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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Finding a voice: developing pedagogy for the ESOL classroom.

Bate, Rachel (2023) Finding a voice: developing pedagogy for the ESOL classroom. Doctoral thesis, The University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


Migrant language learners are routinely negatively positioned in official discourses of language and citizenship in the UK which fail to reflect the diverse and complex reality of life in the twenty-first century. This narrow outlook has a dynamic relationship with policies relating to both migration and education, the effect of which can be felt in the ESOL classroom through demands such as the promotion of a predetermined set of British Values and the teaching of a curriculum where language is decontextualised and broken down into separate components.

Some in the ESOL research and teaching community have responded to the above by developing participatory pedagogies based upon the work of Paulo Freire. These have proven effective in opposing official interpretations of notions such as integration and monolingualism (see Bryers, Winstanley and Cooke 2014b, Cooke, Bryers and Winstanley, 2018). The ESOL classroom has therefore become an important site to counter negative portrayals and undertake vital work with learners, assisting them in dealing with the challenges they face and beginning to realise their aspirations whilst advancing their English language skills in a meaningful way.

This research looks to develop the above work using the writing of Mikhael Bakhtin and those influenced by him (see for example Skidmore and Murakami, 2016a and Wegerif, 2020) to explore the possibility of supporting learners in the development of voice through dialogic interaction in the classroom. A Bakhtinian notion of dialogue
values the uniqueness of individual perspectives, questioning the prospect of arriving at a consensus, promoting instead the potential for dialogue to lead to an illuminative understanding.

A small-scale study situated in an adult education provider in London was undertaken to investigate the possibility of a dialogic approach. The research was guided by key principles of Exploratory Practice, where a concern with quality of life is central (Hanks, 2017). Teaching interventions were planned and enacted with three groups of ESOL learners, these were observed, and recordings made of a number of classroom discussions. Focus groups carried out with teachers at the site provided further contextual detail regarding essential aspects of participatory and dialogic teaching.

The analysis of classroom talk using a simplified version of Conversation Analysis and a more open dialogic method illustrates how ESOL leaners can work together to generate deeper understandings of complex issues whilst also participating in acts of self-formation as they openly speak out about their experiences and at times challenge each other’s interpretations of events.

Overall, this research illustrates the potential for a dialogic approach, based upon the work of Bakhtin and Freire, to allow for the cultivation of collective and or individual understandings as well as important work on the self. The result of which provides opportunities for learners to consider alternative ways of being other than those currently presented to them at an official level.

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Uncontrolled Keywords: dialogue, Bakhtin, heteroglossia, polyphony, superdiversity, pedagogy, discourse
Depositing User: Delphine Doucet


Item ID: 16738

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Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2023 11:38
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2023 11:45


Author: Rachel Bate

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Collections > Theses


Languages > TESOL

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