Hearing silent voices: talk and silence as data in 'Skills for Life' classrooms

Oughton, Helen M. (2010) Hearing silent voices: talk and silence as data in 'Skills for Life' classrooms. UNSPECIFIED.


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This paper examines how innovative social-constructivist pedagogies in adult numeracy education are generating new types of naturalistic linguistic data which enable students? previously silent voices to be heard. However, it also argues that some students' voices are still silent, and that these silences can be regarded as data which is as illuminating as episodes of talk. The new pedagogies, recently extended from school mathematics to adult numeracy, provide opportunities for adult students to work together to solve mathematical problems in classrooms formerly characterised by individualised learning in near silence. Audio-data collected in such classrooms is used to demonstrate how students' discussions offer previously unavailable insights into their experiences of learning. Informal numeracy practices, usually carried out 'invisibly' in one's head, are rendered audible as students 'think aloud', and their hitherto unheard voices give glimpses of their relationships with each other, with learning, and with the wider social structures of curriculum and accreditation. In particular, the rich and diverse linguistic repertoire through which they reflect and maintain these relationships offers a challenge to the discourses of deficit which predominate in this sector. Conversely, however, the voices of some participating students are absent from the data, and their silence is key to revealing new forms of inequality that may emerge from social-constructivist pedagogies. Thus the paper concludes by arguing that silence should not be regarded as an absence of data, but as data in itself. This is illustrated by a reflective account of the author's research journey in learning to 'hear' these silences, and contrasts perceptions of participants who might be expected to be silent (in this case a deaf student) with those whose silences were unanticipated. The limitations and affordances of collecting audio-data versus video-data are discussed in relation to this aspect of the study.

Item Type: Other
Additional Information: This is an electronic version of the paper presented at Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication, Aston University, Birmingham, UK, 23-24th September 2010. (Adapted from PowerPoint presentation; best viewed using single page, non-continuous display in PDF reader.)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Adult education,Numeracy,Participation,Silence
Divisions: School of Education and Psychology > Education
Depositing User: Scott Wilson
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2013 12:36
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2016 15:29
URI: http://ubir.bolton.ac.uk/id/eprint/177

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