Connecting dots: A British Family in Reminiscence

Kyoko Murakami & Rachel L. Jacobs, University of Bath, UK/University of Copenhagen, Denmark

Reminiscence is a self-reflecting process on past events and experiences. Not only does it enable past experiences to be brought to light through talk, but it also creates an affective environment, which allows participants to explore and construct a representation of the self (Buchanan and Middleton, 1995). A reminiscence conversation is a dynamic talk-in-interaction, which can produce valuable learning experience for the participants involved. Reminiscence talk contains rich, personal, historic data that can reveal and inform family members of an unknown past. In this presentation, we shall present a discursive approach, a methodology that captures the dynamics of reminiscence. We analyse collected conversational data of British family members reminiscing their past as a joint family activity. Through such talk-in-interaction, the family members develop continuity in the family history. We shall explore how intergenerational relationships are formed through associations with membership categories and can reveal how vital information is passed onto future generations. Unlike conventional reminiscence used for therapeutic purposes, family reminiscence is a learning practice of connecting the dots of recalled moments of individual family members lives and is geared toward building a family’s shared future for posterity.

Skilled and unskilled driving practices

Kristian Mortensen & Johannes Wagner, University of Southern Denmark

The data for this paper are collected at training courses for forklift drivers in a Danish workplace education center.  Forklift drivers need to participate in a 7 days full time course that covers a theoretical and a practical part. The practical part of the courses consists of a variety of tasks. To receive a certificate the drivers need to pass a theoretical and practical exam at the end of the course. However, companies employees often start driving trucks in their workplace without any certificate and gain years of practical experience before they take their certificate. The courses therefore have skilled and unskilled participants doing the same tasks.

In the data collection, three different trucks have been followed for a week with three internal cameras and one to two external cameras following each truck.  This multi camera array allows a detailed picture of the trucks movement, the drivers’ gaze and bodily behavior.

This paper is interested to describe how drivers can be seen to be skilled or unskilled.  Two task solving sequences have been selected with two drivers with apparently different skills.  The analysts first impression have then been informed by the written statement of nearly 100 forklift teachers who have watched the video clips and commented on the skill level of the drivers.  A microanalysis of the activities in both video sequences has then be made to flesh out what the initial skill assessment might have registered as indicative for the drivers’ skill level.

The ‘black box’ of reflection: a discursive approach to collaborative reflective practice in medical education

Mario Veen & Anne de la Croix, Erasmus MC, Department of General Practice, The Netherlands

Reflective practice in medical education is often approached from a cognitive perspective. However,  learning in a group is an interactional achievement. We therefore feel it is relevant to study the sequential nature of group interaction in collaborative reflection.

In The Netherlands, all General Practice training programs contain regular sessions in which GP trainees share their experiences.  Despite this being common practice, we found no previous research into the structure and process of these sessions. The purpose of this study is to describe the structure and interactive characteristics of group reflection. Attention will be given to the role of the tutor, the GP resident who reports a case for discussion, and other participants.

Between 2010 and 2011, 47 experience-sharing sessions of 13 different groups were recorded and transcribed verbatim.  Conversation Analysis (CA) has been used to study the reflection meetings, focusing on the structure of the sessions and the way in which the group interaction develops. As is tradition in CA, turn taking and negotiation of interactional sequences are studied carefully.

Four elements were identified in each case discussion: 1. Incident, 2. Reason for sharing, 3. Learning Issues, and 4. Learning Uptakes.  Transitions between these elements were conversationally complex, with visible negotiations between group tutor(s), narrator, and group about the way in which the group conversation move forward. The role of the tutor in the transitions between the elements is very important as the tutor’s interactional behavior is part of the hidden curriculum.

Even without a formal format in which experiences are shared, common elements were found in each case discussion. CA focuses on the interaction in group learning and shows how the interaction is part of what is learned and how the learning takes place.

Ratifying unsolicited displays of insights

Catherine E. Brouwer, University of Southern Denmark

This study is based on videorecorded interactional data from a specific type of institutional setting which consists of a variety of  ‘language stimulation activities’ for bilingual children in Danish preschools. Bilingual children, with a variety of linguistic backgrounds, take part in these activities in small groups together with a specialized preschool teacher. One pervasive feature of this kind of data is the ongoing orientation to, and guidance from the adult towards the children on what the main business of their interaction is – what they relevantly are doing. In this light, the paper explores childrens’ unsolicited displays of insights or understandings, particularly displays which can not readily be understood as inherent to the structured activity at hand. The analysis pinpoints the ways in which such displays may or may not be treated as relevant for the business at hand: Unsolicited displays may lead to side sequences, they may lead to a shift in the main business of the talk, or they may be explicitly or implicitly ignored. The paper discusses whether and how these unsolicited displays of understanding then can be thought of as leading to opportunities for (language) learning and contrasts it to the widely studied IRF/IRE pattern in educational contexts. The activities were videotaped, transcribed and analysed according to principles and procedures of Conversation Analysis.

Are student answers to teacher known-answer questions indication of learning?

Piera Margutti, Università per Stranieri Perugia, Italy

Are student answers to teacher known-answer questions indication of learning?rnPiera MarguttirnrnInteraction is a primordial site of instruction. In Western cultures, formal instruction is predominantly organized as three-part sequences (question–answer?assessment), shaping classroom teaching activities (Well 1993, Nassaji & Wells 2000, Lee 2006, Lyle 2008, Nassaji & Wells 2000) and, presumably, learning processes (Macbeth 2011). However, if the organization of teaching has long been documented in literature, no equal effort has been done to learning. Whereas teacher actions, such as questions and feedbacks, are viewed as indication of hidden decisions about pedagogic approaches ( i.e. dialogic and interactive vs. monologic and traditional) and, thus, observable evidence for the ‘teaching’ side of the instruction process, student answers are not equally viewed as evidence for learning.

Based on video-recordings of plenary instruction sequences in two 3rd-year whole-class primary school, the paper investigates the students’ answering activity. Plenary instruction sessions is a context where pupils happen to respond simultaneously, often using different resources. The analysis shows that answering in this context is not only the matter of wording the expected item, but a far more complex activity, entailing choices (design, word selection, timing, resources), each accomplishing a different coverage of the question requirements. Moreover, format and placement of the answer also display how students worked out their answers, each moving from a different basis (grammar, content, prior talk).

By investigating the resources pupils employ to answer (whether linguistic, verbal, or/and using the body as a means to convey meaning), and by looking at their placement in talk (whether prematurely deployed, occurring at transition-relevance points, or delayed) I will show that, in each case, although all appropriately responding to the question, pupils display a different understanding of the question and of its agenda. I demonstrate that the features of answer construction shed lights into pupils’ understanding of the question: that is, whether it is understood as part of the whole overarching pedagogic project of the lesson ? thus, capturing its implication for further development and reaching back to prior talk?, or merely on the grounds of its local and specific constraints and requirements (Margutti 2006). I argue that, in the former case, these answers can index that instruction has occurred as “the production of new understandings” (Koschmann 2011: 436) and, thus, as the result of learning.

Epistemic incongruence in question-answer sequences as part of doing second language learning in pair work situations

Fredrik Rusk, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Several strands of classroom research show that teachers often ask questions, with an interrogative syntax, to which they already know the answer. Using conversation analytical (CA) terms regarding epistemics the teacher takes an incongruent stance and appears less knowledgable when asking these questions. Reasons for the teacher to ask incongruent interrogatives are several (e.g. to evaluate students’ understanding and/or learning) and they seem to be a common part of the talk-in-interaction in classrooms and thus do the actions they promote seem to be of importance to participants in the classroom. CA studies on second language (L2) classrooms that study exam questions have mostly investigated whole-class discussions and not pair work, which is promoted in modern communicative language pedagogies. It would therefore be of interest to investigate its role in the doing of L2 learning in pair work situations.

The aim of this study is to investigate the use of incongruent interrogatives as part of doing L2 learning and as part of the dynamic epistemic relationships at play. The data consists of video recordings from two second language (L2) educational settings; a content-based Finnish as a L2 program for 7-year-old children and classroom tandem courses (Finnish and Swedish as L2) for 16-year-old students. The focus is on situations in which a more knowledgable participant asks an incongruent interrogative question regarding the current task in response to the less knowledgable participant’s display of unknowing in pair work situations.

The results show that the interaction seems to run smoothly if the L2 learner knows or with only little help knows the answer to the problem. But if the L2 learner truly is unknowing it may be hard for him/her to convey this to the more knowledgable co-participant, since the incongruent interrogative rejects the L2 learner as unknowing. The accountability of knowledge and rejection of a participant’s right to his/her own knowledge becomes apparent. The practice of asking an incongruent interrogative also seems to be a way for the participants to construct the roles of L2 learner and teacher. With a perspective on learning as an activity that participants do it seems that the incongruent interrogative in these situations is specifically designed and used with regards to doing L2 learning. Especially in dyadic interaction where the accountability of who has or has not learned what becomes evident.

The use of requests for confirmation in SLP organized learning activities

Gitte Rasmussen, Centre for Social Practices and Cognition, University of Southern Denmark

This Conversation Analytic (CA) study focuses on communication and language learning activities in Denmark, in which adults suffering from a variety of speech-and language disorders, due to brain injuries, participate. The activities are organized by Danish speech and language pathologists (SLP). Central to these activities is the continuous interactional work that the participants carry out in order to establish that the minimally speaking client understands questions posed by the speaking SLP and to establish that SLP understands the answer produced by the client.

The paper focuses on interactional methods used for the purpose of securing such intersubjectivity, namely SLP’s primarily language based requests for confirmations of responses produced by the client. The latter is produced either as a minimal response based primarily on language or as an extended response to which other communicative resources such as gestures, gaze or vocalizations are central. The analysis shows how a request for confirmation not only works to confirm SLP’s understanding of a response, but also makes a self-repair carried out by the client relevant (Jefferson 1980). With a request for confirmation thus, SLP (other) initiates repair (Schegloff 1992).

The paper presents a collection-based description of the phenomenon. Examples that have been transcribed in accordance with CA principles will be provided in a handout. In addition the paper will show one video-clip and example of a specific environment in which the method is used. In this example requests for confirmation are employed to establish an understanding of a client’s reading strategy.

The paper discusses whether and how requests for confirmation secure an understanding of what the non-speaking client wants, thinks, believes or does, and whether the achieved understanding can be used for further SLP organized learning curriculum development.


Jefferson, G. 1980. The Abominable Ne?: Post-Response-Initiation Response-Solicitation. Dialogforschung. Sprache der Gegenwart. Düsseldorf: Pädagogischer Verlag Schwann.

Schegloff, E.A. (1992) Repair after next turn: The last structurally provided defense of intersubjectivity in conversation, American Journal of Sociology, 98:1295-1345


Finnish or maths? A longitudinal view on student-initiated question sequences in classrooms of mathematics with L2 users of Finnish

Niina Lilja, University of Tampere, Finland

In recent years, learner-initiated actions have started to attract more and more attention in research on classroom interaction. It has been recognized that by taking the initiative and by actively contributing to interaction learners take responsibility of their learning processes (see e.g. Waring 2011, Garton 2012). However, our understanding of the interactional functions learner initiatives have in organizing classroom interaction and of the role they play in learning processes is still in its infancy.

This paper focuses on learner-initiated question sequences in a classroom of young adult immigrants studying mathematics in their second language (Finnish). The data consist of 40 lessons that have been videotaped during two school years. It is part of a larger research project focusing on language learning processes of young adult immigrants who have immigrated to Finland in the final years of the compulsory education stage or after it (at the age of 15–18) and who attend the Finnish comprehensive school in order to qualify for upper secondary or vocational studies. The paper is based on the theoretical and methodological framework of conversation analysis and adopts a multisemiotic perspective to analyzing (language) learning in classroom interaction.

In the analysis, two different views on the student-initiated question sequences will be presented. First, the analysis gives an overall picture of forms and functions of the student-initiated questions in the data and shows how the questions are constructed, in what kind of sequential positions they are posed, and how they are responded to. Particular attention will be paid to questions indicating some sort of problem in understanding either the language of instruction or the mathematical subject content. The analysis illustrates what kind of learning opportunities these questions and answers to them create in interaction.

Second, the analysis focuses on the longitudinal development of the questioning practices. In order to do this, the questions of two different students will be followed through the time span of twelve months. The analysis demonstrates what kinds of changes take place in the practices of constructing a question and discusses how this reflects the possible development of the interactional competence of the students.

The observations made in the analysis will be discussed in relation to both the recent research on language learning in interaction and the research on content and language integrated learning.

What shall we learn today? How students and teachers negotiate objects for learning in plenary classroom interaction

Carmen Konzett, University of Innsbruck – Austria

Foreign language courses in secondary schools are per definition sites for learning, whereby learning is the institutionally specific long-term aim and purpose of the social practices carried out in the classroom (cf. Carlgren 2009: 206; Gardner 2013: 606). But what about the learning targets that emerge in actual, day-to-day practices in the classroom? Responding to Carlgren’s call for “more studies of normal school practices” (2009: 208), this study investigates how students and teachers in ‘normal’ plenary classroom interaction observably attend to objects for learning or “learnables” (e.g. Majlesi 2014) and how they negotiate and establish what the currently relevant object for learning is. Learning targets are thus studied on a micro-level and are analytically treated in the way classroom participants themselves orient to them, namely as locally occasioned and emergent social objects made publicly visible and progressively shaped in interaction.

The data for this analysis stem from a longitudinal corpus currently including about 50 hours of video recordings of L2 French secondary school classrooms in Austria. The analysed sequences are instances of plenary classroom talk about a reading text (i.e. reading comprehension questions) in which both students and teachers treat problems of understanding as opportunities for learning while being temporarily or completely out of joint over what the nature of the object(s) for learning actually is. Despite the fact that typical classroom questions “tend to instruct the kinds of answers called for […] in [their] occasioned production” (Macbeth 2011: 444), my data show that these questions frequently leave room for interpretation which occasions negotiation processes. In these negotiations, objects for learning are observably attended to by participants. This may involve correction sequences (in which the teacher corrects the students), which, being “one of the ways in which members display and recognize that instructing is going on” (Macbeth 2004: 729) are also indicative of members’ orientations towards objects of learning. But the data also include instances where students “assert ownership of their own learning process” (Waring 2011: 215) by contesting the teacher’s perspective or by suggesting what they see as a relevant object for learning at that particular point.


L2 interactional competence as increased ability for recipient design

Simona Pekarek Doehler, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Throughout the past decades, an extensive body of research has provided important insights into the development of a second language (L2) over time. Yet, to date, little is known about how peoples’ capacity to engage in specifically oral communicative interaction is affected in their L2, nor how their ability to participate in such interaction evolves over time. It is only recently that we witness a growing body of longitudinal conversational analytic (CA) research addressing exactly this issue (see e.g. Hellermann 2008, and some of the papers collected in Hall et al. 2011): How do second language speakers use the linguistic resources at their disposal to accomplish social actions in coordination with others? What does the development of interactional competence in an L2 consist of? Is interactional competence simply transferred from the L1 to the L2 or is it re-elaborated in the L2?

In this paper, I address these questions by critically reviewing the empirical evidence provided by existing CA work (including my own work) on L2 interactional development as regards the most central organizational principles of social interaction: turn-taking organization, sequence organization, repair organization, and preference organization. I argue that existing findings support an understanding of the development of L2 interactional competence as involving a diversification of members’ ‘methods’ (in the ethnomethodological sense of the term) for accomplishing social interaction, which ensues in speakers’ growing ability to recipient design talk and to deploy context-sensitive conduct, i.e. conduct that is tailored to the local circumstantial details of the interaction. Because social interaction is based on a minute synchronization and coordination of mutual conduct, this precise tailoring of speakers’ actions to the local circumstantial details of the ongoing course of action and to co-participants’ current expectations, needs and states of knowledge, represents the very essence of interactional competence.