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Gesture as a Dialogic Resource in STEM Instructional Interactions

  • Author(s): Flood, Virginia Jane
  • Advisor(s): Abrahamson, Dor
  • et al.
Abstract

When science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and educators interact, they draw on a variety of multimodal communicative resources including gesture, prosody, facial expression, gaze, and body positioning. This dissertation examines how educators and learners take up and interact with each other’s multimodal utterances in mathematics and computer science learning settings.

Using multimodal microanalysis of video, I identify and characterize new forms and functions of gesture as a dialogic resource in these settings, building on previous work on dialogic gesture in different contexts. My analyses are informed by ethnomethodology and conversation analysis (EMCA) and the Co-Operative Action Framework, which provide key theoretical tools for understanding how participants reuse and transform components of each other’s multimodal utterances to make meaning together.

This dissertation contains three papers. The first paper investigates different ways educators can repeat and reformulate learners’ gestures and speech in order to help learners make connections between their ideas and more formal ways of describing those ideas mathematically. My second paper explores how dialogic gesture functions to organize a common pattern of classroom dialogue—the Initiation-Response-Evaluation/Follow-up (IRE/F) sequence—and supports the co-construction of public knowledge in programming classrooms. Finally, my third paper builds on the previous two by illustrating additional ways educators attend to and engage with students’ multimodally-expressed ideas to help lead children towards new mathematical discoveries.

Overall, this dissertation contributes to learning theory by broadening our understanding of multimodal communication in STEM education. More specifically, it demonstrates the important roles dialogic gesture can play in STEM instruction, and it shows how responsiveness to students’ gestures is beneficial for learning mathematics and computer science. Numerous strategies for using dialogic gesture are provided that educators can adopt.

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