n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Oral interaction and the guided construction of knowledge




This article is grounded in the domain of educational linguistics and focuses on oral discourse. Three research questions are addressed:

1. What patterns of interaction currently prevail in the high school classroom?
2. What interaction changes take place in the talk used by teachers and the learner output after raising teacher language awareness?
3. Does negotiation of learning lead to quality output modifications?
The aim is to establish current oracy practices in the classroom, and to consider how best to improve practice so as to achieve learning goals at three levels, namely negotiation of meaning, form and content. The study involved investigation of oracy practices by teachers during first year of high school in a high-density suburb of Harare, Zimbabwe. Nine teachers were sampled for the experiment. Of these, six were taken through a programme aimed at developing teacher metalinguistic awareness, while the other three served as the control group. The principal research methodology was audio-taping of lessons, which were later transcribed for analysis. This was carried out, for both groups, at two stages, that is, before intervention and after, and results compared. Results showed that teachers whose language awareness had been raised, used discourse input more effectively than those not exposed. Similarly, learners whose teachers had enhanced language awareness showed evidence of improved ability to negotiate learning better than counterparts. This led to the conclusion that classroom praxis benefits from a conscious enhancement of oracy, since it leads to effective learning. A key recommendation thus evolved, namely, that developing knowledge about oral interaction improves learning results. Such knowledge is beneficial for teacher education.


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