The Interactive Uitm Art And Tesl Lecturers English Language Essay

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This section lays out the theoretical foundations of this argument and reviews relevant empirical research on the interactive acts in academic spoken discourse.


Spoken academic discourse in English has become a main concern in higher education institutions especially for both students and faculty members. It has also become more and more relevant as a field for investigation (Fortanet, 2003). Most recently, special attention has been given to discourse in the tertiary educational context specifically research on the discourse of lectures. Biber (2003) also added that nearly all research studies of university discourse have focused on written academic prose or on the academic lecture. Dunkel and Davy (1989), taken from Fortanet and Belles (2005), stated that in higher education throughout the world, lecturing is a widely accepted practice. Fortanet and Belles (2005) reported that this may be due to the increasing internationalization of higher education both from the point of view of students and teachers.

In addition, the aim of most of the relatively few earlier linguistic studies on academic lectures in the university setting has been to find out why second language learners might have difficulties in understanding university classroom discourse (Waters, 1996 taken from Csomay, 2005). Besides that, in the collection of Flowerdew's (1994) earlier studies taken from Csomay (2005), researchers mostly focus on the overall discourse organization of lectures, finding disciplinary differences in the way lectures are structured. Young (1994), taken from Csomay, for example, breaks down lectures into sub-units which she calls 'phases'. She points out that these 'phases' have their communicative purposes, such as, discourse-structuring phase, conclusion phase, evaluation phase and she argues that these phases are arranged differently in lectures of varying disciplines. On the other hand, Csomay (2005) analysed predefined functional measures, for example, topic shifts and discourse markers and the focus is mostly on monologic lectures collected from limited and pre-arranged data-sources.

As mentioned in Csomay (2005), moderately few research studies have reported on the spoken registers (e.g., Farr, 2002 for study groups; Simpson & Swales, 2001, and Thompson, 2002 for academic lectures) and even fewer studies describe the linguistic characteristics of other spoken registers common in university life (Biber, 2003). Now, recent research for higher education level focuses on the linguistic characteristics of spoken language in lectures where most linguists are interested in corpus-based investigations such as Simpson and Mendis (2003), taken from Csomay (2005), who investigate idioms used in the MICASE1 corpus. Moreover, some researchers are also looking at specific lexical items to find out about their functional variants across lectures. For example, Fortanet (2004) investigates the various discourse functions of the personal pronoun we; Mauranen (2001), taken from Csomay (2005), examines reflexivity, and Swales and Malczewski (2001) investigate which particular discourse markers (e.g., so, okay, now) occur most frequently in the university lectures.


The lecture class is changing where the traditional methods of learning coexist with newer interactive methods. Morell (2004) supported that interactive lectures play an important role in improving comprehension and in enhancing communicative competence in the English language for university students. At present times, teachers seem to invite students to interact and participate more as an attempt to narrow distances and avoid formalism (Fortanet and Belles, 2005).

Fortanet and Belles (2005) did a research on the comparison of the English lecture features with Spanish lectures. In their research, interactive elements are considered as one of the references to background knowledge in lectures and it was found that references to shared background knowledge help the hearer understand a lecture. Nevertheless, if speakers assume shared knowledge which is not known by the audience, it may lead to an obstacle for the hearer.

The focus of many studies has been the benefits of interaction such as for improving comprehension and enhancing communicative competence on behalf of the students (Morell, 2004). Many studies from a psycholinguistic perspective (e.g., Gass, 1997; Gass & Madden, 1985; Gass & Varonis, 1994; Long, 1981; Pica, Young, & Doughty, 1987 taken from Morell, 2004) have mostly dealt with interaction or negotiation of meaning in conversations and in the carrying out of language learning tasks, whereas studies from a socio-cultural perspective (Breen, 2001; Hall & Verplaetse, 2000; Morell, 2002) focused on interaction within the language classroom. In general, researchers in both studies claim that interactional practices foster language development.

In contrast, studies in interactional aspects which play a role in establishing a relationship between lecturers and students have not received much attention. Nonetheless, Morell (2004) reported that several ethnographic studies (Benson, 1989; Flowerdew and Miller, 1992, 1996, 1997; Northcott, 2001; and Rounds, 1987b) describe the lecture not only as a spoken text but as a social event where the lecturer can enhance participation and facilitate comprehension. These studies similarly emphasis on the lecturers' tasks to deliver their content through the discourse effectively so that an appropriate environment for interaction and learning is created (Morell, 2004).

Based on other researchers such as Murphy and Candlin's (1979), Strodt-Lopez (1987, 1991) or Young (1994), Fortanet et al (2004) taken from Fortanet and Belles (2005), distinguished six interactive acts that help in locating the references to the background knowledge. The six interactive acts are metalanguage, content, anecdotes, asides, illustrations, and jokes. As an addition, Crawford Camiciottoli (2008) with other researchers (Athanasiadou, 1991; Brock, 1986; Long, 1981) stated that asking questions have also always been an important interactional tool used by teachers to activate and facilitate the learning process. Other linguistic aspects that are based on interactional elements in lectures are personal pronouns (Rounds, 1987a, 1987b; Young, 1994), discourse markers (Chaudron & Richards, 1986; Flowerdew & Tauroza, 1995; Murphy & Candlin, 1979), and negotiation of meaning (Long, 1983; Pica, 1994; Pica et al., 1987).

1.2.1 Metalanguage

The discourse used to speak about the lecture such as the order of presentation, what has to be done next and what was done last;

Biber, D. (2003).Variation among University Spoken and Written Registers: A New Multi-Dimensional Analysis. Language and Computers. Northern Arizona University, USA

Relatively few studies describe the linguistic characteristics of spoken academic discourse. These studies focus for the most part on discourse markers and other relatively fixed lexical 'chunks' (e.g., Chaudron and Richards 1986, Flowerdew 1992, Nattinger and DeCarrico 1992, Flowerdew and Tauroza 1995, and Strodt-Lopez 1991).

Although research on spoken academic discourse still lags behind its written counterpart, over the last 15 years or so some work has been done with university lectures and how they are structured. This includes some descriptive analyses focusing on linguistic features that carry out the specific function of guiding listeners through the lecture, often referred to as discourse structuring. This term has been used in variety of ways, ranging from paragraph or sentence-level organization (e.g. problem-solution) to small micro-markers (e.g. So, OK, Right).In this study, it will be used to refer to what Chaudron and Richards (1986) first called ''macro-markers''. These are metadiscursive comments on how the lecture itself will be organized, or phrases which signal to listeners what is about to happen.(e. g. What I'm going to talk about today, First let's take a look at, We'll come back to that later, You'll see that in just a minute).They are typically 'chunks' based on first and second person pronouns and modal/semi-modal verbs, thus constituting a form of interaction between lecturer and audience that interrupts the flow of informational content.

In an early study, Rounds (1987) investigated the use of personal pronouns in university mathematics lectures. She found that first person pronouns were frequently associated with phrases carrying out the discourse function of announcing future actions (e.g. what I'd like to do today).In one of the most comprehensive works of its type, Young (1990, 1994) describes lectures as a series of five different interweaving ''phases'': content, discourse structuring, conclusion, evaluation and interaction. Among these, the discourse structuring phase plays a crucial role in telling the audience which direction the lecture will take (e.g. so what I will do now is give you a description). Rilling (1996) observed high frequencies of certain four-word lexical phrases functioning as topic markers (e.g. we're gonna look at) and topic shifters (e.g. I would like to) in her corpus of university lectures. Mauranen (2001) discusses ''discourse reflexivity'' as a key feature of lectures from the Michigan Corpus of Academic Spoken English (MICASE).1 She found an abundance of metadiscursive monologic expressions used to structure on-going speech. These include prospective devices to signal what is about to come (e.g. today we're gonna talk a little bit about), as well as what is being put aside for the moment (e.g. an issue worth mentioning but not today).

Morell, T. (2004). Interactive lecture discourse for university EFL students. English for Specific Purposes. 23, 325-338. Available at:

Discourse markers

Although discourse markers are usually considered to be textual units that guide readers or listeners in their comprehension of a written or spoken text, they also act as interpersonal features. According to Chaudron and Richards (1986), discourse markers can be grouped into macro-markers, which are higher-order markers signalling major transitions and emphasis in the lectures, and micro-markers, which are lower-order markers of segmentation and intersentential connections. The interpersonal features of discourse markers can be readily perceived in macro-markers that specify the lecturer's attitude (e.g., I believe, I think, I agree with), that elicit responses (e.g.,What do you think about. . .?) and that accept responses (e.g., That's absolutely right).

1.2.2 Content

The information provided in the lecture

1.2.3 Anecdotes

Stories in first person, used by the lecturer to make a difficult point more comprehensive;

1.2.4 Asides

Comments which do not share the same topic of the lecture such as a comment about something happening in the middle of the lecture;

1.2.5 Illustrations

Examples used by the lecturer to illustrate some point

1.2.6 Jokes

Funny situations mentioned by the lecturers that usually have a double function such as to relax the atmosphere and to draw attention of the audience. Jokes encourage the audience to laugh and it may also be related to some other interactive acts.

1.2.7 Questions

Csomay, E. (2005). Linguistic variation within university classroom talk: A corpus-based perspective. Linguistics and Education, 15 (2005) 243-274. Available at:

Linguistic studies have explored spoken classroom discourse from multiple perspectives in the past four decades. Researchers have identified the general structural patterns of classroom discourse (e.g., Cazden, 1986, 2001; Mehan, 1979; Sinclair, 1992; Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975; Wells, 1993) and investigated the use of questions specific to language classes (e.g., Long & Sato, 1983). Other, classroom-based second language acquisition research has focused on the turn-taking patterns in teacher-student dialogues (cf., collection of articles in Chaudron, 1988) or targeted features of student talk characteristic to small group classroom interactions (Bygate, 1988). The unit of analysis in these studies varies from structural (e.g., an utterance, a turn, a question, a phrase) to functional (e.g., 'exchange', 'move', 'act') units.

Crawford Camiciottoli, B. (2008). Interaction in academic lectures vs. written text materials: The case of questions. Journal of Pragmatics. 40 (2008) 1216-123. Available at:

This study investigates variation in the use of questions in instructional settings that differ according to communicative mode.

As one of the most direct forms of human communication, questions have always been a topic of interest to linguists, regardless of their analytical approach or the context of the language under investigation. Of particular interest is Koshik's (2002) study of classroom interaction. She found that teachers repeated students' immediately preceding phrases in the form of incomplete question like utterances in order to elicit self-correction.

Koshik, Irene, 2002. Designedly incomplete utterances: a pedagogical practice for eliciting knowledge displays in error correction sequences. Research on Language and Social Interaction 35, 277-309.

In classrooms, questions bring into focus the expert-to novice relationship where teachers may 'demand' information from learners for various reasons. Using a Hallidayan framework, Sinclair and Coulthard (1992) identified questions as a form of elicitation used by teachers to verify learning, constituting the first element in a three-part exchange structure of initiation by the teacher, followed by response from the student and ending with feedback from the teacher. In Young's (1994) functionally grounded study of university lectures, questions are seen as an interactional phase in which the lecturer's objective is to establish contact with the student audience.

According to Chuska (1995:7) ''All learning begins with questions. Questions cause interactions: thought, activity, conversation or debate''. In other words, teachers question students to guide them towards learning by defining issues and stimulating thought.

Questions are therefore interactional as they draw readers into the argument and ethos of a text.

In recent years, some research has been undertaken to gain more insight into just how lecturers use questions. According to Thompson (1998:141), questions in academic monologues in the disciplinary areas of language and science can be classified as having two different orientations. On the one hand, they may be audience-oriented, where a response would be plausible, even though in reality there may be no or limited audience uptake. In this case, questions carry out three main functions: to check whether something has been received and understood by the audience, to evoke audience response and to seek agreement. On the other hand, similarly to what happens in textbooks, they can be content-oriented, seeming to expect no audience response and functioning primarily to raise issues and introduce information.

In the same vein, Fortanet Go´mez's (2004) study based on university law lectures distinguished questions as non-rhetorical to which an answer is feasible and rhetorical to which no reply is expected. Bamford (2005) found that questions were used as a form of self-elicitation by economics lecturers, who first asked a question and then proceeded to provide the answer. This seemed to be a strategy to focus students' attention and to liven up the lecture. Using a corpus of

English Studies lectures given in a Spanish university, Morell (2004:4-5) makes reference to four categories of questions: referential to elicit unknown information, display to verify students' knowledge, rhetorical requiring no response and often answered by the lecturers themselves and indirect to elicit some kind of action from students (e.g., students raise hands to respond to who needs a handout?).

The objective of this research is to shed light on the use of interactive elements by lecturers of different field and gender through a comparative analysis of observations and transcribed lectures.

Morell, T. (2004). Interactive lecture discourse for university EFL students. English for Specific Purposes. 23, 325-338. Available at:

Questions are textual in that they are organizational devices within a lesson and they are also interpersonal because they indicate the desire for a shared discourse. If a teacher or lecturer formulates a question, it is, in most cases, because he or she is expecting a response. Nevertheless, not all questions require or expect responses. In fact, Athanasiadou's classification (1991, pp. 108-110) distinguishes four types of questions that vary in their degree of textuality and that define distinct interpersonal relations. These four types of questions are referential questions, display questions, rhetorical questions and indirect questions. Referential questions are those which ask for unknown information (e.g., Those of you who were in the U.S., did you have any contact with religion?), whereas display questions test students to see if they know the material at hand (e.g., What speaker's face is being threatened?). Rhetorical questions generally do not require a response and they often serve to provide information. Lecturers tend to formulate them and respond to them (e.g., What is the business of Parliament? Now the main...). Indirect questions are typically used to make recipients act (e.g., Is there anybody who doesn't have this handout? [Students who don't have it are expected to raise their hands to obtain it]).

1.2.8 Negotiation of meaning

Morell, T. (2004). Interactive lecture discourse for university EFL students. English for Specific Purposes. 23, 325-338. Available at:

Negotiation of meaning is an aspect of interaction that occurs when at least two interlocutors work together to arrive at mutual comprehension of their utterances. It is characterized by modifications and restructuring of interactions when instructors and their students anticipate or perceive difficulty in understanding each other's messages. Participants who negotiate meaning, repeat, adjust their syntax, change words, or modify the form or meaning in these and a number of ways so as to arrive at mutual understanding (Pica, 1994, p. 494). Long (1981) and Pica (1994) describes three typical types of negotiations as follows:

Clarification requests - moves or questions by which a speaker asks for help to understand the other participant's previous utterance (e.g., What did you say?)

Confirmation checks - moves by which a participant seeks confirmation of the other speaker's previous utterance by way of total or partial repetition of what was perceived with a rising intonation (e.g., On Saturday? ^).

Comprehension checks - moves by which a participant asks if the other has understood his or her utterance(s) (e.g., Did you understand?)

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