Constructing discussion tasks in university tutorials: Shifting dynamics and identities


Benwell B & Stokoe E (2002) Constructing discussion tasks in university tutorials: Shifting dynamics and identities. Discourse Studies, 4 (4), pp. 429-453.

This article examines task-setting sequences in university tutorial sessions. Classes from three higher education institutions were audio- and video-recorded. The resulting data, which included both tutor-led and peer group discussions, were transcribed and analysed using conversation analysis (CA). A number of themes emerged from our analysis. First, we found that the tutor's opening turns routinely followed a three-part sequence, the interpersonal and metadiscursive functions of which, we argue, are crucial components in the educative process. Second, we found that students displayed discursively their reluctance to engage in discussion activities and a resistance towards academic or intellectual identities. In contrast to findings from previous studies of tutor—student interaction, we found that interactional power was negotiated in complex and contradictory ways. This, in turn, may embody a range of complex social functions including attention to the `face' concerns of the group, category membership and orientation to broader cultural trends.

academic culture; academic identity; conversation analysis (CA); discussion; face; politeness; power; student resistance; university tutorials

Discourse Studies: Volume 4, Issue 4

Publication date31/08/2002