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Whole-person perspectives on learning in community : meaning and relationships in teaching English as a second language Kristjánsson, Carolyn R. M.

Abstract

Curran argues for a view of learning which goes beyond the learner as a cognitive individual and sees him or her as 'whole person' affectively and interpersonally engaged in a learning community. Freire substantially shares this view. With respect to second language learners, models of second language acquisition based on the individual as opposed to community have been unable to address this view adequately, either conceptually or in analysis of discourse data. This study, conceptualized within a language socialization framework, draws on Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) discourse analysis and qualitative research traditions. Using extensive classroom observations and videotapes along with audiotaped interviews, it examines a church-sponsored program aimed at adult ESL immigrants who face the challenge of becoming competent in a new language while grappling with adjustment issues, frequently with limited support. Drawing on Appraisal analysis and linking to Ishiyama's model of self-validation, the study explores how participants engage in the social practice of creating caring community through validating discourse in the language classroom. It examines the ways in which participants understand caring community and probes their theories along with how their perceptions and actions might change as they become invested in this particular learning community. There are three central findings. First, participants construct caring community through discourse, specifically in the form of interpersonal validation in the activities of teaching and learning. Second, participants understand caring community in complementary ways, administrators and teachers as giving of self in service, learners as a source of support and belonging. Third, participants report that engagement in the practice of caring community is instrumental in facilitating cultural adjustment. More generally, the study demonstrates the power of an SFL language socialization approach to illuminate interpersonal and value issues through the analysis of discourse data and shows how they are an integral part of teaching and learning interactions. The analysis of a program by an organization which explicitly recognizes the social practice of creating caring community also provides an example for educators concerned with addressing such issues.

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