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Academic discussions
Communicative competence
Issue Date: 
Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Teo, S. L. (2020). Genre-based investigation into macro-structure of academic discussions. National Institute of Education (Singapore), Office of Education Research.
Conducting group work in Singapore's classroom can be a challenge when students do not produce the quality discussion expected by teachers. Despite the many discussion strategies that have been proposed over the years, I believe that some frustration remains for teachers who are unable to explain to students how a quality discussion should be structured. Using a genre perspective, I suggest that teachers and students should be equipped with a metalanguage so as to plan, monitor, evaluate, and reflect on the quality of their discussions. Thus, my study seeks to describe the macro-structure of discussion and its commonly used language features through a conversation analysis of authentic group discussions among tertiary students who are discussing school projects. By taking tertiary students' discussions as a model of quality discussion, I describe a macro-structure for discussion using a combination of Labov's variationist framework and Halliday's systemic functional linguistics to analyze chunks of conversation (following Horvath and Eggins' [1990] "Opinion texts in conversation"). Preliminary results show that quality discussion contains the generic stages of clarification, opinion, initial development of idea, elaboration, reaction, reformulation, evidence and resolution. Each stage is then examined for its lexicogrammatical features (language features and patterns). For example, in the opinion stage, the use of mental/relational processes is common. With such a description of a discussion's macro-structure and its language features, I believe that it will aid in setting the foundation for the explicit teaching of academic discussions in the classrooms by providing a set of metalanguage to describe the spoken discussion genre.
Note: Restricted to NIE Staff.
Project number: 
SUG 14/17 TSL
Grant ID: 
Education Research Funding Programme (ERFP)
Funding Agency: 
Ministry of Education, Singapore
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