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Thursday, July 4 • 2:15pm - 2:55pm
Legitimizing research in English teacher education: A semantic profile of MA writing

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Broadly defined, disciplinarity refers to the organization of knowledge as well as the organization of intellectual and educational practices (Christie & Maton, 2011). In this sense, writing a dissertation is a means to organize and create knowledge. However, the specificities in any given discipline are not always made explicit for academic writers to succeed. The challenge for novice writers in English Teacher Education is to recognize how to open a space for legitimate research in a context where academic literacy studies is a developing field. The challenge grows larger because of the wide variety of theoretical trends, influences, and emerging epistemologies and ideologies in Latin America (Avila, 2017). In practice, this creates a tension because while some educators see literacy as entailing complex social interactions influenced by cultural, social, political and economic factors, some others still see it as an orderly skill set; as unvarying and transferrable across contexts.

Legitimation Code Theory (LCT) provides a means for revealing the nature of the knowledge practices being expressed in discourse (Maton, 2014). Semantic gravity will be particularly useful to make visible not only the characteristics of the introductory chapter of MA thesis but also the challenges thesis writers face to legitimize research. The purpose of this study then is to explore the forms knowledge take in the endeavour of providing a context and justification for research and in doing so creating a research warrant. This study addresses questions: (1) how do MA writers create a legitimate space for research in thesis writing in English Language Teaching?; and (2) what does semantic gravity analysis reveal about writing and knowledge practices in the discipline of English Language?

The corpus of this study consists of seven introductory chapters of Master thesis in English Teacher Education. It is analysed with semantic gravity (context-dependence of meaning), where stronger semantic gravity are experience and weaker semantic gravity are theory. First, units of meaning are defined resulting in a translation device that ranges from theory to experience. Then, the units of meaning are coded and plotted. Results suggests particular semantic waves in introductory chapters of MA thesis that shed light on the basis for providing a context and justification for research. Introductory chapters of MA thesis in English teacher education are represented by low waves almost flat lines. Weaker semantic gravity involves bare definitions and collection of studies; stronger semantic gravity relies on thesis writers’ legitimacy ‘being an insider’ in the field of research (Hood, 2012). The semantic analysis yields a powerful tool that unveils the rules of the game of thesis writing in the humanities. Opening up the possibility for teaching more students to succeed.

Thursday July 4, 2019 2:15pm - 2:55pm SAST
Room B48

Attendees (4)