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Towards complexity-informed language teaching in higher education


To what extent is it possible to adopt “complexity-informed perspectives” (Mercer, 2013) for language teaching in higher education? Considering the classroom as a complex adaptive system (Larsen-Freeman, 1997; Ellis & Larsen-Freeman, 2009), we use mixed methods adapted from Nexus Analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004) to explore evolving ecologies of learning (Van Lier, 2010) in a French university language centre’s English classes for non-specialist undergraduate and postgraduate students. Using qualitative and quantitative survey, pedagogical programs, capture of interactions: photo, video, and learner portfolios, we trace discourses in place and interaction orders. We study teacher and learner reflection, narratives and interview to highlight divergent perceptions of affordances. We observe how network-connected technology offers the potential to modify pedagogical practices and assessment in the classroom, to better respect learner diversity and to “situate learning” (Lave & Wenger, 1991; Gee, 2004) in diverse contexts, to facilitate observation and analysis of learners and learning activities. We attempt to identify “core components of the system - hubs where the effect of change is more likely to spread throughout the system” both of the learner and the institution (Mercer, 2013). If research may enable us to identify “general principles which language educators can use to guide their actions” (Tudor, 2003), analysis of individual stories illustrates the complex, unpredictable, emergent nature of learning. What strategies might teachers adopt to facilitate dramatic progress in learning? In an institutional context ordered by program outcomes, marking grids, and time constraints, learners may be more concerned with gaming the system for credit rather than actually learning a language. Teachers’ “historical bodies” (Scollon and Scollon, 2004): experiences, beliefs, attitudes, competences, and time and or financial constraints may enable or limit their desire or means to adapt practices. Going forward, we consider it essential to develop connected, reflective communities of exploratory practice (Allwright, 2003) including learners, teachers and researchers to work towards manageable pedagogical solutions and the recognition of diverse perspectives, competences and roles.
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edutice-01652144 , version 1 (04-12-2017)


  • HAL Id : edutice-01652144 , version 1


Simon Ensor, Marcin Kleban, Christine Blanchard Rodrigues. Towards complexity-informed language teaching in higher education. 25ème congrès Ranacles 2017, Nov 2017, Corte, France. ⟨edutice-01652144⟩
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