the pole + initiative relates to teacher initiations framing learner responses that replicate the demands of reallife interaction. In two cycles of an action-research project, the researcher experimented with activities on the continuum between the two poles. Using theoretical sampling, the researcher collected interactional data for two activities representing the medial position on the continuum of data types for the ±discursive initiative construct. First, he selected an activity in which he was required to mediate the process of generating a dialogue with the trainees. Next, he selected an activity in which the learners were required to generate and practise prepared dialogues. Both dialogues were based on pre-reading activities. In neither activity were learners required to produce discourse under real-time communication constraints. The activity-specific discourse was recorded, transcribed and analysed. The interactional floors that emerged from the activities were then described on the basis of similarities and differences. Their typicality was defined, among others, on the basis of the construct local-allocational versus boundary-restricted teacher mediation speech acts.

Keywords: language learning, floors, Transnet-roiep-project

Journal for Language Teaching Vol. 39(2) 2005: 187-208
AJOL African Journals Online