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Academic Discourse in English Medium Instruction Contexts: A Look at Teacher Explanations

7 pagesPublished: February 23, 2017


Teaching and learning content subjects through English requires a competence in academic language which Cummins (1984) labeled CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency). Revisiting this concept could shed light on the academic language skills necessary for communication in bilingual classrooms. A first step in this long journey could be a deeper comprehension of the academic linguistic or cognitive discourse functions (Dalton-Puffer, 2013). This paper approaches the function of explaining.
To accomplish this aim, six lecturers teaching through English at Escuela de Ingeniería de Informática (Segovia, Spain) were videotaped. Lessons were transcribed to create a corpus. The main research questions followed Dalton-Puffer´s (2007) model for a secondary education context:
1. How many occurrences of the academic function of explanation are there in the corpus?
2. What is the linguistic form of these explanations?
3. Is there any signaling language or metalanguage around them?
The seventy explanation fragments found were classified in three categories following Brown´s taxonomy (2006).
• Interpretative explanations respond to the question ‘What?’ and are very close to definitions.
• Descriptive explanations respond to the question ‘How?’ and centre on processes, structures and procedure.
• Reason giving explanations respond to the question ‘Why?’ and provide reasons and causes.
The findings show a rich frequency of this academic function in contrast to the very limited comparable previous studies in bilingual classrooms (Dalton-Puffer, 2007). Bar graphs of frequencies and distribution of types per lecturer are presented. Regarding qualitative aspects, the samples found offer insights about how explaining is performed in bilingual content lectures. The form of these explanations and the metalanguage signaling them are analyzed and illustrated with numerous examples from the corpus.
Taking as starting point the description of the explanations present in lecturer discourse some reflections about their potential for the learning of content and language are provided. The conclusions section suggests some pedagogical implications for the linguistic education of both students and lecturers in English medium instruction environments.

Keyphrases: bilingual education, Content and Language Integrated Learning, discourse analysis, teacher education

In: Chelo Vargas-Sierra (editor). Professional and Academic Discourse: an Interdisciplinary Perspective, vol 2, pages 112--118

BibTeX entry
  author    = {Mar\textbackslash{}'ia \textbackslash{}'Angeles Mart\textbackslash{}'in-Del-Pozo},
  title     = {Academic Discourse in English Medium Instruction Contexts: A Look at Teacher Explanations},
  booktitle = {Professional and Academic Discourse: an Interdisciplinary Perspective},
  editor    = {Chelo Vargas-Sierra},
  series    = {EPiC Series in Language and Linguistics},
  volume    = {2},
  pages     = {112--118},
  year      = {2017},
  publisher = {EasyChair},
  bibsource = {EasyChair,},
  issn      = {2398-5283},
  url       = {},
  doi       = {10.29007/cl6r}}
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