Targeted research is needed to better understand the key elements and practices that can promote the learning of tertiary-level language teachers participating in inquiry-based groups, particularly teachers of the less commonly taught languages. This study examines one such inquiry group, composed of three instructors of Arabic and Japanese. Conceptually, this study is grounded in sociocultural theory broadly, and cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) more specifically. Methodologically, it takes an interventionist approach and uses a methodology inspired by CHAT: Developmental Work Research (Engeström, 2009). Participants first used video recordings and classroom observations to focus their attention on student learning; subsequently, transcripts of group conversations about classroom observations served to stimulate awareness of moments of teacher learning. This study focuses on the interaction and learning of two Japanese language instructors as they participated in this inquiry group, in the context of support from the leadership of the Japanese language program. In particular, it explores how elements of a multilingual language instructor inquiry group serve to mediate language teacher conceptual development within the broader sociocultural context. Data were gathered as the researcher facilitated a small teacher inquiry group comprised of three college instructors of Arabic and Japanese. Drawing from both the exploratory practice model (Allwright, 2009) and the jugyou kenkyuu "lesson study" framework (Yoshida, 1999; Lewis, 2004), an inquiry cycle was designed to engage the participants in collaborative investigation of collective problems of practice. A combination of activity theoretical and micro-interactional analysis reveals multiple and interacting mediating means which afforded language teacher learning in this study. The findings include the following. Observing each other’s teaching serves to introduce a new – and disruptive – mediating means into the instructors’ existing, socio-culturally-historically created system. In response to this disruption, the content of the inquiry group’s conversations shows that they wrestle with contradictory ideas and evidence, and consider different perspectives to address core questions. Analysis of the conversational structure of the meetings shows that the instructors carefully negotiate face-threatening and face-saving comments in ways that allow them to discuss these contradictions in productive ways. Finally, and importantly, increasing flexibility and openness in the Japanese Program has allowed a recursive relationship to develop where instructor agency, regarding issues of pedagogy, curriculum, and professional learning, mediates further opportunities for instructor agency, self-growth, and program development.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2016. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Elaine Tarone. 1 computer file (PDF); xiv, 152 pages.
Lesson Study in Higher Education: Mediating Language Teacher Conceptual Development Through Shared Inquiry.
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