Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Positioning, power and the construction of knowledge in groupwork in a graduate second language teacher education course

Margaret Rita Hawkins, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This thesis is an ethnographic case study of a graduate language teacher education classroom which privileges constructivist perspectives and pedagogies. It is an account of how learning and interaction work in such classrooms, based on a close study of a particular group of students who were collaboratively engaged in a semester-long project in which they conducted an analysis of a high school ESL classroom. The conceptual framework describes a complex environment, in which students must negotiate new language, concepts, and ways of learning. They are asked not only to espouse new theories, but to take them on in practice. My contention is that the single most challenging aspect in this new workspace is that of coming to define roles, hierarchies, and even learning in new ways. A good part of the analysis is tracking exactly how participants go about doing this. One major finding is that much of the negotiating that occurred centered on issues of "authority" and "expertise," as students attempted to locate these within this new environment. Group members came to take on specific public identities within the group, and it was from these that they made contributions and knowledge claims. The identities from which they spoke, the forms of language they used, and the sorts of evidence they provided for their claims determined whether or not their contributions were incorporated into the group discourse. Participants who were more closely aligned with academic practices and values held more authority; those who could not and/or did not engage in ways that had recognizable allegiance to academic discourses were marginalized. And, despite the fact that the participant structure would seem to mute the professor's voice, the ultimate authority was in fact granted to texts that the group identified as representative of her. This study is a close look at the workings of power and status within a pedagogy that promotes equity and inclusion. It points to a need for deeper understandings in areas where languages, cultures, and identities converge and are represented (and embedded) in social interaction.

Subject Area

Teacher education|Bilingual education|Multicultural education|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Hawkins, Margaret Rita, "Positioning, power and the construction of knowledge in groupwork in a graduate second language teacher education course" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809343.