Finding the third space : a case study of developing multiple literacies in a foreign language conversation class
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The present inquiry is a qualitative case study of conversations and attitudes of students participating in a non-required, second-year conversation section offered as a voluntary adjunct to required second year courses in Italian. The findings in this dissertation support calls by policy makers in foreign language education who advocate for a more integrated and holistic approach to foreign language education. Through this empirical qualitative case study, I have used the construct of Third Space (Gutiérrez, 2008) to examine students’ development of multiple literacies (Swaffar & Arens, 2005) in a foreign language conversation-based classroom. The theory of Third Space is seen as a kind of authentic intersubjective space, where students’ ways of knowing and learning are accepted and expanded in the learning environment. The study describes the results from the implementation of a language pedagogy based on the model of multiple literacies in an Italian conversation class. Students in the class read and viewed a wide variety of authentic materials, around which they anchored their class discussions. Through activities involving multiple readings of the given text, the students co-constructed their interpretations based on personal experiences and on the socio-cultural background of the text. Students also engaged in self-reflective exercises documenting their own learning processes. Through interpretive analysis of student work produced in the class, the ecology of learner developments and the corresponding classroom talk are assessed. I have identified three major themes that are evident as essential elements to the students’ developing trans-linguistic proficiency in conjunction with their evolving cultural literacy. In particular, self-reflection and identity, expanded practices of knowing and learning, and the influence of semiotic mediation on classroom interactions are the three elements that define how these students articulated their Third Space in conjunction with this particular language learning context.