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Unanticipated Student Utterances in an Adult ESL Grammar Classroom

Chavoshan, Ida (2017) Unanticipated Student Utterances in an Adult ESL Grammar Classroom. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation study focused on a feature of emergent interactions in the L2 classroom called unanticipated student utterances (USUs), which is defined as utterances spoken by the student that the teacher has not anticipated as part of the discussion at hand. The purpose of the study was to demonstrate why USUs are significant in the L2 classroom and worthy of attention by L2 researchers, teachers, and teacher educators.

There has been little investigation into the function of USUs in the English as a Second Language (ESL) classroom. The goal of the dissertation was to provide a detailed look at a study on USUs in a specific context—the ESL grammar classroom. Using Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory and systemic functional linguistics (SFL), the study examined: teachers’ perceptions of and responses to USUs, students’ perceptions of USUs, and the function of teachers’ responses to USUs.

The study took place during the course of a semester in an American university’s intensive ESL program with ESL teachers and university-bound international students. Data collection for the study occurred in three phases: (1) a teacher questionnaire, (2) two classroom observations, and (3) two case studies of teachers, which included video-based stimulated recall, informal teacher interviews, and student focus group interviews. Data analysis also occurred in three phases using video-based stimulated recall, general inductive analysis, and SFL analysis.

Findings suggested that the ESL teachers in the study had more positive perceptions of USUs than negative, and were receptive to responding to USUs in their classrooms. Additionally, findings from the two case studies of the teachers’ classrooms provided insight into the types of teacher responses to USUs, and the function of the teachers’ responses to USUs. Furthermore, the students reported mixed feelings about their classroom conversations around USUs, but discussed the importance of their teachers’ responses to USUs. Implications for the study include: (1) the critical role of teacher responses to USUs, (2) the critical role of teacher education to prepare teachers to respond to USUs, and (3) the power of SFL analysis as an alternative approach for understanding teacher-student interactions in the L2 classroom when USUs occur.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chavoshan, Idaidc3@pitt.eduidc3
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairDonato,
Committee MemberForman,
Committee MemberAchugar,
Committee MemberDavin,
Date: 19 May 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 April 2017
Approval Date: 19 May 2017
Submission Date: 16 May 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 214
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Instruction and Learning
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: teacher-student interactions, English as a Second Language, grammar, Systemic Functional Linguistics
Date Deposited: 19 May 2017 15:51
Last Modified: 19 May 2017 15:51


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