Congratulations to Language, Literacy, and Culture alum Roehl Sybing '20PhD, who recently published an article in the journal Classroom Discourse that explores how teachers can engage students in language learning contexts. Roehl's article frames the classroom as a space where students often view their teacher as an all-knowing authority, which can make it difficult for them to feel like they have something important to contribute to classroom dialogue. Roehl asks how educators can best disrupt that power imbalance.
The article is based on a study Roehl did for his dissertation with the support of his advisor, Professor Theresa Austin, who provided much-needed insight about research into classroom dialogue. He traveled to Japan to observe English university classes for two months in order to study the dialogue between a teacher and his students. His essay unpacks how a teacher "validates" their students' language and ideas, essentially communicating to them that they have something worth contributing to the classroom conversation. When students are quiet or hesitant to join the classroom interaction because they feel they don't have the skills or knowledge to contribute, a teacher's acts of validation can provide much-needed motivation and encouragement to ensure a meaningful dialogue in class.
This research can be useful to educators who are interested in developing useful practices for instruction that not only aims to build students' knowledge but also to empower students with confirmation that they have useful ideas that they can share in the classroom.