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UBC Theses and Dissertations

In search of a democratic participation structure for the adult ESL classroom McLeod, Morna

Abstract

This thesis describes an action research study into the viability of creating a democratic participation structure in an adult ESL classroom. While critical pedagogy has provided a framework for critiquing power relations within the classroom, more recent sociocultural perspectives on learning help to reconceptualize notions of participation, and feminist theories of democracy help to account for recognition of difference and inclusion. Working at this theoretical nexus, the teacher invited 14 advanced-level students to take increased responsibility for planning and carrying out classroom projects' that made up a substantial part of their course. She also asked the students to act as co-researchers in an investigation of classroom processes, beginning with the question of whether increased student participation alone would strengthen democracy in the classroom. Data was collected from teacher's field notes, student journals and taped student-student interviews. The findings of the study indicate a wide variety of conceptions of both democracy and difference co-existing in the classroom. Based on these findings, the author concludes that a workable democratic participation structure for an adult classroom relies on three criteria: a model of inclusive communication that maximizes participation; a recognition of difference that does not assume consensus as its ultimate goal; and flexible roles for teacher and students. Though these factors may be present only in particular moments and interactions, striving for them not only creates more ethical classroom relationships but creates more learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

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