Development of interactional competence in Spanish-language service learning




Burt, Erika Linnea

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This study analyzes the development of Interactional Competence by two advanced-level undergraduate Spanish students in the service-learning context where they volunteered as Spanish-language instructors in either an adult basic education class or an ESL class. The data were primarily derived from five interactions between the students and native Spanish speakers recorded over the course of a semester at a local community center. Using a Conversation Analytic (CA) framework, the analysis examines the moment-by-moment unfolding interaction, focusing specifically on the interactional resources that learners use to accomplish L2 talk-in-interaction, namely alignment activity and negotiation of participant roles, and how those skills evolve over the semester. Service-learning was chosen as the context for this study given the dearth of interactional research in this area and the recent attention given to this semi-immersion context. While study abroad has traditionally been seen as the optimal location for language and cultural immersion, for some students, the cost and time commitment are out of reach. Additionally, research into the actual linguistic benefits of studying abroad has revealed contradictory findings. Overall, this study is meant to add to the research on the development of second-language Interactional Competence in the service-learning setting. While the learners’ advanced level in the L2 meant that they already exhibited the use of the interactional resources at the beginning of the semester, results of the study indicated that they still displayed development in these interactional resources, which was viewed as evidence of improvement in Interactional Competence. As a result, the students also revealed a move toward fuller participation in L2 interaction as time went on. More specifically, growth was seen nearly across the board for both participants in terms of the frequency, complexity, timing, appropriateness, and grammaticality of their contributions to L2 conversation. In addition, the analysis of co-constructed participation structures revealed a move away from the novice/expert paradigm in interaction. While their identities as language-learners were called upon more often in L2 interaction at the beginning of the semester, these became less relevant as they increasingly demonstrated their expertise as Spanish-language instructors over time. Their identities as experts in their roles as teachers was found to be one of the unique features of the service-learning context


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