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Mapping the pedagogic practice of grade ten English teachers: a qualitative multi-lensed study.

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This study addresses the issue of how to track the classroom talk of subject English teachers in Grade Ten classrooms in KwaZulu-Natal. Subject English, as a horizontal knowledge structure, presents particular challenges of content and methodological specification: what may be included, and the means of teaching and assessment, are contested, wide-ranging, and frequently opaque. English teachers are central to the construal of the subject in the classroom and their classroom talk is central to their construal of the subject to their learners. Classroom observations were conducted in four purposively selected KwaZulu- Natal state high schools, spanning the socio-economic spectrum, across the period 2005-2009. Twenty-six lessons were analysed using code theory’s concepts of classification and framing. This analysis presented broadly similar categorisations of strong classification and framing for most of the lessons, apart from some framing differences with respect to evaluation. However, my field observations had identified differences between the teachers’ classroom talk that were not captured. This led to the quest of finding pedagogically well theorised languages of description of teacher talk capable of capturing the range of variation and flow with greater nuance. Application of the lenses of systemic functional linguistics (SFL), Jacklin’s tripartite typology extending code theory (2004), Brodie’s expansion of classic classroom discourse analysis (2008, 2010), Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) (2014), and conceptual integration theory (2015), were successful in describing and discriminating more fully the range of pedagogy. Detailed analysis of four literature lessons (two teaching novels, two teaching poetry) from the two schools at opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum, are presented as exemplars of these lenses’ capacity as languages of description for subject English teacher classroom talk. The multi-lensed descriptions highlighted variations such as: o the degree of use of nominalised discourse (SFL); o more dominantly discursive pedagogy or more dominantly conventional pedagogy (Jacklin); o more overt or more implicit evaluations, greater use of insert moves versus greater use of elicit moves (Brodie); and o cultivation of a cognitively associative literary gaze versus cultivation of a decoding of the text gaze and intricate movements by the teachers between relatively stronger and weaker epistemic and social relations; more frequent and deeper versus less frequent and flatter semantic waving (LCT). A fifth lesson, focused on learner oral performances of infomercials, is analysed using conceptual integration theory, as the sole example in the data set, of pedagogic conceptual integration. These analyses highlight the potential of these lenses as tools for the unpacking and specification of teachers’ pedagogic practice, particularly their pedagogic content knowledge, an undertaking which has been protractedly difficult to achieve beyond localised, intuitive description. They also illuminated the intricate complexity of pedagogy, and the propensity for pedagogic meaning to disintegrate when the level of analysis shifts down to too small a micro-focus. This highlights the ongoing need for research to pinpoint the ‘sweet spot’ of the optimally smallest unit of a pedagogic act. Key components of the pedagogic process emerged that we need more refined understanding of in relation to what teachers do and the impact of this on the epistemic access of learners: teacher pedagogic mobility, pedagogic coherence and pedagogic flow. The study points to the Jacklinian and LCT lenses as offering the most potential for the ongoing investigation of these dimensions.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.