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Same and different.: Epistemic topicalizations as resources for cohesion and change.
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Educational Studies. Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Center for Language and Literature in Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-7691-2490
Helsingfors universitet.
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In this presentation, we take an interest in how teaching and learning as social actions have to be actively accomplished in interactions between teachers and students in the institutional setting of the classroom. More precisely, we focus on the practices relied upon by teachers and students for coming to situated agreement of the level of student learning, and for adjusting teaching and instruction in individual deskwork to these changing understandings, both within teaching instances and in subsequent situations occurring over longer periods of time.

Within CA, there is a growing interest in the ubiquitous role that issues related to knowledge have in the interactive organization of human sociality. This interest has brought new insights about the diverse ways in which epistemic stance is utilized as a resource in interaction  (c.f. Stivers, Mondada, & Steensig, 2011; Heritage, 2012b; 2012a; Goodwin, 2013; Koole, 2012). The focus on epistemics is at the core of a growing body of research on learning that within a CA framing explores new ways of conceptualizing learning as changed participation in interaction (Martin, 2004; Melander, 2009; Lee, 2010; Sahlström, 2011; Seedhouse, Walsh, & Jenks, 2010). Drawing on these and other studies on learning from a participationist perspective (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Sfard, 1998), the paper takes a view on learning as a social action; as something people are literally doing, accomplished in part through changes in epistemic stance. The issue of cross-situational relevance has proved to be a challenge for CA studies. Here, we explore how participants orient to learning processes across situations, by relying on epistemic topicalizations as resources for the shaping of cohesive learning trajectories.

The analyzed material consists of data from a larger classroom video-ethnography on learning in literacy practices during the middle years, i.e. students aged 10 to 12 year in two Swedish schools.  Within this material, trajectories of learning in desk-interactions between teachers and students when students work individually while the teacher moves around in the classroom to supervise and support their work have been traced. We analyze how the verbal and non-verbal resources (Goodwin 2007; 2013) for epistemic topicalizations used by teachers and students come to construct the interaction as oriented to learning and change.

In the analysis we contrast two different examples where teachers in two or more desk-interactions subsequently meet the same student in interactions about the same learning content in a school assignment. In the first case, we show how the teacher’s epistemic stance changes through and between the desk-interactions in relation to how the studentbecomes more and more certain of how to make use of a map in a geography assignment. The teacher and the student use epistemic topicalizations to explicate the changed epistemic status of the students, and to remind each other of previous experiences, which thus become available to them in the learning activity. By making the previous learning experiences available, the teacher does not have to be as thorough in her explanations in the second interaction compared to the first. This makes it possible to redefine the learning content with more complexity. In the second example, the student shows that despite the teacher’s previous support in a writing activity during a series of Swedish lessons, he still cannot fulfill an assignment. Also in this case, epistemic topicalizations are used to position the student’s epistemic status, and to remind each other of previous experiences. However, in this second instance, this results in more thorough explanations from the teacher using similar semiotic resources as before but with a higher degree of scaffolding, rather than the progressivity of the first instance.

In conclusion, we show how epistemic topicalizations play an important role in the learning trajectories as means to maintain, in different ways, the “sameness” in a certain constituted content through several learning situations, while at the same time making it possible for the teacher and the student to continuously change and differentiate their epistemic stance to this content in relation to successive changes in the student’s epistemic status. Hence, epistemic topicalization is demonstrated to be a primary resource in establishing a shared understanding of the evolving epistemic status of the students, and consequently, as a primary resource for adapting and changing teaching and instruction. Epistemic topicalizations represent crucial resources both for the contingent organization of learning as social action within and beyond situated interactions, and for the situated construction of differentiation and mutual adaption of teaching and learning in relation to displayed needs and requests from various students.



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Goodwin, C. (2013). The co-operative, transformative organization of human action and knowledge. Journal of Pragmatics, 46(1), 8-23. doi:10.1016/j.pragma.2012.09.003

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Heritage, J. (2012b). Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 45(1), 1-29. doi:10.1080/08351813.2012.646684

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Martin, C. (2004). From other to self : Learning as interactional change. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis : Universitetsbiblioteket [distributör].

Melander, H. (2009). Trajectories of learning : Embodied interaction in change. Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis : Uppsala University Library [distributör].

Sahlström, F. (2011). Learning as social action. In J. K. Hall, J. Hellermann & S. P. Doehler (Eds.), L2 interactional competence and development (). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Seedhouse, P., Walsh, S., & Jenks, C. (2010). Conceptualising "learning" in applied linguistics. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Sfard, A. (1998). On two metaphors for learning and the dangers of choosing just one. Educational Researcher, 27(2), 4-13. doi:10.3102/0013189X027002004

Stivers, T., Mondada, L., & Steensig, J. (Eds.). (2011). The morality of knowledge in conversation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
conversation analysis, learning, epistemic topicalizations
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
Educational Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-34439OAI: diva2:756526
4th International Conference of Conversation Analysis (ICCA) 23-29 juni, Los Angeles, USA
Available from: 2014-10-17 Created: 2014-10-17 Last updated: 2015-02-02Bibliographically approved

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