Getting ready for the #AusELT Article Discussion Group: Teaching pragmatics

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Many thanks to everyone who voted on which article to talk about in the first #AusELT Article Discussion Group, which is scheduled to take place from 13-19 October on the #AusELT Facebook page. The results were very close but the most popular topic turned out be pragmatics, via the article Teaching pragmatics: An action research journey, written by a group of colleagues from Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand. If you haven’t done so already, you can read the complete article here – but first read this post, which will give you some orientation.

Background

The authors, all teachers and researchers at Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, have collaborated on a four-year project aimed at developing materials and methodology for teaching pragmatics to second language learners. Pragmatics focuses on language used in context, and the “norms”, or socially and culturally appropriate ways to use language. I’m sure we’ve all had experiences of when this has broken down, either as speakers of an L2, when speaking with an L2 user, or observing at a distance. I have my own anecdotes that I can share over a coffee or beer one day that made me terribly embarrassed and humbled, all over a socially and culturally inappropriate comment. So, that’s what the article’s about.

As with many articles in TESOL and Applied Linguistics journals, it has more than one audience. As well as practicing teachers, it is also written for academic researchers, postgraduate and doctoral research students, teacher educators and teacher trainers. Let’s unpack the article a little so we can tease out some of the interesting activities and findings of these teacher researchers.

Article structure

  1. Orientation and background
  2. Methodology – three-stage process
    1. Stage one – teacher survey
    2. Stage two – developing materials
    3. Stage three – evaluating materials and methodology
  3. Report on Action Research projects that trialled the materials and methodologies
    1. 2010 – 14 undergrads in a Translation and Interpreting course, mostly Asian background, B2 level. Role plays with expert speakers in “face threatening” workplace situations.
    2. 2011 – 15 lower (A1 and A2) level students from refugee and migrant backgrounds (East Africa, SE Asia, Middle East, Pacific Islands). Semi-authentic role plays of invitations, using DCTs (simplified discourse tasks).
    3. 2012 – EAP students at pre-degree level (lower B2). Role playing “group project” meetings in university study settings
  4. Discussion of findings
  5. Implications for teaching and learning

This outline might help you read through the article more efficiently. I tend to look at sections of most interest first, and then read the whole article through. For example, you might want to read Section 4 first to see what they came up with, and then settle in for a more detailed reading.

Discussion focus

To focus on our discussion, before reading, have a think about this question:

How important is teaching pragmatics for your students? Think about the language backgrounds and the social and cultural backgrounds of your students. Use Figure 1 as a guide to pragmatic features.

We’ll start with this question in the Facebook group on Monday, and will feed in more questions throughout the week.

Thanks for reading!

This post by Phil Chappell (@TESOLatMQ)

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