UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS’ NEW WAYS OF COMMUNICATING

M. Myers

Queen's University (CANADA)
Introduction:
This study is on-going and is about understanding students’ new ways of communicating to understand their learning needs.
In addition to my concerns around students’ problematic storage into memory, which had led me to the previous research, I noticed a big change in students’ language use. I conducted a literature search and came across Pennycook’ s (2010) work, namely his book entitled Language as a local practice plus other works on the ethnography of communication.
Today the reproductive function of language is been put under scrutiny. Pennycook (2010, p.14) states that language and identity are the products of our language practices not the precursors
My idea is to develop a theory of ‘local practice’ (Bourdieu) in order to understand where the students are coming from so that I could better meet their needs. This means to look at particular ways the local is interpreted, as shaped by social, cultural, discursive and historical precedents as well as been influenced by concurrent contexts. I was also interested in the question of the connection between carrying out daily life and the knowledge to do so.

Method:
The approach used is qualitative and consisted mainly of journaling and the analysis of students’ work for triangulation of data.
I took notes every day however I had to look for information on a ‘local practice’ if I were to identify some framework for this. I had notes on activities of a group of people knowing each other very well staying together for a week every year for 3 years in a row. I had journal notes as I am part of the group.
So I set out the analysis of my journal notes keeping in mind the need for the three settings: time, space and locality. Overall I looked into my notes questioning if people engaged with the world in the same way, if they constructed knowledge in the same way and what truths were for them. I also analyzed students’ work.
I needed to understand what made language ‘local’ , knowing that more creativity adds divergent edges. I tried to find answers to a number of practical questions.

Results:
There were several difficulties identified. I am looking for a theory of practice, thinking about theory yet I have to ask myself ‘practice’ questions. I feel caught in paradigmatic shifts, yet I am looking for consistency. I feel that I need new explanatory tools. The findings showed that the students were socially and culturally close and very well connected perhaps at cultural crossroads, except for two people who had culturally adapted. In addition it appeared to be uncertainty around the connections between carrying out daily life and the knowledge to do so.

Conclusion:
There were different insights as regards cultural oppositions versus cultural alignment. The fragmented nature of meaning making has to be re-examined in the context of new student populations and their local practice.