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Conversational Analysis |

CA is a well-developed tradition with a distinctive set of methods and analytic procedures as well as a large body of established findings These methods were worked out in some of the earliest conversation-analytic studies and have remained remarkably consistent over the last 40 years. Their continued use has resulted in a large body of strongly interlocking and mutually supportive findings. But what is the aim of studying these interactions? Principally, it is to discover how participants understand and respond to one another in their turns at talk, with a central focus on how sequences of action are generated.

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This section outlines the key analytic considerations to be taken into account when interpreting data of this kind through processes of transcription accompanied by analysis of sequential and categorical features of the talk. In particular, it refers those considerations to the specific analysis undertaken in this study, relating to accounting for the ways in which these participants, in this partnership activity, accomplished together the relationships between one another and the resources to achieve their outcomes.

Even the recordings of the actual talk are not able to be described as value-free or neutral, since there have already been decisions made regarding, for example, the placement of microphones and the timing of the commencement of recording. The data were analysed through transcription processes relying on the conventions described by Psathas and provided as Appendix A. After careful listening to the tape recordings, passages were selected for transcription on the basis of their contribution to understanding aspects of the partnership work of the participants in the meetings.

An important feature of this treatment of the data is that the act of transcribing talk in this manner is itself analytical.

Selected papers on theoretical and applied linguistics

The talk itself is data. Even the selection of the segments to be transcribed is analytical work. There is therefore no suggestion of neutrality in the analysis of the data since, from the very commencement of the transcription process, the researcher makes choices, which both result from and contribute to theorising about the work being accomplished by the talk-in-interaction.

While the recordings are accepted as the raw material resources of conversation analysis, and are always available for re-hearing and re-analysing, even they reflect some degree of choice making and theorising on the part of the researcher. An example of the theoretical decisions the researcher makes in the transcription process is the problem regarding how to "name" myself in the transcripts of sequences of talk in this research.

The choices available include "G", as an initial for "Graeme" and a naming that provides and relies on no particular role or relationship in the transcribing of the talk; P, signifying "Principal" and representing a predetermined set of roles and expectations; and "R" representing the principal "Researcher" in the study, once again bringing with it a set of role and relationship expectations in relation to the other participants.

Thus we note that the very act of deciding how to name or identify the participants when planning the transcription process is an act of theorising and of analysis. Analysts of talk-in-interaction utilize a number of resources and strategies to explore and explain the work accomplished in a particular situation.

However there are a number of commonalities among the techniques used by different analysts. Pomerantz and Fehr point out that analysts draw on their own language and knowledge resources in analysing talk, and that these tools are simply one of a number of approaches. Nevertheless, this approach proved useful in this study as a means of providing structure and purpose to the analysis task. The tools consist of a set of five steps the analyst can take.

Although presented in a chronological order, this order sometimes moves about among the steps. The steps suggested by Pomerantz and Fehr are set out here in summary:. These examples of the strategies used by conversation analysts to make accessible the data they collect through processes of transcription reinforce the notion that transcription is "a selective process reflecting theoretical goals and definitions". This transparency and accessibility of the data and its representation are keys to the claims of conversation analysis to be a rigorous empirical discipline, closely connecting data, transcription and analysis.

While a number of studies have highlighted the advantages of school and university partnerships , there has been little work investigating how these partnerships actually work. The study discussed in this paper shows how one such partnership was managed interactionally, focusing on how the participants undertook the delicate and complex interactional work of partnership building.

Specifically, the study investigated how a group of teachers in a primary school and academics from a nearby university developed a project to improve Mathematics teaching in the school.

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The activity was collaborative, occurring in the context of on-going professional development. This study was part of a larger collaborative partnership between a group of university academics and a group of school teachers. This partnership was engaged in developing ongoing ways of working together to improve opportunities for teacher learning, for doing research into the relationship between teacher learning and student learning outcomes, and for improving the learning outcomes for both school students and pre-service teacher education students.

The participants included a core group of two academics, a larger core group of seven teachers including the school principal, and a group of three pre-service student teachers. The student teachers were not always present at the school at the times that meetings were conducted.

However they participated fully when they were able. In fact the student teachers played a significant role in collecting data for a small study of attitudes to mathematics during the course of the partnership project. In several meetings, additional participants were involved. These additional participants were usually university academics, invited to meetings because their particular contributions were sought.

This study is therefore an example of an investigation of "multiparty talk" , which can be analysed to reveal the machinery used by various participants to orient to the business of the meeting. The meetings were almost all conducted in a small conference room at the school and they were audio-recorded. In total there were eight meetings conducted over a two month period. Meeting talk was used to examine the relationships between school teachers and academics as they worked together to develop a professional development project in a school setting.

The work of the collaborative activity occurred in a number of face-to-face meetings, generally conducted at the school in the afternoons after the conclusion of classes or during lunch breaks. The recording equipment consisted of a micro-cassette recorder, which was placed unobtrusively on the meeting table. The recorder was always placed at the commencement of the meeting, after participants had arrived and settled.

The purpose of the recording process was explained at the commencement of each meeting. The quality of the data was somewhat affected by the simplicity of this collection device, as there were sometimes up to ten or twelve people at a meeting, with some seated at a distance from the microphone.

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This distance, and the seemingly inevitable side-talk in such gatherings of teachers, sometimes resulted in poor quality sound, inaudible talk, difficulty in identifying speakers, and much over-lapping talk. These shortcomings in some of the audio-recorded meeting created additional challenges in its subsequent transcription and analysis.

The use of individual lapel microphones or video recording to complement the audio data may have ameliorated some of these shortcomings, but it was felt that such intrusiveness would outweigh any possible benefits. The aims of the study, to explore the relationships between partners in collaborative work between school- and university-based researchers, were further refined in the research question.

The research question was then instrumental in deciding on the research design. Most existing research reports the relationships between partners at the institutional level. I was more interested to consider how the participants interacted with each other to accomplish the partnership work. Hence the emphasis on the participants in the basic research question: How do the school and university partners in a Professional Development School Project accomplish the work of partnership through their interactions with one another?

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In their quest for new approaches to the provision of rigour in practitioner research, these authors have critiqued the standard and traditional validity types as they have been applied to both quantitative and qualitative research. They have found that outcome, process, democratic, catalytic and dialogic validities are all tentative and in flux. They, along with other researchers, propose that it may well be appropriate for each researcher to develop his or her own measures for determining how the validity of their work might be tested.

This lack of confidence in traditional measures of validity is evident also in the discussions of Mishler on this subject. A major contribution is his preference for replacing the notion of validity with validation. Validation is considered to be more appropriate since it assumes a process of socially constructing knowledge, whereas validity implies a static property of a completed activity.

He defines the key issue of validity as "whether the relevant community of scientists evaluates reported findings as sufficiently trustworthy to rely on them for their own work". Mishler suggests further that the concept of trustworthiness can be applied to any forms of inquiry, not only to qualitative practice, as being the outcome of a process of social discourse involving contestation and conflict as much as shared concepts and procedures. Mishler provides a set of six characteristics which he identifies as providing comparison between exemplars of trustworthiness.

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Each exemplar:. These characteristics are all compatible with, and indeed identifiable within, the procedures I have used in the collection and analysis of data in this study, and the conditions can be seen to be sufficient to have confidence in the conclusions reached. It does not follow and is not claimed that such conclusions or findings would present as "truth", but they are sufficiently trustworthy for other researchers to decide whether they provide a basis for their own further work. Its appropriateness is enhanced by the textual nature of the data and its representation, and the ideological imperative that language is "never neutral and always problematic".

Using traditional concepts of generalisability, based on the distribution of incidences across a population, it would be difficult to make strong claims to be able to generalise from the data and the analysis presented in this study. Because a particular outcome can be identified in relation to one activity and context, it can be seen to be possible for a similar or even identical outcome to occur in a different context, especially an institutional one.

The conversation analysis methodology used in this study does not, then, seek to develop laws as would be expected in some sciences. Rather, it sets out to identify formulated procedures which participants "demonstrably orient to in their natural interactions". This paper has focussed on the methodology of using the resource of meeting talk to study in close detail how participants actually did their partnership work, and how this methodology was seen to be particularly relevant to this study and contributed to the outcomes.

It has shown that everyday interactions of people in their work, their family lives and the rest of their everyday activities provide a rich resource of talk that can provide deep and detailed insights into the co-construction of identities and relationships and in actually doing the work of our social organisations. Anderson, G. The new paradigm wars: Is there room for rigorous practitioner knowledge in schools and universities? Educational Researcher, 28 5 , , Atkinson, M.


The recommencement of a meeting as a member's accomplishment. Schenkein Ed. New York: Academic Press.

George Psathas on Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Atkinson, J. Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Baker, C. Transcription and representation in literacy research. Flood, S. Lapp Eds.