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Negotiating participation in second language academic communities : subtitle a study of identity, agency, and transformation

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Title: Negotiating participation in second language academic communities : subtitle a study of identity, agency, and transformation
Author: Morita, Naoko
Degree Doctor of Philosophy - PhD
Program Language and Literacy Education
Copyright Date: 2002
Abstract: As the student population grows increasingly diverse and international in North American postsecondary institutions, it has become critical, on the one hand, to understand how newcomers from different backgrounds acquire academic discourses in their second language (L2), and on the other hand, how academic communities as well as individual learners may respond to this heterogeneity. This study explores these issues by providing a close examination of the lived experiences and perspectives of L2 international students enrolled in graduate courses at a Canadian university. The participants in this ethnographic multiple case study included six female graduate students from Japan and ten of their course instructors. Data were collected over an entire academic year mainly by means of student self-reports, interviews, and classroom observations. Grounded in the notion of "community of practice" (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998), this study analyzes how the focal students negotiated their membership in their new classroom communities by participating in classroom discussions. The findings suggested that a major challenge faced by the students was negotiating discourses, competence, identities, and power relations in order to participate and be recognized as legitimate and competent members of their classroom communities. The students also attempted to shape their own learning and participation by exercising their personal agency and actively negotiating their positionalities, which were locally constructed in a given classroom. Notably, even though the students shared a similar linguistic/cultural background as well as the same gender, there was considerable variability among them in the ways they negotiated their participation and experienced personal transformations across different courses. By demonstrating the idiosyncratic, complex interplay between the individual learner and the classroom context, I argue that academic discourse socialization needs to be seen as a co-constructed and negotiated process, through which the learner's identity as well as the classroom community is constantly created and recreated. I also suggest that educators can work toward emancipatory classroom practices by recognizing the fundamentally dialogic and transformative nature of classroom practices and by critically examining the roles and positionalities that are constructed of different participants in university courses.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/13664
Series/Report no. UBC Retrospective Theses Digitization Project [http://www.library.ubc.ca/archives/retro_theses/]

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