Rules of Behavior and Interaction in German and Brazilian Classrooms

(Inter)cultural Uses of the Word in Schools

by Fernanda de Castro Modl (Author)
©2017 Monographs 184 Pages


This book synthesizes the results of fieldwork conducted using the method of participant observation in German and Brazilian classrooms at the same level of education (the German «vierte Klasse» of the «Grundschule» and the Brazilian 5th grade of elementary school). The author analyzes the phenomenon of distancing as related to linguistic and discursive behavior which is manifest through the use of the word in classroom interactions. This intercultural research contributes to a reevaluation of the understanding of classroom culture and to the perception of what cultural aspects inform institutional behavior within schools. The discursive analyses of transcribed classroom scenes and of narrative vignettes reveal aspects of the school within both culture and school culture.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Widmung
  • Preface
  • Vorwort
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – Clarification of some central ideas to the theoretical-methodological Basis
  • 1.1 Notion of the assumed word
  • 1.2 Institutional interaction and behavior guided by roles
  • 1.3 Presumed ethnographic principles
  • Chapter 2 – Details on field research, the school culture and culture(s) at school
  • 2.1 School Culture and school in culture
  • 2.1.1 On field research and research subjects
  • 2.2 Local school cultures (inter)viewed in school system rules (German and Brazilian) and intersubjective interaction at school
  • 2.3 Narrative vignette and (de)naturalization of what is observed in research field schools
  • 2.3.1 Flashes of a day in school with the German group
  • 2.3.2 Flashes of a day in school with the Brazilian group
  • 2.3.3 Interlocutor pairs: a facet of national school culture
  • 2.4 Word and/in participation in both groups
  • Chapter 3 – Theoretical framework to comprehend the class as a predominantly oral text
  • 3.1 Circumscribing the study of the oral text
  • 3.1.1 From the 1970’s to today
  • 3.1.2 From the notion of turn to turn-taking: controversies and sums for the study of interaction
  • 3.1.3 Discomfort generated in vitro
  • 3.1.4 The word in the classroom: presentation of operational problems resulting from pre-established concepts to analyze the oral text
  • 3.2 The discoursing of identities related to the teacher and students in the classroom through the position of speakers and listeners
  • Chapter 4 – CLASSROOM: Microcosm of Society and redoubt for the building of the student’s career
  • 4.1 Institutional interaction in the classroom: the issue of the classroom map
  • 4.2 Demonstration of the engagement aimed at the core interactive framework and distribution of the attention given by the teachers
  • 4.2.1 Particularities of the Brazilian Group
  • 4.2.2 Specificities of the German Group
  • 4.3 The place and nature of classroom participation
  • Chapter 5 – LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND SOCIETY: factors to understand identity construction and the use of the word in the classroom
  • 5.1 Processes of identification among students in the classroom
  • 5.1.1 Group 1 – Students who remain silent
  • 5.1.2 Group 2 – Students who speak a lot in class
  • 5.1.3 Group 3 – Students who show that they wish to speak but do not
  • 5.1.4 Group 4 – Students whose voices are rarely heard during the period of field observation
  • 5.1.5 Group 5 – Some Students frequently showed a lack of attention to the teacher
  • 5.2 Limits for the behavior of the student in the classroom: the interweaving of the social and personal relationships in the two groups
  • 5.3 The commissioning of the word in both groups and hypothesis of teaching system architecture as influence factors
  • Final Considerations
  • References

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This book seeks to divulge the results obtained in my doctoral research, developed through financial support provided by the funding agencies of the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Intercultural investigation, together with field research in German and Brazilian classrooms, was guided by the curiosity to gain access to and understand interactional and institutional rules which emerge within students’ and teachers’ behaviors and which integrate the corresponding stages of education in both countries’ school systems.

Intercultural research is justified by the hypothesis that becoming familiar with a classroom in a different school system leads to denaturalizing the understanding of what takes place in national classrooms.

This perspective is due to the assumption that all events that take place in school are not only a discursive construction, but also a cultural production. It can therefore be concluded that human behavior and the conventions implied in the manner in which an activity is performed may vary greatly worldwide (Erickson, 1973).

In this sense, events that take place in classrooms can be analyzed as cultural traits found in schools. Behavioral differences and similarities between what happens in German and Brazilian classrooms, however, enable discussions both on Western school culture and on local school cultures.

The classroom is seen as a place for intersubjective experiences, the use of the word, and a place where cultural behaviors in and from school may be perceived.

This book is therefore intended to demonstrate that the use of the word in the classroom reveals cultural traits of how societies represent the school institution itself, as well as perform the social and interactional roles of students and teachers.

Scenes observed in both groups’ classrooms are described and analyzed here to demonstrate the linguistic nature of both didactic interaction (student/teacher) and peer interaction (student/student) in an attempt to update discursive issues of political-cultural nature, which help to understand school culture in a broader realm.

The linguistic nature of classroom participation, whether in didactic or peer (student-student) interaction, encompasses: i) what is said in the classroom, ii) how it is said, iii) who says or tries to say it, and iv) to whom the utterance is addressed. Thus, acknowledging the complexity of intercultural and intracultural ←13 | 14→features of classroom interactions, in the following chapters, I deal theoretically and methodologically with two core questions:

Teacher and students’ relational identities are also1 constructed based on how they exchange the word when they are in the positions of speaker and listener. This simultaneously results in and is a result of culturally posed conventions and restrictions posed to the use of the word.

For this reason, I opted to focus on student participation and the word in both classrooms, which were geographically distant, to demonstrate that the classroom is yet another institutional dialogical context in which the word is to be exchanged, and in which one learns how to participate socially in the world as a language subject.

The ethnographic experience in the classroom, with both groups, has demonstrated that there is much more in the structure of interactions than what is initially perceived. Therein arises the need to categorize different types of student participation and to propose the idea of commissioning the word by the teacher as a possibility of rethinking school within culture, and culture within school.

This book synthetizes the results obtained in a doctoral dissertation defended in Brazil in 2011, to which reflections on current research concerning themes of school culture have been added.

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In Chapter 1, the theoretical-methodological bases are presented. This is the space where I point out the productivity of dialogism principles (Voloshinov, 1999) and of the (socio)interactionist approach derived from Mead’s method (1962) of thinking the word and the exercise of subjectivity in institutional behaviors. Based on a perspective of ethnographic observation in research fields-classrooms, I synthetize the working principles commissioned to build the data collection corpus in Germany and Brazil.

In Chapter 2, I offer advice on the commissioned methodological procedures and return to the research questions in order to visit and discuss cultural behaviors in and from school.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to systematizing key concepts for thinking a class as a predominantly oral text: i) speaker and listener’s psycho-phonatory formal and linguistic functions, which are articulated to teachers’ and students’ social functions, to analyze the exchange of the word in the classroom and subsequent contributions and ii) the ideas of one’s turn to speak and intervention to analyze the social practice embodied by the class.

In Chapter 4, I define the notions of participation and the commissioning of the word to demonstrate, based on class scenarios, that the analysis of the structure of classroom interaction may contribute to understanding interactional and institutional tasks performed by teachers and students regarding the notion of school culture.

In Chapter 5, I also treat data discursively, demonstrating other behavioral differences and similarities that enable the framing of school culture. The book ends with insightful questions on the relation involving word, classroom, and formation of the student subject as a language subject.

All names of those who participated in this study, those used to refer to the groups, and the subjects are fictitious, but they do update the ways in which each observed reality represented.

1 By using the lexical item ‘also’, I emphasize that I do not disregard the fact the subjects act under the guidance of social representations, understood as shared belief systems, historically and ideologically determined (Moscovici, 2004) and culturally reiterated within institutions.

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Chapter 1
Clarification of some central ideas to the theoretical-methodological Basis

From dialogism, this work defends the fact that language is the needle that threads all relations between subjects, the world and worldly things; from (socio)interactionism, as proposed by Mead, intersubjective interaction in the classroom is viewed as another institutional interaction. Finally, from ethnography comes the view of the classroom as yet another environment to access the mystery of sociability, by means of a pendulum movement, in which one studies a given institution, whether in broader terms (such as a social phenomenon which constitutes any and all societies) or as an institutional example of a society, of a group (Sato; Souza, 2001).

1.1Notion of the assumed word

If we are born to communicate, and if it is in the course of life that we learn to be language subjects, then school, especially the classroom, is a unique dialogic context in the life of those who participate in it, since

the individuals are involved in the general social life-process of which social institutions are organized, where manifestations can develop and possess fully mature selves or personalities only in so far as each one of them reflects or pretends in his individual experience these organized social attitudes and activities which social institutions embody or represent (Mead, 1962, 262).

The school, as the first institution of public domain in human relations, is a place of social action, which means that its main function is to guide the students to make themselves aware of their own presence in the world, which occurs because of “the way they act and think when they develop all their capacities, taking into consideration their needs, but also the needs and aspirations of others” (Freire, 2005, 14–15).

School is, therefore, an intersubjective interaction place and, as with any institution, requires a certain way to behave, and thus to participate socially. Among all of the possible behaviors in a school, what is of special interest here are those linked to interactions in the classroom when faced with the use of the word.

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Hence the need to operate with a notion of the word, as Voloshinov defends:


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (July)
School Culture Applied Linguistics Intercultural Pedagogy Discourse Analysis
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 184 pp., 2 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Fernanda de Castro Modl (Author)

Fernanda de Castro Modl holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics. She uses discourse analysis, applied linguistics and the theory of social representation along with ethnographic approaches to investigate notions such as didactic interaction and school culture from an (inter)(intra)cultural perspective.


Title: Rules of Behavior and Interaction in German and Brazilian Classrooms
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186 pages