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Gender, Speech Styles and the Assessment of Discussion

Chapter 4 - Data Analysis I: The Classroom Discussions


In this chapter, I firstly present the analyses of seven classroom discussions. From the results, I comment on the degree to which pupils used co-operative / non-co- operative / competitive styles in these discussions, and whether gender emerged as a significant variable. Secondly, I review the results of the seven analyses in terms of the distribution of certain key linguistic features, and the significance of these distributions in the assessment process.

Of the seven discussions analysed, six were used by the S.E.B. for the training film Young People Talking, and include pupils who were assessed by the S.E.B.. The seventh discussion was recorded during the initial collection of material for Young People Talking, but was not included in the film. The full transcripts of the discussions are in Appendix III.

I present the analyses of the seven discussions below in 4.2. The full transcripts of the discussions, to which the line numbers refer, are reproduced in Appendix III. The analyses focus in turn on the aspects of discussion which I have identified as relevant to a co-operative / non-co- operative / competitive style: floor apportionment, back channel support, questions and tag questions, epistemic modality and hedging, topic development, lexical continuity and repetition across turn boundaries, interruptions and overlap, and simultaneous speech. The discussions are analysed in detail, as I have tried to bring out the complexities of each discussion, the relationships between the speakers, and how these are linguistically managed. Each analysis concludes with a review of the extent to which each discussion is co- operative, non-co-operative or competitive, and similarly the extent to which each assessed pupil (B1, B3, B5, G5, G10, G11, who were assessed by the SEB, and G12 and G14 who were assessed by the teachers in this study) uses a co-operative, non-co- operative or competitive style.

Section 4.3 is an overview of the seven analyses, presenting and analysing the distribution of certain linguistic forms across the seven discussions, and scrutinising the implications of these distributions for the process of assessment.

Finally, I will review these findings in section 4.4, where I will address the following questions:

1. Is the classification of discussion behaviour in class discussions as co- operative, non-co-operative, and competitive, feasible?

2. Do girls and boys differ in their use of these styles?

3. To what degree does the extent to which an individual uses features of co- operative / non-co-operative / competitive talk vary depending on the addressee?

4. Does the extent to which an individual uses features of co-operative / non- co-operative / competitive talk vary depending on whether they are in a mixed or single-sex group?

5. To what extent do the S.E.B.'s assessments appear to be influenced by the co-operative / non-co-operative / competitive style of talk used by the pupil?