Exploring Discourse Analysis

Sarah Creider, Hansun Zhang Waring, Anita Pomerantz, Joan Kelly Hall, and Drew Fagan at the LANSI Conference

Dr. Hansun Zhang Waring, Assistant Professor of Applied Linguistics and TESOL at Teachers College, is bringing a wealth of learning opportunities to the discourse analysis research community. As founder of the Language and Social Interaction Working Group (LANSI), Dr. Waring oversees a monthly meeting of professors, researchers, and students who come together to work on data analysis centered around discourse – the study of social interactions.

The research group’s main focus is to provide a forum for building analytical repertoires via mutual engagement. In the same way that TC’s Community English Program acts as a teaching lab for students, the LANSI group is like a research lab. According to Dr. Waring, LANSI adds much coherence and integrity to the discourse strand of the Applied Linguistics and TESOL programs, and with local, regional, and international scholars in attendance at the data sessions, it has also brought much outside attention to what is happening in this field at TC.

Each data session is free-form in scope, and offers participants the chance to practice doing analysis. Dr. Waring explains that in this space “there are no judges, no boundaries, and no one is right or wrong. It just creates an environment in which people can explore.”

One year after the establishment of the research group, Dr. Waring, along with ED.D students Sarah Creider and Drew Fagan, organized and implemented LANSI’s inaugural conference, held at Teachers College in October, 2011. The event drew 80+ participants from far and wide, and earned much positive feedback from attendees. Particularly, participants were impressed with the quality and diversity of papers presented, a direct result of Dr. Waring’s vision for the conference. Her conscious decision to avoid assigning a theme to the event allowed for a plethora of topics to be addressed. Research on discourse in all types of contexts, including the language classroom, newspapers, and even the language of music, made for an abundance of rich and varied discussions.

Dr. Waring notes how much work it was to put on this first conference, but says it was all worth it. “I’m so pleased that this happened. It’s the most satisfying thing I’ve done professionally.”

One of the many benefits of LANSI is how it builds connections within the community.

Additionally, the group caters to discourse analysts of all levels and backgrounds. “I call it an ‘analytical workout,’” says Dr. Waring, “where you can really just work. Even MA students can come and get exposure to data analysis and not feel like they’re being assessed. I think that really makes the tone more like doing an exercise. It’s not agenda based; it’s not to come up with a product in the end. It’s really just to become better analysts.”

Dr. Waring, a TC graduate who has been an instructor here since 2004, teaches a variety of discourse analysis classes. Her goal is to provide her students with the foundational understandings of social interaction while helping them develop the basic skills of analysis that can be applied to whatever their professional pursuits may be.