Mediating language learning: Teacher interactions with ESL students in a content-based classroom

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Journal Article
TESOL Quarterly, 2003, 37 (2), pp. 247 - 273
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This research draws on the constructs of mediation from sociocultural theory and mode continuum from systemic functional linguistics to investigate how teacher-student talk in a content-based (science) classroom contributes to learners' language development. The illustrative texts show how two teachers, through their interactions with students, mediate between the students' current linguistic levels in English and their commonsense understandings of science, on the one hand, and the educational discourse and specialist understandings of the subject, on the other. Through this mediation, students' contributions to the discourse are progressively transformed across a mode continuum into the specialist discourse of the school curriculum. The data reveal ways teachers build linguistic bridges to span the two orders of discourse by showing how the interactions provide sites for L2 learning, in terms of the development of the new academic register. The illustrative texts suggest that in interactions that are effective in terms of L2 development, both teachers and learners are active participants in the coconstruction of language and curriculum knowledge. The article also argues for the value of qualitative interpretive approaches and grounded knowledge in L2 research that is concerned with teacher development and educational improvement.
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