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Negotiating learner-centeredness in an IEP ESL classroom: A critical ethnographic discourse analysis

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Elizabeth Leigh Morrison
Abstract:
This dissertation is an ethnographic critical discourse analysis of how one teacher implemented learner-centeredness and how four learners experienced that implementation in the context of an intensive ESL classroom. Grounded in critical theory and theories of discourse and social identity, investment, power, and cultural capital, this study looks at how the teacher and students' negotiation of learner-centeredness is mediated by power relations, conflicting Discourses, and student investments in their own identities. Ethnographic data collection methods were used to collect observational data, interview data, focus group data, and electronic data over the course of one semester. In addition, learners were shown protocols obtained from videotapes of their classes to find out how they had experienced selected classroom events. Using critical discourse analysis, I analyzed the data to look at how the teacher implemented learner-centeredness and how learners experienced that implementation, presenting the major themes that emerged in Barbara's implementation and constructing data rich portraits of each learner's experience. Results show that the complexities of teaching do not allow for the implementation of learner-centeredness in its theoretical form. While theoreticians in the field of L2 learning offer a certain conception of what learner-centeredness is, in reality it is something very different. Learner-centeredness is a fluid and flexible approach that gets played out differently in different contexts in negotiation between teacher and students. Further, learners experience learner-centeredness in very different ways that may not always be apparent so that teachers need to find mechanisms for finding out about how their students are experiencing what they do. This study opens up the way we think about learner-centeredness and helps to break apart the idealized conceptions that circulate with regard to the implementation of methods and approaches. These results imply that teacher education programs will need to turn toward a preparation that is based on a view of L2 education as complex and socially negotiated with the understanding that teachers are legitimate knowers who must grapple with the complex demands of the classroom using their own experiential knowledge in a reflexive relation with theory to determine how best to teach within their own classroom contexts.

iii Table of Contents List of Tables ………………………………………………………………… v List of Figures…………………………………………………………….…..v Acknowledgements …………………………………………………………..vi Chapter 1. Introduction ……..……………………………………………….1 Literature Review Influences on Teaching……………………………………… 2 The Learner-centered Approach…………………………….. 9 Overview of the Problem…………………………………………… 19 Chapter 2. Theoretical Framework ………………………………………… 24 Chapter 3. Methodology ……..……………………………………………..32 Data Generation……………………………………………………… 33 Data Collection……………………………………………………… 37 Data Analysis………………………………………………………… 42 Chapter 4. Negotiating Multiple Contexts and Discourses: The Teacher’s Implementation of Learner-centeredness………..………………… 51 A Pragmatic Focus on Learner Autonomy…………………………..52 Negotiating Classroom Identities and Power Relations…………….. 59 Constructing the Curriculum: Accommodation and Agency………….74 Summary……………………………………………………………..84 Chapter 5. The Student Experience: 4 Portraits …………………………….88 Maria Background and investment………………………………….89 Becoming whole: Regaining a professional identity/ Making it as an MBA student……………………………… 93 To speak without thinking, “as any American”……………… 95 Maintaining Discourses of gender and femininity…………...97 On relationship building and responsibility to the group…….100 Recognizing multiple teacher Discourses…………………….102 Final thoughts on Maria……………………………………… 109

iv In-Ho Background and investment………………………………….111 Marginalization, identity, and participation…………………. 115 Maintaining and transforming classroom roles and relations…………………………………….………………..121 Using strategies to negotiate participation requirements…….126 Final thoughts on In-Ho……………………………………… 132 Young-Hee Background and investment………………………………….133 Re-producing dominant power relations…………..………… 136 Showing opposition: “I just avoid several things which I don’t like.”………………………………………………… 137 “I don’t think I’m really learning!”…………………………..143 Final thoughts on Young-Hee……………………………….149 Layla Background and investment………………………………….151 Agency and transformation: Building confidence as a speaker of English………………………………………………….154 Tensions: Constructing an identity as a knowledge producer 157 Final thoughts on Layla……………………………………..162 Summary…………………………………………………………….165 Chapter 6. Conclusion……………………………………………………… 168 An Expanded View of Learner-centeredness..……………………… 168 Different Experiences for Different Learners……………………….170 Implications for Teaching…………………………………………… 171 Implications for Teacher Education………………………………….174 Implications for Policymakers and Administrators………………….178 Limitations and Directions for Future Research…………………….179 Conclusion…………………………………………………………..181 References…………………………………………………………………… 184 Appendix…………………………………………………………………….197 Interview Questions for Student Participants……………………….197 Interview Questions for Teacher…………………………………….198

v List of Tables Table 1: Overview of Case Study Participants …………………………………… 37 Table 2: Summary of Database …………………………………………………… 42 Table 3: Overview of Participant Investment in Learning English ……………….. 88 List of Figures Figure 1: Physical Classroom Lay-out …………………………………………… 74

vi Acknowledgements This dissertation is the culmination of a long journey of exploration, reflection, and learning during which many people helped me in significant ways. Dr. Karen Johnson, chair of my committee, stuck by me through this lengthy process and provided the guidance and support that allowed me to complete this work and grow intellectually. The example of her own rich scholarly work, as well as the expertise and experience she lent to comments on multiple drafts have helped motivate me to do my best work. For her time, insights, and patience, I am deeply indebted. To Dr. Paula Golombek and Dr. Suresh Canagarajah, who recently joined my committee, I extend my sincere thanks for lending their invaluable input and expertise that led to significant revisions to this document. Dr. Jacqueline Edmondson helped me especially to struggle through my initial understandings of critical theory and discourse. I will always be grateful for the intellectual and personal support she has so generously and kindly given. Special appreciation goes to the teacher and five students who contributed their time and allowed me to probe into their experiences, as participants in this study. I will always be thankful for their generosity in sharing their thoughts and feelings. Finally, my husband, Konstadinos Goulias, has supported me in this endeavor in innumerable ways. His technical support and especially his constant encouragement helped me to stay on track and never give up. And finally, I want to thank my daughter, Katri-Alexandra, who is already demonstrating her own academic and intellectual potential, for supporting me and motivating me to put out my best effort.

1 Chapter 1 Introduction This dissertation is an ethnographic critical discourse analysis of how one teacher implemented learner-centeredness and how learners experienced that implementation in the context of an intensive English as a second language (ESL) classroom. Grounded in critical theory and theories of discourse and social identity (Gee, 1999; 2005), investment (Norton Pierce, 1995), power (Foucault, 1977), and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1991), this study looks at how the student experience is mediated by power relations, Discourses, and student investments in their own identities. This research was conducted in an intensive English program at a large mid- Atlantic university whose primary focus – to prepare learners for academic work at the university – is a common objective in many such programs across the US. The learner- centered approach espoused by the teacher in the study classroom is an approach that has had a formative influence on language teaching since the 1960s (Tudor, 1996) and continues to be widely used in the field of second language teaching. Considering its popularity as an approach, and at the same time, its recent rejection by scholars in the field of applied linguistics in the turn away from any sort of codified method, it is surprising how little we actually know about what learner-centeredness looks like in the classroom and how students experience it. This dissertation seeks to explore and examine these aspects of learner-centeredness from a critical perspective so that we can add to our understanding of how it plays out in the classroom, and how students experience it in order to make more informed decisions regarding its use.

2 This work is based on ethnographic data collection in one class in an intensive English as a Second Language (ESL) program over a period of one semester. Using these data, I examined the teacher’s discourse about learner-centeredness and the way she implemented learner-centeredness in the classroom, as well as the Discourses, institutional practices and power relations that mediated her practices. This analysis of the teacher’s conceptualization and implementation of learner-centeredness, however, brought unexpected results as I realized that her implementation of learner-centeredness was in many ways different from what scholarly works have described it so that I do not refer to her classroom as learner-centered. After analyzing how the teacher implemented learner-centeredness, I looked at the perceptions of five of her students in terms of how they experienced learner-centered elements in the classroom, with particular regard for how they negotiated identities and classroom power relations, their investment in learning English, the agency or resistance they displayed, and how this may have affected their opportunities in the classroom. In this chapter, I provide a discussion of the literature regarding influences on teaching, an overview of learner-centeredness as it has been described in the literature and its origins, an overview of the problem, the research questions addressed in this dissertation, and the theoretical perspectives that inform this work. Influences on Teaching Work in teacher cognition has produced the most significant body of knowledge about the complexities of teaching, including “who teachers are, what they know and believe, how they learn to teach, and how they carry out their work in diverse contexts

3 throughout the careers” (Johnson, 2006, p. 236). The literature on teaching shows that teaching is a complicated interplay of many elements, including teacher knowledge and training, the experiences teachers and learners bring to the classroom, teachers’ interpretations of their work, and the contexts in which teachers work. Contextual Factors The contexts in which teachers work are the most important influence on teacher decision-making (Johnson, 2005) because teaching is not only the result of teachers’ actions, but of interaction in specific situations. There are many contextual factors that work to shape teaching in the classroom, including physical factors, institutional forces, student experiences and expectations, and job status. Teachers may face many expectations that can conflict with each other as well as with their own beliefs (Calderhead, 1987). They must negotiate these competing demands, balancing the variety of interests that need to be satisfied in the classroom (Lampert, 1985). A “microcosm of the larger social and cultural world”, “the day-to-day decisions that practitioners make inside the classroom both shape and are shaped by the social order outside the classroom” (Auerbach, 1995, p. 9). Understanding these forces should be seen as a necessary understanding of the competing demands we face as teachers Pennycook (2000). Physical Factors Physical factors such as school location (e.g. accessibility, safety, the relationship of the school to the learners’ community) and classroom facilities can influence what

4 happens in the classroom (Auerbach, 2000). Even the type of classroom set-up (e.g. individual student desks versus a conference table) can make a difference in how a teacher will teach as the type of arrangement serves to allow or limit certain types of interactions between students and between teachers and students (Benesch, 2001). Institutional Forces Institutional forces play another part in shaping pedagogy (Auerbach, 2000). Institutions may mandate curriculums, pedagogical approach, materials, and learner outcomes. This sort of “technical control” over teachers in the classroom in the form of course timing, curriculum and curricular materials, has been found to be a pervasive and powerful factor in determining the level of institutional constraints (Zeichner, et al, 1987). Curriculums are often predetermined and mandated by funders so that students are prepared with a preselected body of knowledge deemed appropriate to fulfill the funding institution’s needs, whether that be employers, governmental agencies, or universities (Auerbach, 1995). For example, EAP has traditionally been conceptualized as “a service to higher-status disciplines” (Benesch, 2001, p. 55). Textbooks, usually preselected, serve predetermined content objectives and make less possible the discovery of student needs and interests. Institutional tests are used as a form of regulation (Foucault, 1977) to further maintain control over what teachers teach. Technical control is an important aspect of the way in which teachers are socialized into their work and of how institutional norms are maintained over time (Apple, 1983; Gitlin, 1983). Inevitably, these external requirements will work to shape classroom practice to some extent.

5 Learners’ Expectations Learners bring their social relations and expectations to the classroom and this has implications for what happens there (Pennycook, 2000) since learners are also agents and decision-makers in the classroom (Carlgren & Lindblad, 1991). Differences in classroom norms, including classroom conduct, participation, and student and teacher roles may influence behaviors in the classroom (Johnson, 1996) and in turn, work to shape what the teacher can do. Canagarajah’s (1993; 2001) study of his Sri Lankan classroom provides an example of how students’ sociocultural Discourses and classroom norms prompted them to oppose other Discourses they encountered in the classroom, including the teacher’s attempts to make the class more collaborative and learner-centered. ESL Teacher Status Viewed from a perspective of power, ESL and EAP teachers are marginalized, subject to the needs of higher-status content faculty” (Benesch, 2001, p. 53). ESL and EAP teachers typically work long hours for low wages, often working several part-time jobs to make ends meet, with no job security and no benefits (Auerbach, 1995). The historically low status of ESL teachers affects their power and what they can do in the classroom. Teacher Agency Despite the influence of these forces on teaching in the classroom, it is too deterministic to say that social relations outside the classroom determine what happens inside. The relationship between the classroom and the world is much more complex

6 (Pennycook, 2000). The relative autonomy of the classroom and diversity of Discourses that inhabit the classroom (Canagarajah, 2001) means that the effects of such forces are uncertain. More importantly, teachers have agency to resist or redirect these forces (Buzelli & Johnston, 2002; Zeichner et al, 1987). Foucault’s (1980) theory of resistance as the counterpart to power allows for spaces of unanticipated human responses and actions. “Even though the teacher may be influenced by many powerful sources outside herself, the responsibility to act lies within” (Lampert, 1985, p. 180). Teacher Factors Johnson’s (1996) discussion of teachers’ “frames of reference” provides a framework for talking about how what teachers and students bring to the second language classroom shapes how they “think, talk, act, and interact” there (p. 38). The three areas that make up teachers’ frames of reference include teachers’ professional knowledge, teachers’ theoretical beliefs, and teachers’ understanding of their teaching experiences. These various forms of knowledge vary by individual and are subject to change. Teachers’ Professional Knowledge Teachers’ professional knowledge consists, in part, of that knowledge teachers have gathered through previous experiences as learners. Lortie (1975) refers to this learner experience as “apprenticeship of observation”. This apprenticeship is not a true apprenticeship in the sense that learners do not acquire the technical knowledge of the

7 occupation. Instead, in viewing it from a student’s perspective, what they learn about teaching is “intuitive and imitative” (p. 62). Other perspectives on teachers’ knowledge are the experiential view (Connelly & Clandinin, 1988; Elbaz, 1983) that highlights the teacher’s personal values and goals as informing their knowledge, the dynamic of “knowing-in-action” (Schon, 1983) in which teachers respond to contextual specifics using their experiential knowledge and reflection on past practices, subject matter knowledge (Grossman, et al, 1989), general pedagogical knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1987), and knowledge of context (Lampert, 1985) or knowledge of the context that teachers use to shape their teaching to fit the needs of the particular students or institutional context. Teachers’ experiential knowledge has received particular attention in recent years as some researchers (Johnson & Golombek, 2002) argue for a sociocultural perspective of teacher thinking that takes into account the shaping of teacher thinking by the activities they engage in as teachers and learners. Golombek (1998) explains teachers’ experiential knowledge as a “kind of interpretive framework through which teachers make sense of their classrooms” (p. 459) and as the knowledge teachers construct in response to classroom contexts. Teachers’ Theoretical Beliefs “All teachers hold beliefs . . . about their work, their students, their subject matter, and their roles and responsibilities” and these beliefs have a strong link with teachers’ planning, instructional decisions, and classroom practices (Pajares, 1992, p. 326). Teachers’ early life experiences evolve into theoretical beliefs (Pajares, 1992) and these

8 then filter teachers’ judgments and decisions (Shavelson & Stern, 1981) and shape who they are as professionals (Goodson, 1992). Such beliefs may be resistant to change. Evidence shows that the formal knowledge teachers receive through teacher training has little effect on their subsequent classroom practice (Hodges, 1982; Grant, 1981; Katz & Raths, 1982). Johnson (1996) argues that “theory often fails to inform practice because the problems that arise in practice are generally neither caused by nor the result of teachers’ lack of knowledge about theory” (p. 766). Other researchers (Bartholomew, 1976, Giroux, 1980, and Popkewitz, 1985) claim that pre-service programs do have an impact on teachers through the subtle processes of the hidden curriculum – processes that communicate images of teacher, learner, knowledge and curriculum in particular ways that encourage an objectivist conception of teaching and learning; however, these claims have not been grounded in empirical studies. Teachers’ Understanding of Their Teaching Experiences What novices do take from the in-service classroom is transformed as they appropriate experts’ capabilities (Lantolf, 2000). How those ideas are transformed and used will depend on the teacher (Lortie, 1975, p. 78). Binnie Smith’s (1996) study of teacher decision-making in the adult ESL classroom found that “the way teachers ‘blend’ theoretical ideas for practical needs relates directly to their individual beliefs and what their experiences tells them ‘works’ to accomplish their instructional goals” (p. 214). This understanding of teachers and teacher knowledge has also signaled a change from viewing the teacher as a rational decision-maker, putting theory into practice without thinking, to a vision of teachers as “sense-makers”. This means teachers’ inconsistency

9 regarding theoretical conceptions is viewed in relation to a classroom practice that is itself inconsistent and contextualized (Carlgren & Lindblad, 1991). I now turn to a literature review of the origins of the learner-centered approach to teaching and learning, and a description of how it is meant to be implemented in the classroom. The Learner-centered Approach The learner-centered approach is a values-based approach to teaching (Freeman & Richards, 1993). Values-based approaches are less prescriptive than scientifically based methods, but still require the teacher to base their teaching on a certain philosophy of teaching. Origins The learner-centered approach arose out of a trend in general education toward recognition of the social aspect of learning, the variability of learners, and a desire to empower learners to become autonomous (to be more active and responsible participants in their own learning), including humanistic psychology, experiential learning, task-based language teaching, and individualization. These overlapping traditions are based on a view of the learner as a whole person having affective needs and concerns and individual needs and capabilities, as possessing a knowledge base to be used as a scaffold for future learning, and as being more or less motivated to learn (Tudor, 1996). The heightened focus on the individual learner is accompanied by a realization of the socially shared nature of learning. While learning is

10 a mental process, it is shaped by the sociocultural context through which learners’ thoughts, feeling and impressions are filtered and transformed. Humanistic language teaching developed in the fields of general education and psychology. Methods such as Asher’s Total Physical Response, Curran’s Community Language Learning, Gattegno’s Silent Way, and Lozanov’s Suggestopedia embody the most well-known uses of humanistic approaches to language teaching (Tudor, 1996). The humanistic movement in language teaching allocates a central role to the personal concerns of learners and to learners’ affective concerns to the detriment of real-world learner language needs. In the humanistic method, there is a heavy emphasis on the development of group relationships regardless of teacher and student expectations. This perspective generally focuses on finding the one right way to teach, without acknowledging the diversity of learners and learning contexts. The humanistic movement has been criticized for its focus on individual affective concerns, the imposition of a close teacher-student relationship, a lack of attention to learners’ real- world needs, and a disregard for the practical constraints under which teachers conduct their classes. The impetus for individualization arose out of the desire to break with the lock- step of traditional classroom instruction toward a more flexible program that would respond to individual learner needs, interests, and abilities. Individualization tends to be very teacher-centered and materials-centered, and does not provide for flexible teacher- student role relationships and the development of learners’ understanding of the learning process. It has been criticized for failing to deliver flexibility in teacher-student role

11 relationships that would allow learners to consult with teachers on form and content, and a systematic way for learners to understand the learning process (Dickinson, 1978). Task-based language teaching, introduced by Prabhu in the late 1970s, involved the completion of communicative tasks in stages leading to a solution. Students were required to use inferencing to work out meaning, a process that would lead to language acquisition (Howatt, 2004). The literature on learner-centeredness has described it variously as an approach (Tudor, 1996; Richards, 2002), a model (McCombs & Miller, 2007), an orientation (Anton, 1999), a system, philosophy, and curriculum (Nunan, 1988), a concept and process (Nunan & Lamb, 2001), a pedagogy (Kumaravadivelu, 2006), and most recently an attitude (Nunan, 2008). Proponents have studiously avoided the term “method”, claiming that learner-centeredness rejects prepackaged solutions in favor of local solutions to local problems in recognition of human complexity and diversity (Tudor, 1996). Yet while they claim learner-centeredness does not subscribe to any one method of language teaching, it is most often associated with communicative language teaching (CLT). Often associated with the work of Savignon (1991; 1997), CLT is a method that seeks to respond to the variability in learners and learner needs and encourages student participation and input. It arose in the 1970s out of adult learners’ desire for instruction that would be responsive to their needs and wants (Howatt, 2004). Activities generally involve sharing information and negotiation of meaning (Kumaravadivelu, 2006). Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) remains the dominant paradigm in language teaching (Tudor, 1996) and is advocated as the method most suited to a learner-centered

12 classroom (Nunan and Lamb, 2001). Yet critics claim that many so-called communicative classrooms are not communicative, failing to provide opportunities for genuine interaction (Kumaravadivelu, 1993; Nunan, 1987). CLT has also been criticized for a trivialization of language teaching, a masked function fixed syllabus, and “ a pragmatic notion of ability” that is associated with assimilationist ideologies and has educational, political, and social implications for learners (Pennycook, 1994, p. 172). In this dissertation, learner-centeredness will be referred to as an “approach” after Anthony’s (1963, as cited by Brown, 2002) description of approach as a system of assumptions dealing with the nature of language, learning, and teaching and Tudor’s (1996) comprehensive treatment of learner-centeredness in language education. Learner-centeredness as Described in the Literature In this section, I provide a description of learner-centeredness as laid out in the literature. A description of how learner-centeredness should look is important as it allows a comparison with the way learner-centeredness actually plays out in the classroom. I include concerns raised about lack of a focus on social change, and its implementation and appropriacy in non- mainstream and non-Western context, as well as other constraints to implementation, as this provides a more balanced portrait of the learner-centered approach. A Focus on the Learner. One of the key components of learner-centeredness is its focus on the learner. Learner assume a more active role in their own learning and are involved in decision-making (Tudor, 1996). Diversity among learners is recognized and must be considered with respect to course design and pedagogy. Local responses to local

13 needs (with an emphasis on the communicative needs of the learner) means that teaching is always novel as each new group of learners is different. Needs analysis has been described as “a set of procedures for specifying the parameters of a course of study” (Nunan, 1988, p. 45). The focus on learner needs is problematic, however, when a group of learners do not have the same needs. Further, tailoring the curriculum to student needs leads to an “ideology of individualism” that can work against community building (Auerbach, 2000). Such “individualistic learner-centeredness” has often found itself “uneasily accommodating to traditional practices” (Canagarajah, 2006, p. 19). A Change in Roles and Relationships. Learner-centeredness emphasizes a collaborative approach to learning and meaning-making as opposed to a one-way transfer of prepackaged information (Tudor, 1996). Nunan and Lamb (2001) note that “ . . . learner-centered classrooms are those in which learners are actively involved in their own learning processes” (p. 27). Roles and relationships in the classroom must undergo a radical change from those in traditional teacher-fronted classrooms. Teachers become facilitators, as the focus changes from what to how. This necessitates a more participatory role for learners than they have probably experienced before. This role is complex and demanding. In addition to their active participation in class activities, they must cooperatively negotiate other aspects of their study. In this capacity, they must question, contribute, and critique. This should occur in the context of a “community of learners” in which students act as researchers and a shift in the balance of power from teachers to learners occurs as teachers themselves become learners as well as facilitators of discovery. Both must work collaboratively to construct a local view of knowledge,

14 discover and respond to students’ needs and preferences, and develop a relationship of mutual respect and trust. Curriculum Development. Curriculum is also negotiated locally, the outcome of ongoing dialogue between teacher and students and thus must be reinvented with each new group of students. Such a negotiable, emergent, fluid, and flexible curriculum necessitates a willingness on the part of the teacher to accommodate to a certain degree of uncertainty in the classroom, and a willingness on the part of students to take responsibility for their own learning (Nunan, 1988). Yet for all the emphasis on student involvement in decision-making, Auerbach (2000) calls learner-centeredness “a false construct”. She believes all classrooms to be teacher-centered in that “it is the teachers concept of education that shapes how the learning community develops” (p. 144-5) and teachers continue to control the curriculum in learner-centered classrooms (Allwright, 2005). This continued control is partly due to the presence of institutional forces, themselves the product of certain ideologies, that operate on all classrooms to limit the degree of flexibility in terms of what occurs there. Externally mandated curriculums and outcomes, standardized textbooks and testing and other surveillance techniques, and standardized textbooks and content have worked to de-skill teachers and limit teachers and students to a passive role that undermines their power and agency (Giroux, 1983). Under this paradigm, knowledge is passed from the top of a large hierarchical system and the teacher assumes the role of implementer of decisions, inhibiting more localized decision-making (Hammond-Darling, 1992). While Nunan and Lamb (2001) acknowledge that institutional forces outside the classroom will influence classroom

15 curriculum decision-making and management of the learning process, other contextual influences are not addressed. Classroom Activities. Adult learners may have fairly fixed views of what activities are most appropriate, not all of which are consistent with a communicative methodology. Teachers sometimes find themselves in a dilemma with learners who subscribe to ‘traditional’ attitudes and beliefs about what are appropriate classroom activities (Nunan, 1988) and assumptions cannot be made about how certain pedagogical practices will be experienced since all students are different (Gore, 1993). While creating opportunities for student engagement is considered an important objective in designing classroom activities, Nunan (1988) recommends that teachers and students negotiate learning activities, in the spirit of learner-centered teaching, allowing students to participate in the decision-making process. It is the teacher’s task to make learners aware of the various methodological choices available to them so that they are better able to find their own path to learning. Student Assessment. Generally speaking, assessment under the learner-centered philosophy moves away from the product-oriented approach toward one that is more process-oriented and reflective. Considering the diversity of learners, Lambert and McCombs (1998) suggest a combination of assessment procedures, including traditional standardized testing (to respond to expectations for accountability) as well as alternative assessment such as performance assessment, portfolios and dynamic assessment. Self- assessment is one of the most important means of assessment as it plays a crucial role in learner empowerment and autonomy. The systematic use of self-assessment helps to

16 sensitize learners to their roles as learners, assists them in developing autonomy and identifying preferred learning materials and ways of learning (Nunan, 1988). Learner Training. Most learners will not come to the classroom prepared to make informed choices about their learning or take an active role in it, and in fact will often expect the teacher to make all the choices for them. In order to become more active learners, they must develop awareness of what it means to be a learner, awareness of their own goals and their current abilities, awareness of choices, and an awareness of how language is structured and used (Tudor, 1996). The ultimate goal, then, is to help learners reach the point where they are able to define their own goals and create their own learning opportunities, a point at which they become autonomous learners (Nunan, 1995). Learners’ need for training is why Nunan and Lamb (2001) concede that learner- centeredness “is not an all or nothing process” but rather a continuum from relatively less to relatively more learner-centered (p. 29) so that a particular classroom will have a basic orientation toward a “traditional” or “communicative” method. Tudor (1996) further allows that learner-centeredness may not work with students from cultures in which the teacher is seen as a figure of authority as students may view attempts to share decision- making as an abdication of responsibility. Contextual Influences. Learner-centeredness has come under fire as second language professionals have begun to recognize that learner-centered teaching, as with all instructional practices, is shaped by contextual influences (Canagarajah, 1993; Tudor, 2001). In other words, there is a fundamental interaction between the language classroom and the particular political, economic, social, cultural, historical, educational, and institutional context in which it is situated (Hu, 2005). Such factors will influence

Full document contains 207 pages
Abstract: This dissertation is an ethnographic critical discourse analysis of how one teacher implemented learner-centeredness and how four learners experienced that implementation in the context of an intensive ESL classroom. Grounded in critical theory and theories of discourse and social identity, investment, power, and cultural capital, this study looks at how the teacher and students' negotiation of learner-centeredness is mediated by power relations, conflicting Discourses, and student investments in their own identities. Ethnographic data collection methods were used to collect observational data, interview data, focus group data, and electronic data over the course of one semester. In addition, learners were shown protocols obtained from videotapes of their classes to find out how they had experienced selected classroom events. Using critical discourse analysis, I analyzed the data to look at how the teacher implemented learner-centeredness and how learners experienced that implementation, presenting the major themes that emerged in Barbara's implementation and constructing data rich portraits of each learner's experience. Results show that the complexities of teaching do not allow for the implementation of learner-centeredness in its theoretical form. While theoreticians in the field of L2 learning offer a certain conception of what learner-centeredness is, in reality it is something very different. Learner-centeredness is a fluid and flexible approach that gets played out differently in different contexts in negotiation between teacher and students. Further, learners experience learner-centeredness in very different ways that may not always be apparent so that teachers need to find mechanisms for finding out about how their students are experiencing what they do. This study opens up the way we think about learner-centeredness and helps to break apart the idealized conceptions that circulate with regard to the implementation of methods and approaches. These results imply that teacher education programs will need to turn toward a preparation that is based on a view of L2 education as complex and socially negotiated with the understanding that teachers are legitimate knowers who must grapple with the complex demands of the classroom using their own experiential knowledge in a reflexive relation with theory to determine how best to teach within their own classroom contexts.