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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Agreement and disagreement: Novice language learners in small group discussion
by Fujimoto, Donna T., Ed.D., Temple University, 2012, 515; 3539464
Abstract (Summary)

While the small group discussion is widely used in language classes, there is little empirical research on its efficacy. This research specifically focuses on novice level language students in order to understand the ways that they express agreement and disagreement in group interaction. This study utilizes the methodological framework of Conversation Analysis conducting a micro-analysis of student turn-taking practices and their embodied behavior. This research uncovered the fact that the novice level language learners utilized resources that are not generally considered when investigating agreement and disagreement. Nonverbal actions such as smiles and gaze shifts accomplished affiliative work mitigating disagreement turns. Facial expression, laughter, and gestures were often relied on to compensate for deficits in grammar and lexicon.

A second finding of the research was that the students were able to accomplish significantly more as members of a group than they could as individuals. The multi-person context created a framework enabling members to participate. The students demonstrated a high level of collaboration, joining in word searches, successfully constructing collaborated completions, and frequently offering support to each other through receipt tokens, nods, and smiles. They proved to be each other's best resource.

Another finding of the study was the importance of basic patterns of turns in effective group discussion. For example, in order for an argumentative sequence to emerge, a third response was expected: Turn 1, the claim; Turn 2, disagreement; and, Turn 3, defense, counterattack, or concession by the first speaker or a different speaker. For less skillful groups where topics were not well developed, only two-part sequences were utilized, not allowing subsequent and related talk to occur.

Finally, this study contributes to research on the acquisition of disagreement strategies. Surprisingly, in expressing disagreement, these novice level language students employed a number of different means to express disagreement that were more often associated with advanced learners. For example, they delayed their disagreement turns, and they utilized accounts, exemplification, and elaboration when disagreeing. Though these students were not always able to express themselves fluently, they were nevertheless quite capable in expressing agreement and disagreement in the target language.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Houck, Noel
Commitee: Beglar, David, Carroll, Don, Tada, Masao, Tatsuki, Donna
School: Temple University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 74/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Foreign Language, Teacher education
Keywords: Agreement, Conversation analysis, Disagreement, Multiparty interaction, Small group discussion
Publication Number: 3539464
ISBN: 978-1-267-63722-2
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