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Pursuing an Answer in University Seminar Discussions

Dobrzycki, Holly (2021) Pursuing an Answer in University Seminar Discussions. Masters thesis, York St John University.

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Taking a Conversation Analytic approach, this thesis focuses on pursuing an answer (Pomerantz, 1984c) in university seminar discussions in a particular sequential position: when a lecturer has asked a question and the students’ answer is noticeably absent (Schegloff, 1972). Three practices have been identified: (1) adding a grammatically fitted increment to continue the question (Schegloff, 1996b); (2) reinitiating the Initiation-Response-Evaluation (IRE) sequence (Zemel and Koschmann, 2011) to produce a subsequent version (Davidson, 1984) of the question; and (3) acknowledging the Face-Threatening Act (FTA) (Brown and Levinson, 1987) to openly declare that the question runs contrary to the negative face-wants of the students (Brown and Levinson, 2006:313).

Ultimately, this thesis will argue that the lecturers orient to deficiencies in their own speech, rather than the students’ lack of knowledge (Zemel and Koschmann, 2011:476). The lecturers treat their questions as unaccountably unintelligible (Robinson, 2016:3-4) and aim to recover the accountable intelligibility (Drew and Penn, 2016:57). Hence, the lecturers redistribute the accountability – both in terms of the lecturers’ accountability to ask the students
understandable questions and the students’ accountability to answer the lecturers’ questions (Robinson, 2016) – to themselves. Thus, recovering the accountable intelligibility is made “the focal action of the turn” (Bolden et al., 2012:138), rather than pursuing an answer.

Such research will have important implications for pedagogy, as interaction is a valuable component of university seminar discussions. However, students are not always forthcoming with their answers. A better understanding of how lecturers overcome this problem of seeking initial interaction, which can be sequentially built upon in further discussion, will provide a potential framework for lecturers to instigate fruitful discourse.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
School/Department: School of Education, Language and Psychology
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5424

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