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Gemma Williamson - Reducing asymmetrical power relations in the language classroom
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Gemma Williamson - Reducing asymmetrical power relations in the language classroom


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  • 1. Reducing asymmetrical power relations in the language classroom
    Using technology as a strategy to empower learners in a foreign language EAP environment
  • 2. Background
    • Teaching English at a University in France
    • 3. Mix of French native speakers and native speakers of Mandarin
    • 4. Limited class time
    • 5. Inflexible curriculum with pre-chosen topics and activities
    • 6. Focus on learner presentations and conversation classes
    • 7. Motivated learners
  • Issues
    • Lack of learner engagement in the course due to lack of ownership(?)
    • 8. Lack of interaction between French and Chinese learners
  • Aiming towards a classroom where:
    • Interaction is varied and multidimensional
    • 9. Awareness-raised around identifying goals, specifying objectives, identifying resources and strategies needed to achieve goals, and measuring progress
    • 10. Willingness to grow individual learner awareness and develop learning strategies
    • 11. Activities and tasks reduce classroom divide
    • 12. Learners are able to question the role of input texts and tasks, trial alternative strategies, and seek feedback on their performance
    Source : van Lier, L. (2001). Constraints and resources in classroom talk: Issues of equality and symmetry. In C. Candlin & N. Mercer (Eds.). English language teaching in its social context. London: Routledge. (pp. 90-107)
  • 13. How could the power structure(s) move towards balance within the constraints?
    Many ways. Our focus is on…
  • 14. …The role of technology
    • Can be employed in classes to help equalize relationships between; learners and learners and learners and teachers
    • 15. Useful for the scenario as can be additional and complementary to the curriculum
    • 16. Using technology can provide extra possibilities for language production and practice
  • Some thoughts…Technology can be used for the creation of personal learning environments; addressing both learner autonomy and use of technology
    Retrieved 3 October 2010 from
  • 17. Pros
    • Use of technology can remove obstacles that silence many students in traditional classrooms e.g. accents, introversion, cultural differences
    • 18. Ability to create identities e.g. heteroglossia (Oxford, Massey, Anand. 2005:245)
    • 19. Access to vast amounts of information (Casanave, 2004:213)
    • 20. Providing learners with more input and output than in the traditional classroom enriching the quality and efficiency of learners work (Casanave, 2004:213)
    Sources : Casanave, C (2004) Controversies in second language writing (pp.211-223). Ann Arbor; University of Michigan Press.
    Oxford, R., Massey, R. & Anand, S. (2005). Transforming teacher-student relationships: Toward a more welcoming and diverse classroom discourse. In J. Frodensen & C. Holten (Eds.), The power of context in language teaching and learning (pp. 249-266). Heinle: Boston.
  • 21. Cons
    • Technology alone won’t change power imbalances
    • 22. Politics associated with use of technology
    • 23. Hardware and software distributed unequally among the world’s populations
    • 24. Teachers and learners are often uncomfortable with the use of technology
    • 25. Technology tends to have a global identity
    Source : Casanave, C (2004) Controversies in second language writing (pp.211-223). Ann Arbor; University of Michigan Press.
  • 26. And so?
    • Consult, discuss, and evaluate
    learner’s and teacher’s attitudes to technology before introducing this to the classroom
  • 27. Conclusions
    • Technology can be a useful tool to balance power structures, if used correctly
    • 28. Keep in mind that some cultures and learners prefer the teacher in an authoritative role
  • If we, as teachers, can’t be forward thinking and motivated about the use of technology, how can we expect learners to be?