Using Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis in Research on Teaching

Next month we are publishing The Embodied Work of Teaching edited by Joan Kelly Hall and Stephen Daniel Looney. In this post the editors tell us more about the methodology used in the research for this book.

The Embodied Work of Teaching is based on the premise that language teaching is sophisticated, professional work. Such work has typically been represented in the literature as propositional knowledge about teaching. Numerous essays and books exist that tell teachers how they should teach, e.g. ‘connect to students’ experiences’, ‘maintain everyone’s attention’, ‘promote student participation, and ‘be prepared for contingencies.’ Missing from this abundant literature, however, are studies on how teaching is actually accomplished. This volume addresses this gap by showcasing studies that document in rich empirical detail the complex, embodied achievement of language teaching in a variety of instructional settings.

The studies draw on the theoretical foundations and methodological tools of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (EMCA). A dominant approach to the study of social action, EMCA considers the nature and source of human sociality to be fundamentally cooperative, locally accomplished, and grounded in real-world activity. The purpose of EMCA research on teaching is to describe the natural features of classroom life as they are actually produced by teachers and students without reducing them to collections of discrete, insignificant acts. Data-driven and analytically inductive, EMCA relies on a set of robust transcription conventions to identify and describe the fine-grained details of the specialized actions of teaching, the learner actions they engender and the larger pedagogical projects they accomplish.

As demonstrated in the studies in this volume, in addition to instructing or directing others, language teaching involves the ongoing management of alignment, affiliation and multiple participant frameworks through the simultaneous and sequential coordination of numerous embodied resources in addition to language, including body positions, facial expressions, gaze, gesture, and objects in the environment. The studies are not offered as exemplars of best practices; that is, they do not claim to showcase how teaching should be accomplished. Rather, they demonstrate how it is accomplished in particular settings, by particular teachers with particular pedagogical goals and with particular students. As instructive descriptions of the interactional, embodied achievement of teaching, the studies offer to scholars of teaching, teacher educators, teachers and other stakeholders the opportunity to see and understand the sophisticated practices of teaching in new and potentially transformative ways.


For more information about this book please see our website.

If you found this interesting you might also like Objects, Bodies and Work Practice edited by Dennis Day and Johannes Wagner.