Positioning in multilingual classrooms: a case study of Thai students in a British University
AbstractThe rapid growth of international students in UK higher education increases linguistic diversity in academic and social contexts in a British university, and that raises issues regarding the extent to which multilingualism influences interactions and inter-relationships between tutors and international students within classroom settings. This study explores the factors affecting the ways Thai students position themselves in relation to their tutors and peers with regard to oral participation in pre-sessional EAP and postgraduate classrooms. The data were collected from seven Thai students by means of semi-structured interviews, classroom observations, and English speaking logs from July 2005-April 2006. Drawing upon Creese and Martin's (2003) multilingual classroom ecologies, Pavlenko and Blackledge's (2004) identities in multilingual contexts, this study reveals how the construction of the Thai students' identities is influenced by linguistic ideologies and power relations existing within classroom settings and the wider socio-political environment. Based on positioning theory (Davies and Harré, 1990; van Langenhove and Harré, 1999), the data analysis uncovers four key factors affecting Thai students' positioning in the pre-sessional classroom. These factors include tutors' teaching styles and methods, as well as their implicit expectations about student participation which significantly impact on Thai students' involvement in class and group activities. Classmates also play a crucial role with regard to Thai students' willingness to engage in class discussions which is related to their relationships and the Thai students' attitudes towards their classmates' linguistic diversity. Thai students' personal identities and agency are vital in their decisions to take up participative subject positions in order to achieve their academic goals. There is also an interplay between social interactions outside the class and Thai students' language use within the class. In MSc Marketing classrooms, there are three additional factors, including lecturers' linguistic diversity, the perception of students from other business disciplines, and the large class size, which crucially determines the extent to which Thai students want to take part in class and group discussions. This study suggests EAP tutors acknowledge the status of English as an international language to enhance international students' classroom participation. It is also vital to improve the attitudes of students and academic staff regarding social inclusion and tolerance towards international students who bring about a positive, intellectual and social climate within the British university landscape.