Student-Initiated Questions in English as a Medium of Instruction Classrooms in a Turkish Higher Education Setting
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This study investigates student-initiated questions in English as a medium of instruction (EMI) interaction in a higher education setting. Although there is a growing body of research on EMI, classroom interactions occurring in this institutional setting are still underinvestigated. Considering the importance of learner-generated questions, which can promote autonomous inquiry-based learning as well as be diagnostic of students’ learning in content-based classrooms, no study has been found conducted on the phenomenon at hand in full EMI settings. Motivated by this research gap, the current study seeks to understand how participants initiate and handle knowledge gaps. It particularly focuses on the instances where student-initiated questions are constructed and managed by the students and the teacher, respectively. More specific research questions concern what the distinctive features of these learner-generated questions are and what kind of interactional resources participants use in the instances of knowledge gaps. The data for this study comprise video data recorded in twelve weeks with three cameras. The data come from a corpus of 30 hours of video-recorded interaction in two content classrooms at an EMI university in Turkey. The participants (n=78) are fourth year undergraduate students in the Faculty of Education. This study adopts the conversation analysis methodology. The data were transcribed and analyzed with a special focus on student-initiated question episodes, and interactions were examined with particular attention to various interactional resources such as language use, body orientation, gesture, gaze and instructional materials. The findings of the study include three categories of student-initiated questions, namely (1) procedural and task-related questions, (2) content-related questions, and (3) terminology-related questions. First category of questions reveals that although English is the institutionally-assigned classroom language, students navigate classroom language norms by switching between L1 (Turkish) and L2 (English). The findings also shed light on the teacher’s divergent treatment of L1 initiations in taskoriented and whole-classroom interaction modes in terms of both language choice viii and the interactional resources utilized to resolve the problems. Second category of questions demonstrates that the normative language in pursuits of resolving content-related knowledge gap is L2 and students can handle quite complex professional issues using L2, which relates to the specific EMI context. More specifically, content-related questions address issues including practical concerns, guidelines for conduct, and ways of handling specific situations. Most notably, these questions are mainly designed in multi-unit questioning turns which do not come straightforwardly as the other two categories of questions do. Third category of questions shows that students resolve their knowledge gaps (1) by proposing an understanding in L1 and (2) by engaging in meaning negotiation between two terminology-related items. The first case demonstrates that the use of living language norms is a complex process, thereby unveiling the institutional fingerprints of EMI interaction, in which there is a shared language (L1) available to all participants. In the second case, students indicate their epistemic access to the domain following the teacher’s turn by displaying understanding through providing some analysis of the information, which points that there is a clear orientation by students towards engaging in internalizing the meanings of lexical items through demonstration-of-(mis)understanding turns. The study has several implications for research on interactional repertoires and student agency in EMI and bilingual classrooms, and feeds into the growing body of research on L1 use in L2 classrooms, as well. Overall, this study contributes to the field of conversation analysis in general and to research on learner initiatives in EMI interaction in particular.