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.