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postgraduate thesis: Silence in small group interactions for problem-based learning at an English-medium university in Asia

TitleSilence in small group interactions for problem-based learning at an English-medium university in Asia
Authors
Advisors
Issue Date2012
PublisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)
AbstractSilence has been identified as a defining characteristic of Asian students in second language contexts. Recent qualitative studies in this area indicate that taking this as a generalisable characteristic of Asian learners may be an over-simplification. Therefore, there is a need to rethink Asian students’ silent behaviour in learning interactions. Problem-based learning (PBL) provides a high level of communicative demand; however, no in-depth qualitative work has been done to date on students’ silence in PBL tutorials in Asian contexts. Given this lack of research, this study investigates students’ silence in PBL interactions in an Asian English medium of instruction (EMI) university. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to explore the functions of silence and factors contributing to silence in PBL small group interactions. In this research, a sociocultural theoretical orientation formed the foundation for the conceptualisation of silence in situated learning. A case study was conducted to investigate the complexities and subtleties of silence in PBL interactions. The focus of the case was first year students’ experience of PBL tutorials in an undergraduate dental curriculum. A variety of data, including questionnaires, post-survey interviews, observations, audiovisual recordings, and stimulated recall interviews, were collected. Analysis of over twenty hours of PBL tutorials then drew upon traditions from interaction theories and studies of silence to provide an explanatory perspective. Thus, students’ silence in PBL interactions was examined from communicative functional and critical perspectives. From a communicative functional perspective, findings indicate that students’ silence in PBL interactions is not only a means of non-participation or an effect of possible constraints, but is also enacted as a learning and communicative strategy. Based on this understanding of silence for communication and learning, the issue of silence was further explored based on critical discourse analysis. Data analysis indicates that students’ silence occurred when multiple identities, shifting relations, and a specific learning and professional community in an Asian EMI context were constructed, challenged, and reconstructed in PBL discourse. Two key factors were found to influence students’ silence in PBL tutorials: the immediate contextual factor and the power relation. This study has theoretical and practical significance for higher education pedagogy. Findings underline the importance of investigating silence in depth in order to compose a more insightful picture of interaction in small group learning. The study also develops insights into a proposed re-conceptualisation of silence in PBL discourse and offers a novel viewpoint to locate the issue of silence in small group interactions for PBL. Lastly, based on the analysis of a substantial body of qualitative data, this study has increased understandings of student silence in PBL tutorials in an Asian EMI university. Such a study not only contributes towards theorizing silence in higher education but also provides teaching staff and education policy makers with useful information about learners in small group learning in an EMI context.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy
SubjectProblem-based learning - China - Hong Kong.
Silence.
Dept/ProgramEducation

 

DC FieldValueLanguage
dc.contributor.advisorLuk, JCM-
dc.contributor.advisorBridges, SM-
dc.contributor.authorJin, Jun-
dc.contributor.author金珺-
dc.date.issued2012-
dc.description.abstractSilence has been identified as a defining characteristic of Asian students in second language contexts. Recent qualitative studies in this area indicate that taking this as a generalisable characteristic of Asian learners may be an over-simplification. Therefore, there is a need to rethink Asian students’ silent behaviour in learning interactions. Problem-based learning (PBL) provides a high level of communicative demand; however, no in-depth qualitative work has been done to date on students’ silence in PBL tutorials in Asian contexts. Given this lack of research, this study investigates students’ silence in PBL interactions in an Asian English medium of instruction (EMI) university. Specifically, the purpose of this study is to explore the functions of silence and factors contributing to silence in PBL small group interactions. In this research, a sociocultural theoretical orientation formed the foundation for the conceptualisation of silence in situated learning. A case study was conducted to investigate the complexities and subtleties of silence in PBL interactions. The focus of the case was first year students’ experience of PBL tutorials in an undergraduate dental curriculum. A variety of data, including questionnaires, post-survey interviews, observations, audiovisual recordings, and stimulated recall interviews, were collected. Analysis of over twenty hours of PBL tutorials then drew upon traditions from interaction theories and studies of silence to provide an explanatory perspective. Thus, students’ silence in PBL interactions was examined from communicative functional and critical perspectives. From a communicative functional perspective, findings indicate that students’ silence in PBL interactions is not only a means of non-participation or an effect of possible constraints, but is also enacted as a learning and communicative strategy. Based on this understanding of silence for communication and learning, the issue of silence was further explored based on critical discourse analysis. Data analysis indicates that students’ silence occurred when multiple identities, shifting relations, and a specific learning and professional community in an Asian EMI context were constructed, challenged, and reconstructed in PBL discourse. Two key factors were found to influence students’ silence in PBL tutorials: the immediate contextual factor and the power relation. This study has theoretical and practical significance for higher education pedagogy. Findings underline the importance of investigating silence in depth in order to compose a more insightful picture of interaction in small group learning. The study also develops insights into a proposed re-conceptualisation of silence in PBL discourse and offers a novel viewpoint to locate the issue of silence in small group interactions for PBL. Lastly, based on the analysis of a substantial body of qualitative data, this study has increased understandings of student silence in PBL tutorials in an Asian EMI university. Such a study not only contributes towards theorizing silence in higher education but also provides teaching staff and education policy makers with useful information about learners in small group learning in an EMI context.-
dc.languageeng-
dc.publisherThe University of Hong Kong (Pokfulam, Hong Kong)-
dc.relation.ispartofHKU Theses Online (HKUTO)-
dc.rightsThe author retains all proprietary rights, (such as patent rights) and the right to use in future works.-
dc.rightsCreative Commons: Attribution 3.0 Hong Kong License-
dc.source.urihttp://hub.hku.hk/bib/B48329885-
dc.subject.lcshProblem-based learning - China - Hong Kong.-
dc.subject.lcshSilence.-
dc.titleSilence in small group interactions for problem-based learning at an English-medium university in Asia-
dc.typePG_Thesis-
dc.identifier.hkulb4832988-
dc.description.thesisnameDoctor of Philosophy-
dc.description.thesislevelDoctoral-
dc.description.thesisdisciplineEducation-
dc.description.naturepublished_or_final_version-
dc.identifier.doi10.5353/th_b4832988-
dc.date.hkucongregation2012-

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