Teacher-learner negotiation in content-based instruction: Communication at cross-purposes?

Diane Musumeci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This research looks at teacher-student exchanges in three content-based language classrooms. The data reveal persistent archetypal patterns of classroom interaction; teachers speak most of the time and they initiate the majority of the exchanges by asking display questions, whereas student-initiated requests are referential. In addition, teachers modify their own speech in response to students' signals of non-understanding regardless of activity type (whole class, small group, one-to-one), but students prefer to verbally request help only in small group or one-to-one interactions with the teacher. More-over, although teachers repeatedly modify their speech in response to students' requests (verbal or non-verbal), they rarely request modifications of the students' speech. Sustained negotiation - in which teachers and students verbally resolve incomplete or inaccurate messages - occurs rarely or not at all in these classrooms. The research differs from earlier work on L2 teacher talk and negotiation in that it attempts to shed light on why these patterns of interaction persist. The discussion of the data includes the participating teachers ' explanations of their own behaviors. Students' reactions to negotiation in content-based instruction are gleaned from end-of-semester evaluations of both the teacher and the course. Overall lack of linguistic negotiation is attributed to teachers' and learners' expectations for appropriate classroom behaviors, teachers' sensitivity to affective variables in second language learning, power relationships, and time management considerations. While the present research supports previous experimental studies in which learners' clarification requests result in teacher-modified input, they also challenge the feasibility of promoting more negotiation in content-based instruction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-323
Number of pages38
JournalApplied Linguistics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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