Teacher-Student Talk ☆

Teachers in training are often told what they need to do to effectively deliver information to their students. But how does that actually look? How does it sound? The how is exactly what TESOL/Applied Linguistics doctoral student Sarah Creider is seeking to uncover through her research. “If you look at a textbook, it will say things like, ‘Give directions clearly.’ Well, what does that mean? How does a teacher do that, step by step? How do you break that down into something that can actually be taught and learned?”

Creider’s pilot study examines teacher and student talk. By videotaping tutoring sessions between an experienced math teacher and young bilingual students in a non-classroom setting, she is able to analyze what the teacher and students are saying and doing, down to the minute details. Through a fine-grained analysis, Creider uses conversation analysis to break down how the talk unfolds moment by moment. The product of this analysis can answer many of the questions at the core of Ms. Creider’s research agenda. “How does a person give information? How does a person combine their physical world and their gestures with their voice?”

The transcriptions of the videos include every word, syllable, pause, false start, and even “Ums” and “Ahs.” In combination with verbal communication, she examines the gaze, gestures, and objects around the teacher. Her goal is to ascertain how the teacher relays information to students, whether it be giving directions, introducing a new idea, or explaining a concept.

Creider looks at the simultaneity of words and gestures, for example, noting the exact moment at which the teacher touches the dice she is working with in conjunction with her words, and then looks at what the student does in response. That back and forth has the potential to inform what teaching pedagogy is most effective. For Creider, “it’s like looking at a symphony, the way it all works together.”

Because Ms. Creider has found that the how is what new teachers have a hard time figuring out, this work seeks to provide answers. “I think looking at the fine details of how an experienced teacher does it will be helpful and useful for new teachers as well as for teacher trainers.”