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Title:Metadiscourse in oral discussions and persuasive essays of children exposed to collaborative reasoning
Author(s):Latawiec, Beata
Director of Research:Anderson, Richard C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McCarthey, Sarah J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Anderson, Richard C.; Dressman, Mark A.; Gaffney, Janet S.
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Secondary & Continuing Educ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
discourse analysis
persuasion and argumentation
collaborative reasoning
small-group discussions
persuasive essays
young adolescents/ children
rhetorical, sociolinguistic and pragmatic analyses.
Abstract:Speakers and writers use metadiscourse to guide, caution, and implore their audiences. Written metadiscourse is a term for self-reflective expressions that help writers negotiate interactional meanings, assist in expressing viewpoints and engagement with readers (Hyland, 2005), or convey attitudes towards written text (Vande Kopple, 1985). Research suggests that effective metadiscourse results in more transparent organization of discourse and greater global, local, and thematic coherence; metacognitive awareness; better learning from text; greater rhetorical force of arguments; and, enhanced social performance and attitude. The present exploratory study examines how children use metadiscourse and how it functionally interplays with discourse proper in their interaction with peers in collaborative small-group discussions and reflective writing. The students participating in Collaborative Reasoning paradigm are expected to take a position on the question, present reasons, back reasons with evidence and further reasoning, challenge each other when they disagree, weigh reasons and evidence, and change positions when warranted. These argumentative moves at every turn require evaluation, interpersonal, communicative and rhetorical skills with rich repertoire of metalanguage. The study’s major facets are wrapped around metadiscourse enabling such evaluative, interpersonal, organizational, metalinguistic and intersubjectivity-inviting flows of meaning. The study consists of several components employing different research methods. Quantitative methods were employed for identification of systematic patterns in written and oral discourse and correspondences between them, as well as for investigation of socio-linguistic variation in metadiscourse across discussions. Qualitative methods were used, with an elementary-to-holistic approach, for interpretation and evaluation of the patterns and explication of how different metadiscursive variants help or impede the flow of meaning in discussions and essays. A complex taxonomy was devised to accommodate the broad evaluative, organizing and intersubjective meta-functions that comprised 50 elementary categories that could capture variation in both modalities with an extra fine-grain. The results suggest both in speaking and writing students use twice as much evaluative as organizing metadiscourse. Intersubjectivity in essays is marginal, and in discussions amounts to less than 10% (compared to organizing and evaluative metadiscourse). Essays written by CR children bear heavy traces of dialogism and are open to perspectives of others. CR essays’ attitudinal stance is more strongly expressed by normative modals than in speaking. The result indicates power relations at play, when in face-to-face confrontations students intuitively use face saving techniques as reflected in language (weaker attitudinal stance, hedging, mitigating). CR discussions show high-engagement level and recipient-targeted engagement marking via what if-soliciting, gestures and importantly, perlocutionary/ coercive commentary that forms bonds with hearers (also found in an experimental study showing CR-participants advantage over non-CR in essays, Latawiec et al., in preparation). Intersubjectivity-signaling dropped over the discussion series, which indicates greater focus on informational flow than on interpersonal relations. Yet metalanguage considerably increased attesting the specificity of CR language, which puts high premium on talking with assessment activity, and also suggesting carry-over effect to writing. Boosters in boys’ explicit speech acts in oral argumentation may be considered as exponents of power, a flip side of socio-linguistic theories of female “weaker gender” being compensated by vagueness in language which is not confirmed in this study, nor is the “rapport-talk” of women or “report-talk” of men. The qualitative results suggest intersubjectivity-vagueness can obscure the propositional flow by halting or slowing down the flow of arguments (less seen in writing), though oral distribution patterns suggest its saliency for peer in-group solidarity signaling. Lastly, for an optimal flow of propositional meaning, organizing and evaluative metadiscourse need to be counterbalanced (rather than one meta-function overtly prevail). For instance, evaluative and attitudinal stance marking used in excess, i.e. not counterbalanced by organizing metadiscourse, sets forewarning signals and results in resistance to potential manipulative attempts. Also, proliferate organizing variants of metadiscourse get “de-ranked” or weakened in their cohering functions. Notably, the facilitation of information integration seems linked to objective rather than subjective markers. Hence, a key to a successful content flow seems to lie in the ‘golden means’ between evaluative and organizing variants of metadiscourse.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Beata Maria Latawiec; Copyright © 1993, SAGE Publications, granted permission for the selection (Fig. 2, p. 47) from Avon Crismore, Raija Markkanen, Margaret S. Steffensen (1993), Metadiscourse in Persuasive Writing: A Study of Texts Written by American and Finnish University Students. Written Communication, 10, 39-71.
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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