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  • 2021SitthirakPhD

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Implications of dynamics of students’positioning and interpersonal relations for opportunities for language learning in an MA-EAL classroom in Thailand

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

  • Chongrak Sitthirak
Publication date22/07/2021
Number of pages222
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • Thammasat University, Bangkok
Award date22/07/2021
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Although the significance of students’ relationships in language learning is undisputed, there is limited classroom research related to this topic. Drawing on positioning theory (Davies and Harré, 1999), sociocultural theory (Vygotsky, 1978; Lantolf and Thorne, 2007) and informed by the focus on interaction in Douglas Fir Group’s seminal paper (Douglas Fir Group (DFG), 2016), this classroom-based research investigates how students position themselves and their classmates, the explanations for their choices, and how the dynamics of positioning and interpersonal relations affect opportunities for English language learning. The data, collected in an English course Master’s level class in Thailand over one 13-week semester, includes audio recordings of group discussions and whole-class interactions, videos of whole-class discussions, interviews and online conversations. Six students were selected as focal students and their interactions were tracked across different contexts. The students’ positionings and their dynamics were associated with task solidarity, individual support, expertise, power, and social distance. The shifting positions across and within group discussions suggest that the students’ relations consistently influenced their task performance. Analysis of the data also shows that fluidity, overlap and multi-directionality are characteristics of the dynamics of positioning negotiated between class members as they seek to participate in group discussions to help each other talk or gain recognition for that ability to explain topics in English. Opportunities for English language learning were provided for students who were able to position/reposition themselves to engage in group discussions across time. This work contends Storch (2013), who relied on a small set of fixed, static categories, and offers a more nuanced understanding of students’ interpersonal relations. The thesis closes with pedagogical and methodological implications.

Key words: positioning, interpersonal relations, dynamics of interpersonal relations, opportunities for language learning