Accessible Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton July 11, 2015

PhD supervisor-PhD student interactions in an English-medium Higher Education (HE) setting: Expressing disagreement

Betreuer-Doktorand-Interaktion im Kontext englischsprachiger Promotionsbetreuung: Das Äußern von Meinungsverschiedenheiten
La expresión del desacuerdo en interacciones entre supervisor y doctorando en una institución con el inglés como medio de enseñanza
Beyza Björkman

Abstract

According to the latest figures, the increase in English-taught programs in European Higher Education (HE) has been tremendous at a growth rate of 500% since 2002 (Wächter and Maiworm 2014). In all these HE institutes, English serves as the main lingua franca for students and staff. The present paper reports from such a HE setting in Sweden and focuses on how disagreement is expressed in PhD supervisor-PhD student supervision meetings, a spoken genre largely neglected in the study of spoken academic discourse. The material comprises digitally-recorded, naturally-occurring speech adding up to approximately seven hours, all by PhD supervisors and students from different L1 backgrounds, who all use English as a lingua franca. All recordings have been transcribed, and the instances of disagreement have been analysed by a mixed-methods approach, drawing on Conversation Analysis (CA). The results show, first of all, that the PhD students directly construct disagreement with their supervisors on content-related advice despite the academic and institutional power asymmetry present in these interactions. The supervisors, on the other hand, seem to indirectly construct disagreement with their students. It is suggested here that linguistic competence and content knowledge may be two factors mitigating the power asymmetry. Also, the expression of disagreement does not seem to be perceived as confrontational by either the supervisors or students. On the contrary, disagreement seems to be typical of this spoken genre in this setting, implying that it may even be a “preferred second” turn in this spoken genre with reference to the enculturation of the PhD student into the academic community.

Zusammenfassung

Die Ergebnisse zeigen vor allem, dass die Doktoranden trotz des vorhandenen akademischen und institutionellen Machtgefälles direkt Meinungsverschiedenheiten mit ihren Betreuern im Rahmen der inhaltsbezogenen Beratung einbringen. Die Betreuer ihrerseits scheinen ihre Meinungsverschiedenheiten mit ihren Studenten eher auf indirektem Weg zu äußern. Es wird hier vorgeschlagen, dass Sprachkompetenz und Inhaltswissen zwei Faktoren zu sein scheinen, die dieses Machtgefälle abschwächen. Des Weitern scheint das Äußern von Meinungsverschiedenheiten weder vom Betreuer noch vom Studenten als Konfrontation verstanden zu werden. Im Gegenteil, Meinungsverschiedenheiten scheinen typisch für dieses Genre der gesprochen Sprache in diesem Kontext zu sein. Dies bedeutet, dass es sogar einen “bevorzugte zweiten” Turn in diesem Genre geben könnte, der auf die Enkulturation des Doktoranden in die wissenschaftliche Gemeinschaft hinweist.

Resumen

Según los datos más recientes, el aumento en número de programas en los que se usa el inglés como lengua vehicular en las universidades europeas ha sido muy pronunciado, con un incremento de hasta el 500% desde el año 2002 (Wächter y Maiworm 2014). En todas estas instituciones de educación superior se usa el inglés como lingua franca entre estudiantes y profesorado. El presente artículo tiene como escenario justamente una de estas instituciones en Suecia y se focaliza en el análisis de como estudiantes de doctorado y sus supervisores expresan puntos de desacuerdo durante las reuniones de trabajo, analizando por lo tanto un género oral del discurso académico hasta ahora muy poco estudiado. El material examinado consta de grabaciones digitales de habla espontánea (un total de siete horas) con interacciones entre doctorandos y supervisores cuyas L1 son diferentes y que, por lo tanto, usan el inglés como lingua franca. Las grabaciones fueron transcritas y los momentos de desacuerdo analizados con una metodología mixta, tomando como base el Análisis de la Conversación (AC). Los resultados indican, en primer lugar, que los doctorandos muestran abiertamente desacuerdo con sus supervisores en relación con cuestiones de contenido, a pesar del grado asimétrico de poder institucional existente en estas interacciones. Los supervisores, por otro lado, parecen expresar desacuerdo con los estudiantes de forma más indirecta. El artículo sugiere que tanto el conocimiento lingüístico como de contenido pueden ser factores atenuadores de la asimetría de poder. Además, la expresión de desacuerdo no parece generar confrontación ni ser percibida como tal por ninguna de las dos partes. Todo lo contrario, el desacuerdo se intuye como algo típico de este género discursivo, lo que implica que incluso puede considerarse un “segundo turno preferido” en este tipo de género oral en lo que se refiere a la enculturación del doctorando en su comunidad académica.

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Published Online: 2015-7-11
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

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