This qualitative study examines moments in the multilingual classroom when materials become prominent in whole-class interactions. Despite the critical impact that materials can have on classroom discourse and learning/teaching, research on actual usage of materials in second language (L2) classroom interactions has been scarce compared with the effort devoted to the development and assessment of L2 materials (Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013). This study examines students’ and instructors’ use of materials in a multilingual writing classroom, focusing on the roles of textbooks, teacher-prepared worksheets, and a rojection screen. The study illustrates the relationship between materials and miscommunication—specifically, how materials can contribute both to resolving miscommunication among students and their instructor and to creating miscommunication when students employ materials differently than intended by the instructor. This study employs the concepts of adaptation, improvisation, and attractor states from complexity theory (e.g., Larsen–Freeman, 2017) to analyze L2 classroom interactions. A sequential, multimodal analysis demonstrates that students and their instructor seem to be aware of materials as interactional resources and actively coordinate them with speech and nonverbal, embodied resources for meaning making. The findings improve our understanding of how L2 teachers and students can attendto materials and adapt such interactional resources for their own purposes.
Keywords: materials use; multimodality; miscommunication; adaptation; improvisation
THIS STUDY QUALITATIVELY INVESTIGATES moments when materials in the multilingual classroom become prominent in whole-class interactions. Students and teachers alike frequently use a combination of materials and gestures (i.e., movements mainly associated with hands and arms) and/or embodied actions (i.e., other bodily actions that contribute to meaning making) for negotiating meaning. Materials such as textbooks, teacher-prepared worksheets, blackboards, and electronic and digital technology are important components for teaching and learning in the classroom. Furthermore, materials, in particular textbooks, may influence classroom discourse and even control the curriculum (e.g., Pourhaji, Alavi, & Karimpour, 2016).
Despite the critical impact that materials can have on classroom discourse and learning/teaching, research on actual usage of materials in second language (L2) classroom interactions has been scarce in comparison to work on the development and assessment of L2 materials (Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013). According to Guerrettaz et al. (2018), material use is defined as “the ways that participants in language learning environments actually employ and interact with materials” (p. 38). Aligning with this definition, this study demonstrates students’ and an instructor’s use of materials in a multilingual writing classroom context, focusing on the roles of textbooks, teacher-prepared worksheets, and a projection screen. Finally, this study illustrates the possible relationship between materials and miscommunication.
The context for this study is an English-as-a-second-language (ESL) writing classroom at a large public university in the United States. All international undergraduate students who enroll in the university are required to take this course. All ESL writing course instructors at this institution followed the same curriculum and syllabus and used the same writing course textbook, which includes various genres of writing (e.g., argumentative and cause-and-effect essays) and sample writings. Taking into consideration actual classroom contexts is critical because different expectations might exist for different courses with regard to teaching/learning materials and because other ecological factors (e.g., number of students and classroom space configuration) influence classroom interactions.
Combining sequential, multimodal analysis with ethnographic information obtained through classroom observations, I address the following questions:
RQ 1. How are various materials in the multilingual writing classroom actually employed by the teacher and students in classroom interactions when they try to resolve miscommunication?
RQ 2. How does students’ use of materials lead to the teacher’s misunderstanding?
All of the excerpts for analysis illustrate sequences in which materials in the classroom andthe embodied actions related to them become prominent in students’ and the instructor’s efforts to clarify meaning, achieve understanding, and learn concepts related to writing and grammar. I call such sequences material moments. My findings improve our understanding of how L2 teachers and students attend to materials for teaching and learning and adapt them for their own purposes, especially when they deal with miscommunication. Because these materials are a crucial part of the classroom ecosystem, students and teachers should be aware of their role during trouble moments related to miscommunication.
This study employs complexity theory (e.g., Larsen–Freeman, 2017; Larsen–Freeman & Cameron, 2008) as a theoretical framework because it can illustrate the complex, emerging nature of L2 classroom interactions and because the phenomena of material moments (as a focus of this study) are emerging and unexpected in nature. The first section discusses my use of the concepts of adaptation, improvisation, and attractor states from complexity theory for analyzing L2 classroom interactions in general and materials use in particular. Then, I review studies that have investigated the use of materials in L2 or English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms.
Adaptation, Improvisation, and Attractor States for Analyzing L2 Classroom Interactions
Seedhouse (2015) has framed L2 classroom interactions as a complex adaptive system, arguing that conversation analysis and complexity theory can complement each other for analyzing the complexity of L2 classroom interactions. Although many theoretical concepts related to complex dynamic systems are relevant for L2 development (see Larsen–Freeman, 2017; Larsen–Freeman & Cameron, 2008, for comprehensive overviews of terms from complexity dynamic systems theory), I limit my discussion to three concepts—adaptation, improvisation, and attractor states—that are closely associated with L2 teaching practice and useful for analyzing L2 classroom interactions.
Larsen–Freeman (2016) asserted that language teachers’ responsibility includes helping learners
relate to the language environment outside of the classroom and teaching learners how to enact and adapt their linguistic resources to the environment for their own purposes. In fact, from the perspective of complexity theory, systems (e.g., L2 classroom interactions) are always adaptive in response to changes in the environment (Larsen–Freeman, 2017). Larsen–Freeman (2016) argued for such an adaptive approach because in situations of language learning instruction, the language that is the goal of learning tends to be rendered less dynamic, turning it into a bounded object (Larsen–Freeman & Freeman, 2008). In this less dynamic language instruction, language learners are not well prepared to handle unbounded, dynamic language of the environment outside the classroom—a situation Larsen–Freeman (2016), borrowing from Whitehead (1929), called the “inert knowledge problem.” In short, from a complex dynamic systems perspective, adaptation seems to be a crucial aspect of effective L2 classroom teaching practice.
Regarding improvisation, it can be argued that both instructors and students should be sensitive to ongoing interactional needs and make on-thefly decisions about what to do next in a classroom environment involving multiparty participants and diverse materials as part of systems. More specifically, L2 teachers always need to improvise teaching strategies based on their ongoing assessment of students’ knowledge and understanding as it emerges from classroom interactions, and to make necessary adjustments of the classroom environment (e.g., material adaptation) depending on students’ needs and interests. In fact, the work of teaching requires devising and implementing interventions to facilitate learning while attending to and managing learners’ experiences and needs, activities that demand high levels of professional expertise and practice.
Last, complex dynamic systems theory recognizes stable conditions/states within a constantly changing system. More specifically, dynamic systems are known to self-organize, as a result of which they can settle into preferred states—referred to as attractor states—during their development (Larsen–Freeman, 2017). For example, in the context of L2 classroom interactions, certain teaching practices might become preferred or typical as instructors consistently employ specific approaches and/or materials. In complexity systems, however, attractor states are not static permanently; instead, they can change at any time.
In short, in order for students to engage in L2 learning effectively, L2 teachers should adapt their teaching materials and other interactional resources and improvise their teaching strategies according to students’ needs and interests, which continually emerge in classroom interactions. Through these processes of adaptation and improvisation, some attractor states might emerge in L2 classroom interactions. Teachers and students alike can orient to these states for developing awareness of meaningful interactional resources and maximizing opportunities for teaching and learning based on their co-constructed, preferred teaching and learning practices.
Materials Use in L2 Classroom Discourse
Instructors and students engage with various semiotic resources, including materials, in the classroom environment in order to construct meaning. Guerrettaz and Johnston (2013) described the ecological, semiotic resources in the classroom as mainly comprising four elements: participants (i.e., each individual who participates), processes (i.e., a systematic series of actions or activities), artifacts (i.e., entities from the environment, including materials in the classroom), and structures (i.e., relatively stable forces of organization, such as the curriculum; p. 782). Artifacts or materials are indeed part of classroom interactional resources. Because class activities are often organized around materials such as textbooks, teacher-prepared worksheets, technology (e.g., PowerPoint presentations and computers), and blackboards, instructors and students actively and skillfully incorporate and adapt those materials as they negotiate meaning and engage in teaching and learning. Thus, materials can become crucial interactional components that students and teachers orient to and coordinate by using gestures and embodied actions. More specifically, embodied actions or gestures that are closely associated with materials in the environment are considered “material actions” (Olsher, 2004, p. 223), or environmentally coupled gestures (Goodwin, 2007) because their meanings are deeply entwined with material surroundings and objects. Such materials and their associated embodied actions/gestures require special attention when analyzing classroom interactions.
In contrast to the abundance of research on materials development/design (see Tomlinson, 2012) and content analysis of materials, there has been much less research investigating how materials are actually used by teachers and students in language classroom interactions and how they influence classroom discourse (e.g., Canagarajah, 1993; Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013; Opoku–Amankwa, 2010; Thoms, 2014; Yakhontova, 2001). Yet, there has been work relevant to the issue of materials use in L2 classrooms (albeit materials use is not the major focus of these studies) from various perspectives, such as classroom ethnography (e.g., Duff, 1995) and multimodal conversation analytic studies (e.g., Hasegawa, 2018; Hellermann & Pekarek Doehler, 2010; Kunitz & Skogmyr Marian, 2017; Majlesi, 2018; Markee, 2011). For example, in Duff’s classroom ethnographic case study, she provided detailed explanations of diverse materials (e.g., textbooks, written notes, exercise books, and blackboards) available or not available in immersion history classrooms in Hungary, illustrating how the inclusion or exclusion of those materials influenced how students and their instructor interacted with each other during short student lectures. Kunitz and Skogmyr Marian’s study investigated classroom tasks (used in the context of task-based language teaching) as materials in EFL Swedish secondary school classroom contexts, longitudinally tracking how students oriented to a trouble source (the spelling of a word) that was related to task materials while they were preparing for an oral presentation. While these studies considered how materials are used in classrooms, materials use was a secondary focus to other issues, including how participants in classrooms enact interactional competence or engage in socially distributed cognition.
Guerrettaz and Johnston (2013) addressed this research gap in materials use by investigating how a grammar textbook was used in ESL whole-class interactions. In particular, employing the concept of classroom ecology (e.g., van Lier, 2000), they illustrated how the textbook constituted the “de facto curriculum” of the course and how it provided structure for the majority of classroom interactions (p. 779). In their study, Guerrettaz and Johnston primarily focused on talk that was a “verbatim representation” of language in the materials. In addition to having verbal representations, however, materials in the classrooms have a material aspect—they are tangible objects that students and instructors orient to and manipulate bodily and visually in their classroom interactions. Guerrettaz and Johnston did not fully attend to this material aspect of materials in classroom interactions, perhaps because such material aspects were not considered significant in the lessons they examined.
Responding to the need for more empirical studies of interactional use of materials as well as more classroom-based studies of materials, Jakonen (2015) examined how students in a Content and Language Integrated Learning classroom managed interactional sequences by handling and making use of material objects (e.g., textbooks, task sheets, and notebooks) to request information in student–student interactions. His analysis revealed that the manual handling of learning materials, or visible embodied actions around material objects, is not only an important resource for students when requesting information and/or responding to the requests, but is also oriented to as a source for drawing inferences about students’ epistemic status (i.e., the extent to which a student is knowledgeable about topics and tasks). In the excerpts analyzed, students visibly assembled and coordinated relevant materials with speech when requesting information and closely oriented to other students’ speech and embodied actions (including shifting their gaze to a specific student or gazing at specific parts of worksheets, pointing at worksheets, and body orientation) with materials when collaborating with a suitably knowledgeable peer (e.g., one who is writing down answers on task sheets). In other words, materials are means for constructing objects of learning or inferring knowledge, and learners can make sense of each other’s behaviors by investigating how they engage with materials.
Pourhaji et al.’s (2016) research on materials use in L2 classrooms is also relevant to the present study. By combining conversation analysis with sociocultural theoretical perspectives, they investigated how opportunities for learner participation and learning are created during moments when both locally (i.e., developed in the Iran Language Institute, specifically for local Iranian learners of English) and globally (i.e., developed and distributed worldwide for general learners of English) designed English language teaching materials are used in EFL classroom contexts. The researchers found that the locally and globally designed materials seem to provide differing levels of and contexts for student participation and learning opportunities.
Building upon these recent studies, the study at hand responds to a number of researchers’ calls for empirical research on actual use of materials in L2 classroom interactions (e.g., Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2014; Larsen–Freeman, 2014; Morgan & Martin, 2014). My aim in this study is to expand this research field by shedding light on the roles of various materials, including teacher-prepared worksheets and a projection screen, in the L2 classroom. In particular, I investigate how materials are actually employed at miscommunication moments and how students’ material use might lead to their teacher’s misunderstanding in unexpected ways.
As a method, the present study employs sequential analysis to demonstrate what interlocutors are doing and achieving while interacting on a moment-by-moment basis. Sequential analysis can illustrate social actions and interactional achievements in detail by closely examining observable verbal and nonverbal (embodied) conduct by interactional participants. Furthermore, similar to some Conversation Analysis Second Language Acquisition (CA-SLA) research (e.g., Brouwer & Wagner, 2004; Hellermann & Cole, 2009), this study incorporates exogenous theories, namely concepts from complexity theory, in order to provide theoretical and analytical grounding for L2 teachers’ and learners’ actions. More specifically, I apply the concepts of adaptation, improvisation, and attractor states from complexity theory for analyzing L2 classroom interactions that are dynamic and ever changing, and I empirically illustrate how teachers observably adapt and improvise on a moment-by-moment basis in the classroom. It can be argued that materials at times control the manner of interactions, especially when interlocutors are not fully aware of their functions. In such situations, materials possibly constrain or interfere with learning and teaching. Thus, this article illuminates both positive and negative aspects of materials use. It also closely attends both to the material dimensions of literacy practice, which can bridge a divide between people and objects in social practice (Brant & Clinton, 2002) and to what humans do or mean with material objects (Toohey et al., 2015).
DATA AND METHODS
Participants and Data Collection
This study is part of a larger qualitative research project in which I investigated miscommunication moments and interactional strategies for resolving miscommunication in multilingual writing classrooms (Matsumoto, 2015). The participants for the present study were 19 international students and a multilingual instructor at a large public university in the United States. The students’ national backgrounds were diverse, including India, China, Korea, Kazakhstan, and Mexico. At the time of data collection, Teacher L, a woman from Ukraine, had resided in the United States for approximately 6 years and had taught an academic writing course for international undergraduates for approximately 2 years.
I observed and video-recorded the classes regularly throughout the fall 2013 semester. Major data collection involved video-recording (about 29 hours) and taking observation notes. I also conducted stimulated-recall interviews with focal students and the instructor to gain a better understanding of specific miscommunicationrelated sequences and to obtain their own (re)interpretation of selected miscommunication sequences. Because the study at hand examines the use of materials rather than miscommunication phenomena, which were a focus of the interviews, I do not rely on interview data here. Most importantly, the data collection included various materials present in classroom interactions, including teacher-prepared worksheets, teacher- and student-prepared PowerPoint slides, and course textbooks. These materials often became crucial interactional components.
Sequential Analysis With Ethnographic Informationand Multimodal Approach
This study employs sequential analysis (e.g., Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson, 1974; Schegloff et al., 2002) to closely examine moments in which materials become significant in relation to miscommunication. Sequential analysis is effective in explicating the detailed process by which interlocutors orient to and integrate materials as part of interactional resources. This study also integrates ethnographic notes in order to make sense of the roles of materials in their social, historical context. Thus, my methodological approach falls under the umbrella of linguistic ethnography (e.g., Creese, 2008), with which researchers strive to analyze the social and the linguistic through a disciplinarily eclectic approach. As Rampton et al. (2004) argued, ethnography provides a close reading of context not necessarily represented in some types of interactional analysis (e.g., conversation analysis), while linguistics provides an authoritative analysis of language use not typically available through participant observation and taking field notes. In short, linguistic ethnography has the capacity of a linguistic-oriented analysis to “tie
ethnography down” (Rampton, 2006, p. 395).
In relation to the issue of what materiality or materials actually means, the classroom entails various types of materiality, including materials specifically designed and used for teaching and learning (e.g., textbooks and handouts), other objects available in the classroom ecology (e.g., desks and mobile devices), and material life, or how everything is situated in the classroom and mediates language practice (Canagarajah, 2018). As Tomlinson and Masuhara (2018) discussed, materials might be considered “anything that can be used by language learners to facilitate their learning of the target language” (p. 2; emphasis added). Although it might be beneficial to analyze all these elements holistically, this study mainly focuses on teaching/learning materials because it appears that these artifacts are discussed, gazed at, pointed at, and made relevant by participants in classroom interactions more than other types of materiality. Throughout this article, I use materials to refer to physical teaching/learning materials in the classroom. These kinds of pedagogical materials are cultural artifacts that are routinely found in classrooms around the world.
Furthermore, I also incorporate interactants’ bodily actions in relation to those physical objects as part of material resources. I adopt this expanded notion of materials (similar to Tomlinson & Masuhara, 2018) because students and instructors sometimes refer to their past actions by pointing, just as if they were pointing at objects (see Excerpt 2). Jakonen (2015) aptly stated that many everyday social activities are distinctly embodied and materialized, often in the sense that interlocutors have visual access to each other and may mobilize material objects of various kinds. For example, both students and instructors actively incorporate pedagogical materials and orient to them by embodied actions when they engage in class activities and tasks around materials in L2 classroom interactions. More specifically, students might gaze and point at specific parts of task sheets during group activities so that all group members can orient to and work on the same aspect of the sheets together.
Taking into consideration the critical roles of both materials and nonverbal, embodied interactional resources (e.g., gestures, body orientations, and gaze) in classroom ecology, this study employs a multimodal analytical approach (e.g., Goodwin, 2000; Mondada, 2016; Streeck, Goodwin, & LeBaron, 2011) to classroom interactional analysis in order to transcribe and analyze in detail interactional sequences in which students and their instructor integrate and coordinate verbal and nonverbal interactional resources with materials. In particular, multimodal transcription and analyses are helpful for capturing the coordination of the “multimodal ensemble” (Bezemer & Kress, 2008, p. 166). Bezemer and Jewitt (2010) argued that interlocutors make a complex composition of semiotic modes that can best communicate what they want to convey because each semiotic mode offers different kinds of affordances. As for gesture transcription and analysis, this study follows McNeill’s (2005) conceptualization of synchronized gesture with speech. Of particular relevance to this study is the concept of deictic. Deictic, or pointing, entails “locating entities and actions in space vis-à-vis a reference point” or serves a metaphorical function by referring to abstract entities (pp. 39–40).
To prepare the data for analysis, I transcribed in detail the sequences in which the instructor and students integrated verbal and nonverbal interactional resources along with materials for negotiating meaning and resolving miscommunication (see Appendix A for transcription notation).
ANALYZING MATERIAL MOMENTS IN MULTILINGUAL CLASSROOM INTERACTIONS
In this section, I sequentially analyze three excerpts from a multilingual writing classroom in order to address the research questions. All three excerpts illustrate sequences in which materials (handouts projected onto a screen, textbooks, and teacher-prepared worksheets) and the embodied actions related to them become prominent in students’ and the instructor’s efforts to clarify meaning, achieve mutual understanding, and learn abstract concepts related to writing and grammar. I call such sequences material moments.
The data analysis is divided into three sections. The first section examines sequences in which a student and teacher attend to a concept’s meaning as afforded by information projected on an overhead screen. Pointing to what is written on the screen, they successfully clarify a classmate’s question without any verbal explanation. The second section demonstrates the teacher’s inflight pedagogical choice of employing body quotes (Keevallik, 2010)—physically referencing other students’ physical movements—and making visible an abstract grammatical concept. These two excerpts relate to interactional moments in which teachers engage with explanations and definitionrelated work by employing speech and various embodied and material resources (see Belhiah, 2013; Käänta, Kasper, & Piirainen–Marsh, 2016). The final section examines sequences in which a student combines speech with embodied actions associated with teacher-prepared worksheets, illustrating the importance of paying attention to how embodied actions are coordinated with materials for meaning making as well as attending to the unexpected use of materials by students. All three excerpts correspond to the first research question (How are various
materials actually employed by the teacher and students at miscommunication moments?), while the final excerpt most directly addresses the second research question (How does students’ use of materials lead to the teacher’s misunderstanding?).
Shared Attention to Materials and Incorporation by Pointing Gestures
The first excerpt involves an instructor’s and her students’ active use of information on the projection screen (PS) to clarify meaning. The sequence takes place during whole-class discussion about a thesis statement, which is written on the blackboard (BB) (see Figures 1 and 2). At this moment, Teacher L (TL) is checking with a group of students, especially with Seo–Jun (SJ) (from Korea), about the kind of claim that is used in the thesis statement (“People should compliment one another more because it strengthens health, improves relationships, and brings happiness in person’s life”). Specifically, Teacher L asks whether the students agree that the statement is a claim of value. When Anna (AN) (from Kazakhstan) asks what “claim of value” means, both Teacher L and Seo–Jun swiftly orient to a worksheet projected on the screen (see Figure 1), which includes information about “claim of value.”
In lines 37–40, Teacher L opens up the interactional floor to the whole class by asking, “do you agree guys that, it’s ah:, (.) claim of value?” Noticeably, she gazes at the front of the classroom rather than just at Seo–Jun (see Figure 3), which nonverbally displays her orientation to the students in front as her targeted audience. After a pause, Anna, who is in the front of the classroom, provides a brief answer, “yea:h,” (line 42). Then, in lines 47–48, Anna suddenly asks, “how does (.) what does it mean by, claim of value.” It appears that she is trying to clarify what “claim of value” means.
What is noteworthy is that overlapped with Anna, Teacher L swiftly raises her left arm and points at the projection screen with her left hand without saying anything (lines 49–50, see Figure 4). In fact, a teacher-prepared worksheet is projected on that screen. The worksheet includes information about four types of claim and had been distributed and explained in detail to all students in class 2 weeks before this class session. It seems that Teacher L clearly recognizes the relevance of the worksheet as a resource—that it can be used to clarify Anna’s question without any verbal explanation. In other words, it can be interpreted that Teacher L improvises to make the information projected onto the screen recognizable and perceivable to Anna by pointing to it. In lines 51–53, Teacher L further attempts to clarify her intention by saying, “it’s there,” while continuing to point, and even walks closer to the projection screen. Interestingly, in line 54, other students (SS) also join in clarifying for Anna by using the exact same phrase as the teacher (“it’s there”). Even more, Seo–Jun also points at the screen (line 55, see Figure 5) in order to make Anna aware of the resource for clarifying her question.
As observed above, Seo–Jun’s interactional behavior aligns with Teacher L’s (lines 49–53) and constitutes a joint embodied action. In particular, the deictic gestures by both Teacher L and Seo–Jun can skillfully establish joint attention to the specific material (the teacher-prepared worksheet projected on the screen) in the classroom environment and make it interactionally relevant. It can be argued that other students are aware of this worksheet as an interactional resource for clarifying Anna’s question and actively incorporate it by employing pointing gestures. In fact, I noticed through frequent classroom observation that Teacher L regularly provided her students with worksheets and projected relevant information on the screen in front of the classroom. Because of this regular teaching practice, her students were probably keenly aware of the information for reference on the screen when they needed clarification during whole-class interactions. That is, Teacher L’s regular, consistent use of the projection screen as an interactional resource led to its emergence as a stable aspect of this classroom culture. According to complex dynamic systems theory, this can be considered an attractor state, which as noted previously, is a preferred, but not necessarily predictable, state that appears over time (e.g., De Bot, Lowie, Verspoor,2007). Larsen–Freeman (2014) argued that it is helpful to examine how the relationship with materials changes over time in L2 classrooms. This excerpt appears to demonstrate how instructionalconsistency leads to students’ developing keen awareness of/attentiveness to material resources(namely, the projection screen in this case) available in their classroom.
After Teacher L’s and Seo–Jun’s attempts to direct Anna’s attention to the information on the screen, Anna utters, “sorry, sorry” (line 57). With this utterance, she seems to imply that she did not recognize the interactional resource for clarifying “claim of value” available on the screen and treated this oversight as her fault. In other words, it can be interpreted that she felt that she should have realized that the information was available on the screen before requesting clarification. Furthermore, Anna’s initial lack of recognition might show variation in individual learners’ relationship to this attractor state in classroom interactions.
In summary, Excerpt 1 showcases that Teacher L, Seo–Jun, and other students in this multilingual writing classroom are keenly aware of and attend to an interactional resource available on the projection screen and actively integrate it to clarify meaning by using pointing gestures. It seems that such semiotic resources are not just passive resources in the classroom environment but are actively brought in, shared, and adapted by interlocutors for meaning making and clarification. Furthermore, this excerpt reveals the collaborative attitude among students in answering Anna’s question, especially exhibited in lines 49– 55 in which students and teacher chorused, “it’s there,” and pointed at the screen together. Finally, Excerpt 1 illuminates how materials can become relatively stable parts of classroom interactional history, or attractor states, when instructors use them consistently. In other words, if instructors establish a manner of using materials in the classroom ecology throughout the semester, students might gradually develop interactional competence (Walsh, 2006) in integrating and adapting such interactional resources for their own purposes.
Teacher L’s Adaptation and Improvisation in Switching Between Materials
The next excerpt (divided into three parts) involves the moment when, in response to a student’s lack of understanding, Teacher L attempts to elaborate her question related to differences in syntactic structures by switching between various strategies and materials. As seen in Figures 6 and 7, Teacher L (TL) and Ji–Min (JM) (from Korea) often orient to the course textbook as a relevant interactional resource throughout this excerpt. In the following excerpt, the whole class is learning how to paraphrase by using examples in the textbook. Teacher L nominates Ji–Min to compare the following two example sentences regarding syntactic structures: “Explore most prejudices and you will find a cruel stereotype at the core of each one” and “If you were to dissect most human prejudices, you would likely discover an ugly stereotype lurking somewhere inside them.” In particular, Teacher L would like Ji–Min to recognize the difference between directive and conditional statements. Because Ji–Min does not seem to understand the concept of “directive,” Teacher L spontaneously uses an actual directive in speaking to another student, Shan (SH) (from China), to demonstrate the concept’s meaning.
Early in the sequence, Ji–Min displays lack of understanding of Teacher L’s question (lines 1–4) in various ways. For example, in lines 6–8, Ji–Min responds, “just like, general opinion?” with a rising intonation, which seems to seek confirmation and assistance from her teacher. Also, Ji–Min’s response (“yeah, it is” in line 39), which does not clearly answer Teacher L’s further extended question (“if I tell you, please stand up, and uh:, go to the board? what would you do”), can be a signal of nonunderstanding.
In line 42, Teacher L seems to refer back to her original question by saying, “will you?” Then, after a pause, she utters, “it- okay, let’s”. Note that “okay” marks a topic closing or shift (e.g., Beach, 1993) along with a cut-off (“it-”). Teacher L’s turn (lines 47–52) displays the emerging process of her in-flight pedagogical decision, associated with what Smotrova (2017) and van Compernolle and Smotrova (2017) called thinking for teaching. Thinking for teaching is defined as “teachers’ moment-to-moment instructional decisions in the classroom” (van Compernolle & Smotrova, 2017, p. 2), which are often enacted through the gesture–speech interface. Here, Teacher L effectively employs verbal and nonverbal resources (e.g., cut-off, silence, and gaze shifts) in order to create space to think about alternative teaching strategies, including the use of material resources. This idea also aligns with the concept of improvisation (Larsen–Freeman, 2016) from complexity theory. In short, L2 teachers need to improvise teaching strategies/approaches and act upon the classroom environment flexibly depending on their students’ needs and states of understanding. In fact, during teachers’ improvisation, materials function as part of systems; therefore, teachers need to carefully consider which materials, in coordination with other interactional resources (e.g., gestures and embodied actions), can be effective. Excerpt 2B demonstrates such emergent, improvised teaching practices in relation to material choices after Teacher L’s thinking-for-teaching moment.
Teacher L uses two types of sentences when speaking to Shan—first “could you stand up?” (polite; line 61) and then “stand up!” (more direct; line 63)—in order to explicitly show the meaning of directive (i.e., asking for some type of action) and its consequence (i.e., Shan stood up). She initiates this dialogue with Shan in an effort to make the abstract meaning of directive visible through Shan’s embodied (re)action. Such an animated demonstration3 of the meaning of directive can be more effective than verbal explanations. Furthermore, this embodied action can be meaningful not only for Ji–Min but also for other students in the classroom. In other words, this embodied interactional resource can be shared and attended to by multiple people.
Right after Shan sits down in line 73, Teacher L attempts to connect Shan’s embodied action back to the concept of directive. In lines 74–76, Teacher L asks Ji–Min, “what does he do” while pointing at Shan with her left hand and gazing at Ji–Min (see Figure 11). After a long pause (2.2 seconds), Teacher L repeats the question, while again pointing at Shan and gazing at Ji– Min (see Figure 12). This constitutes a gestural catchment (McNeill, 2005). According to McNeill, a gestural catchment can be recognized when one or more gestural features recur in at least two (not necessarily consecutive) gestures and when the gestures maintain core, shared imagery features, thus contributing to creating a common discourse (also see de Fornel, 1992; Eskildsen & Wagner, 2013, 2015, for discussions of similar recurring gestures). Furthermore, Teacher L’s actions (lines 74–79), in which she points to the immediately prior bodily conduct of Shan, can be interpreted as body quotes (Keevallik, 2010).
Teacher L’s use of gestural catchment and body quotes might be effective in that not only Ji–Min but also other students in the classroom can actually experience the meaning and effect of directive, which was collaboratively enacted by Shan. In fact, it is clear that Ji–Min and other classmates attended to Shan’s embodied action with their gaze and body orientation when Teacher L asked him to stand up (see Figure 8). Teacher L’s skillful use of various semiotic modes—including pointing and using body quotes with gestural catchment—along with her verbal elicitation of another student’s embodied action, appear to make her explanation about directive more contextualized than when she relied on a single mode. Teacher L supplied a highly concrete material context for student understanding of the teaching point (i.e., directive). Furthermore, Teacher L’s skillful composition, which is part of her thinking for teaching, entails more than a teacher’s private thinking process. Her thinking for teaching also involves consideration of others—“recipient design” that refers to “how speakers adjust their utterances for the benefit of their interlocutors” (Kendon, 2004, p. 3).
Probably because Ji–Min does not respond to Teacher L’s question, as evidenced by another long silence (line 80), Teacher L reframes her question to make it more direct (“did he stand, stand up?”). In response, Ji–Min provides a minimal token, “yeah.” And then in line 89, Teacher L prompts her by asking, “why?”. Reacting to this question, Ji–Min answers, “you (.) told ˚him˚.” Subsequent to that, Teacher L appears to make a confirmation with Ji–Min by saying, “I asked him to do, right?” and pointing in Shan’s direction. Note that Teacher L once again refers back to Shan’s embodied action by pointing to it (line 95). Also, from line 106, Teacher L further confirms with Ji–Min whether she understands that “stand up!” is a form of request/directive by saying, “so it’s a request, right?”. Excerpt 2C exhibits Teacher L’s shift in her use of interactional resources—from body quotes to the textbook.
From line 108, Teacher L spontaneously shifts her orientation back to the content of the textbook and connects with the example sentences by saying, “do we have a request here?” while looking at the textbook and pointing to the page (see Figure 13). This turn clearly illustrates Teacher L’s shift from body quotes to the textbook. It can be said that Teacher L makes this in-flight shift in response to Ji–Min’s new state of understanding, thus illustrating her emergent pedagogical move in relation to the multiple material choices available in the classroom. Responding to Teacher L’s
question, Ji–Min gives a minimal agreeing token, “yeah,” and then looks up to Teacher L (line 113). Then, Teacher L continues to confirm with Ji–Min by saying, “and we don’t have the request, right?” while shaking her head several times and looking at Ji–Min (lines 116–119). Also note that Teacher L flips the page of the textbook to the next page and gazes at it (line 119), which indicates her attention to the textbook and making a contrast between the two example sentences located on different pages. Ji–Min responds to Teacher L with a minimal token, “˚yeah˚” and nodding (lines 120–121), which displays her understanding.
In summary, Excerpt 2 demonstrates how Teacher L skillfully incorporates an embodied action of a student in the classroom and actively coordinates multiple semiotic modes for helping Ji–Min understand the syntactic differences between two sentences in the textbook. In particular, using students’ physical actions to clarify an abstract concept’s meaning can be effective. As several studies (e.g., Matsumoto & Dobs, 2017; Smotrova, 2017) have suggested, gestures and embodied actions are effective means of making abstract concepts visible and concrete and thus facilitate students’ understanding and learning. It is also true that students in the classroom may pay more attention to such embodied actions than to the teacher’s verbal explanations only, as observed in several previously inattentive students paying attention to Shan’s action (Excerpt 2b). Furthermore, Teacher L quotes Shan’s action for instructional purposes by coordinating deictics so that students can connect Shan’s action with the meaning of directive. Thus, when analyzing material moments among students and teachers, embodied actions and gestures are important, integral aspects of the materials that should be considered together with the physical objects. It is worth noting that such pedagogical choice is usually done in-flight (improvisationally) through thinking for teaching. In this case, Teacher L effectively employed and adapted verbal and nonverbal interactional resources, such as cut-off, silence, and gaze shift, to create space for thinking.
Last, Teacher L sensitively selected materials available in the classroom ecology that she considered appropriate for instructional purposes (for recipient design) at specific moments and effectively adjusted how she coordinated materials with other interactional resources, orienting to her students’ needs and states of understanding. She skillfully improvised, shuttling between various materials as resources (textbook, body quote, and textbook) in the classroom ecology. This skill (improvisation in shuttling between materials for effective teaching) can be thought of as part of one’s interactional competence for teaching (Hall, 2014), namely instructors’ ability to engage in context-specific, interactional activities of teaching as well as the knowledge of how to employ linguistic, prosodic, sequential, and nonverbal resources for accomplishing these activities.
Misunderstanding Caused by Student Use of Materials in an Unexpected Manner
The final excerpt showcases a different type of material moment—one that involves a more powerful role for materials (namely, teacher-prepared handouts) as actors (e.g., Latour, 2005) that unexpectedly act upon interactants in the classroom and influence classroom interactions. In this excerpt, the class is learning about argumentative essays while using worksheets prepared and provided by Teacher L. The first page of the handout lists 12 examples of statements used in argumentative essays, and the third page lists four types of claims (see Appendix B and Appendix C). Right before this sequence, Teacher L asked the class to choose one example from the first page and to link it with types of claims suitable for the chosen example from the third page. The moment of interaction represents what Walsh (2006) referred to as the “materials mode” of classroom interaction, where “the interaction is organized exclusively around the material” (p. 70). In such moments, the interactional management of knowledge and expertise can be intimately linked to materials and the ways that both talk and bodily-visual action attend to them. Yet, the use of such materials can be a source of miscommunication. In Excerpt 3, it seems that Teacher L did not initially realize the importance of a student’s use of the worksheets as part of his verbal explication until he explicitly clarified his meaning. Specifically, Singh’s (SI) (from India) utterance (“eight and, uhn, second?”) was a source of misunderstanding for Teacher L. With this utterance and coordinated action (flipping the pages of the worksheets), Singh seems to mean that he chose the eighth example from the first page and linked it with the second type of claim (“claim of cause and effect”) from the third page. However, Teacher L appears to initially misinterpret Singh’s response; namely, she seems to think that Singh chose two examples from the first page rather than one example from the first page and one claim from the third page.
This sequence entails Teacher L’s misunderstanding Singh’s response, as clearly manifested in her utterance, “probably choose one” (line 30). This means that Singh’s response, “eight and, uhn, second?” (lines 10–15) was a trouble source. Note that while saying, “eight and, uhn, second?” Singh simultaneously gazes at the first page of the handout on his lap, flips the pages when saying, “and,” and looks at the third page (see Figure 14). Singh’s embodied actions coordinated with the worksheets subtly signal that he is referring to both the first and third pages for his utterance. Singh’s utterance, “eight and, uhn, second?” indicates that he chose the eighth example sentence from the first page and linked it with the second type of claim from the third page. This suggests that Singh is actively integrating the pedagogical materials into the broader classroom ecology and using them for his own purpose. However, this nonverbal, embodied signal does not seem to help Teacher L’s understanding of Singh’s utterance, as exhibited by her partial repetition (“second one?” in line 17) and utterance (“probably choose one” in line 30). In fact, Teacher L appears not to attend to or recognize that the meaning of his utterance was deeply entwined with the worksheets. Singh’s coordinated actions might have been difficult for Teacher L to observe because they were mostly done over his lap, and thus were partially blocked from Teacher L’s view by Singh’s desk (see Figure 14).
From line 34 onward, Singh initiates his overt repair by once again actively employing the worksheets along with speech. He starts with “No!” (line 34), which is a rejection of Teacher L’s previous utterance, while shifting his gaze to the worksheets on his lap (line 35), which demonstrates his attention to the materials. He then follows up by saying, “I’m saying” while smiling in order to signal his intention to clarify what he meant by “eight and, uhn, second?” Singh then begins elaborating, “on the first page, I chose eight,” while gazing at Teacher L (lines 44–46, see Figure 15). By doing this, Singh provides an important spoken clue. In lines 49–53, he further explicates by saying, “and it is, u:h, claims of cause and effects.” During this utterance, Singh also provides meaning through nonverbal, embodied interactional resources. He looks down at the worksheets, flips the pages, and looks at the third page of the worksheets (see Figure 16), which physically demonstrates that he is referring to both the first and the third pages of the worksheets. His coordinated action with the worksheets is similar to what he did previously in lines 10–15 (see Figure 14). This time, however, Singh coordinates his embodied action with speech to elaborate on “eight and, uhn, second?”
Singh’s integration of the worksheets, verbal explication, and gaze shifts—that is, his “multimodal ensemble” (Bezemer & Kress, 2008, p. 166)—successfully makes his meaning visible to Teacher L. In particular, Singh’s gaze shifts to the worksheets, coordinated with the action of flipping pages, might have prompted Teacher L to attend to his nonverbal behaviors and thereby realize what he meant by “eight and, uhn, second?” Streeck (1993) described how a speaker’s gaze can be used to lead a recipient to see a gesture as something relevant, thus acting as a guide to the recipient’s organization of attention. In short, Singh’s gaze directed at the worksheets and his flipping of the worksheets might serve as a deictic for Teacher L, who might otherwise have not paid attention to his coordinated action with the worksheets along with his speech. As illustrated here, a well-coordinated organization of varied semiotic resources (e.g., gaze, body orientation, and embodied actions) along with speech might be a key factor in whether materials cause miscommunication or help achieve understanding.
Subsequent to Singh’s elaborated clarification, Teacher L displays her newer understanding with a change-of-state token (Heritage, 1984), “O:h!”, while opening her mouth widely (lines 54–55, see Figure 17). Even further, she says, “you >want me to match,<.” With this utterance, it seems that Teacher L is confirming with Singh that her newer understanding is correct. At the same time, Teacher L also nonverbally demonstrates her understanding. Note that she flips the pages, shifts her gaze to the third page, and nods her head (lines 56–58; see Figure 18). This embodied action coordinated with the worksheets clearly aligns with Singh’s embodied actions (lines 12– 13 and 49–50). It can be argued that Teacher L employs an embodied confirmation check with Singh regarding what he originally meant by “eight and, uhn, second?” The co-coordination of Teacher L’s and Singh’s embodied actions with the worksheets, which appears to emerge spontaneously, interactionally confirms their mutual understanding through alignment (Atkinson et al., 2007, 2018).
In fact, from the perspective of complex dynamic systems theory, materials and/or actions such as teacher-prepared worksheets and alignment among Teacher L and Singh may become attractor states, acting as a stabilizing influence on their pedagogical practice in the classroom. Although classroom interactions are constantly in flux, with multiple systems interacting, some elements of classroom interactions might emerge as preferable patterns and become rather stabilized (e.g., the manner in which students and their teacher employ teaching/learning materials in their classrooms). This excerpt (also Excerpt 1) illustrates the nature of the dynamics of complexity (which entails both change and stability) in the roles of materials and teaching practice.
In summary, Excerpt 3 demonstrates that teacher-prepared worksheets can also become an important semiotic interactional resource for clarifying meaning and confirming mutual understanding. In particular, because Singh’s utterance, “eight and, uhn, second?” is intricately situated in a specific interactional context and closely related to the content and structure of the worksheets, it might be hard to comprehend Singh’s utterance without attending to other interactional resources that Singh incorporates with speech. As Guerrettaz and Johnston (2013) rightly argued, the teacher-prepared worksheet is a particularly important ecological resource that provides structure for class activities and affects classroom interactions. Excerpt 3 clearly illustrates the significant influence that teacher-prepared worksheets can have on classroom discourse.
It seems that the teacher-prepared worksheets seemingly provide “unintended affordances” (Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013, p. 792), which probably differ from the affordances imagined by Teacher L, who designed the material. As Coughlan and Duff (1994) argued, written materials are transformed into actual pedagogical activities (tasks-as-activities) through a process of interpretation that involves both teachers and students, so that actual activities (or task results) often end up looking quite different from the original work plan (tasks-as-work-plans) that teachers envisioned beforehand (see also Hasegawa  for a discussion of the multifaceted nature of tasks). In other words, Teacher L likely did not expect her students to use the worksheets the way that Singh did. Such unexpectedness may have engendered a mismatch in expectations between Singh and Teacher L and led to Teacher L’s misunderstanding. Unexpectedness here closely relates to the nonlinear nature of L2 classroom interactions as a complex adaptive system; precise predictions are unreliable since systems can constantly change through interacting with the environment (Larsen–Freeman, 2017). This suggests that how materials will actually be used by students in classroom interactions cannot be known until those interactions unfold. It can be argued that material objects (worksheets in this case) at times constrain teaching rather than serving as meaningful interactional resources. Last, Singh’s and Teacher L’s aligned embodied actions—flipping pages and gazing at the handouts—are quite effective in achieving and confirming understanding. Achieving joint attention to materials and alignment between instructors and students seem to be crucial for making use of materials in the classroom effectively.
This study illustrates sequences in which students and their instructor actively made use of various materials in multilingual writing classroom interactions. It establishes materials as interactional resources—or at times even actors (e.g., Latour, 2005)—in the L2 classroom that are essential components in the language teaching and learning process. Students and instructors actively enact material resources and coordinate materials along with speech and nonverbal, embodied resources for clarifying meaning when they encounter miscommunication (Excerpts 1 and 2). Yet, materials can also contribute to miscommunication, especially when students use materials in ways not intended by instructors (Excerpt 3). Therefore, we need to pay more attention to materials use, or materiality, of L2 classroom interactions in order to facilitate meaningful L2 classroom interactions and better understanding and learning on the part of students through their active engagement with teaching/learning materials.
With regard to the first research question, “how are various materials in the classroom actually employed by the teacher and students in multilingual writing classroom interactions when they try to resolve miscommunication?,” all excerpts indicate the important roles of different materials (projection screen in Excerpt 1, body quotes and textbooks in Excerpt 2, and the teacher’s prepared worksheets in Excerpt 3), which were skillfully designed and integrated with other nonverbal resources (e.g., gaze, body orientation, and gestures like pointing) by both the teacher and students. The materiality of embodied actions seems to be a crucial part of the meaning-making process. Thus, when investigating material moments, it is essential to analyze how students and teachers design and coordinate verbal and nonverbal semiotic resources along with materials (i.e., multimodal ensemble). Such information can provide implications for L2 teacher professional development regarding the importance of paying closer attention to use of various materials in L2 classrooms and developing a multimodal orientation to one’s teaching practice. Furthermore, in relation to SLA research, it can be suggested that interactional resources are not purely linguistic elements; instead, multimodal resources (e.g., gestures and embodied actions) in combination with linguistic elements are more likely to get learners’ attention and thus facilitate their understanding and learning.
In response to the second question, “how does students’ use of materials lead to the teacher’s misunderstanding?” Excerpt 3 is of particular relevance. Teacher L initially appeared not to recognize that the meaning of Singh’s utterance was entwined with the worksheets, thus leading to her misunderstanding. However, as soon as she paid attention to what he was doing with the worksheets, she displayed understanding and even made an embodied confirmation check with her student by flipping the pages of the worksheets, which interactionally aligned with him. In other words, a well-coordinated organization of varied semiotic resources (e.g., gaze, body orientation, and embodied actions) along with speech—in particular, using gaze shifts to guide the recipient’s focus of attention—might be a key factor in whether materials cause miscommunication or help achieve understanding.
Interestingly, Teacher L did not appear to anticipate how her student would make use of her worksheets. It can be argued that teachers cannot accurately predict how students will actually use their prepared worksheets until teachers put them in practice in classrooms, suggesting that teachers should be ready to improvise teaching strategies and approaches responding to the contingent nature of L2 classroom interactions. In other words, L2 teachers need to be flexible in response to the unpredictable, unintended nature of materials use based on their students’ emergent (re)actions. These perspectives can provide useful information for materials development in that material writers/developers should integrate components that allow for flexibility in how teachers use them, considering the distinction between tasks-as-work-plans and tasks-as-activities (e.g., Coughlan & Duff, 1994). Language teaching materials/tasks should always be flexible enough so that students and teachers can adjust the content based on their own interests and goals. As Hasegawa (2018) illustrated, L2 learners actively interpret the content of material tasks (e.g., conversational prompts) in relation to themselves, and they show their attitudes and stances toward the material content. Given the qualitative nature of this study, the findings cannot be easily generalized to other multilingual (writing) classrooms. Despite this limitation, the findings do suggest potential pedagogical and theoretical implications, which I discuss next.
Implications for Pedagogy
I suggest a few implications of this study’s findings for L2 teachers. First, L2 teachers need to be ready to adapt and improvise their teaching practices related to materials use based on their students’ emergent reactions and needs. In fact, Excerpt 3 reflects the complexity of the varied experiences that individual learners may have with materials. As Anderson (2015) argued, L2 teachers should be prepared to respond to unpredictable events, relationships, and affordances of the lesson in general and of materials use in particular. Developing such a mindset for unexpected usage of materials in L2 classroom interactions (i.e., responsive teaching) might be considered an important element of learning to teach for L2 teachers (e.g., Freeman & Johnson, 1998).
Another important implication is that L2 teachers can strategically plan and design materials use so that students become aware of such material resources gradually. In particular, Excerpt 1 illustrates that Teacher L had consistently utilized the projection screen during whole-class discussions to provide students with relevant information. This consistent usage of materials appeared to sensitize students to its presence and develop students’ awareness and perception of such materials use in the classroom. Furthermore, L2 teachers should be aware of the roles of nonverbal resources (e.g., cut-off, silence, gesture, and gaze) in thinking for teaching (Smotrova, 2017; van Compernolle & Smotrova, 2017) when they need to change material modes when reacting to students’ state of understanding. Excerpt 2 demonstrated how Teacher L effectively employed verbal and nonverbal resources in order to create space to think about appropriate materials in context.
Last, this study’s findings suggest that L2 teacher education should develop teachers’ agency and competence in using materials by allowing the materials to come alive and be appreciated by students. In order to foster such agency and competence in L2 teachers, they must be first aware of potential affordances of various materials in their classroom and then reflect on their everyday teaching practice regarding how materials afford and/or constrain learning opportunities for students (Morgan & Martin, 2014). In other words, reflective practice on materials use in the classroom is an important part of teacher professional development. In fact, such awareness and reflection is not only beneficial for L2 teachers but also for students. L2 teachers can also teach their students how to adapt their language resources, including learning materials, meaningfully for their own purposes so that the students can adapt language use competently even outside of the classroom. For instance, as Larsen–Freeman (2016) suggested, teachers can provide students with slightly different conditions (e.g., giving less time for a second task and asking students to appropriate the content of a dialogue based on their personal experiences) that force them to adapt and improvise.
It is worth noting that it is not adequate for L2 teachers to simply design and produce quality materials for use in the classroom. In order for the materials to become meaningful, they need to be integrated by students purposefully. Surely, the quality of the materials is a key factor in student engagement, and affective and cognitive engagement are key determiners of L2 development. In other words, although teachers might use quality materials, L2 learners do not necessarily learn the same way that the teachers expected; instead they learn what they need and want, which reflects student agency. From complex dynamic systems perspectives (e.g., Larsen–Freeman, 2017), affordances for learning are not mere properties of materials but rather part of the dynamic relationships between actors and the environment. In order for materials to be meaningful for students, teachers need to adapt materials based on how their students actually use them in the L2 classroom environment so that they can bridge the gap between what they think students want and what students actually want.
At the same time, materials are not simply written scripts to be followed by instructors and students, but part of important interactional resources made available on the spot and adjustable/designable by instructors and students. As Aronin and Singleton (2012) stated, “learners themselves should be aware of how to identify or, if necessary, design new affordances for language acquisition and learning” (p. 311). Therefore, both L2 teachers and learners need to be able to notice and adapt potentially meaningful resources (including materials) and to exercise their agency in deciding which resources are worth engaging with. Finally, concerning implications for materials development, it is critical to incorporate flexibility into L2 materials so that instructors and students can adjust, modify, and appropriate components for their own purposes and interests.
Implications for Research
This study illustrates that three concepts— adaptation, improvisation, and attractor states—from complexity theory are useful for examining materials use in L2 classroom interactions. It can be argued that materials do not function merely as ‘supplemental’ to the L2 classroom ecology but instead function as an important part of the system of teaching and learning. The concepts of adaptation and improvisation, in particular, are useful in demonstrating the emergent process in which teachers and students act upon materials in classroom interactions. Because of the potential benefits of examining L2 classroom interactions from complex dynamic systems perspectives (Seedhouse, 2015), we need more complexityinformed research on classroom discourse so that L2 researchers and teachers more often recognize the complexity of classroom interactions and consider how to manage such complex interactional tasks effectively. Findings from such classroom discourse studies can provide useful guidance to L2 teacher education research regarding how to prepare L2 teachers for the dynamic, at times unpredictable, nature of L2 classroom interactions.
This study also demonstrates the important roles of materials and nonverbal elements (e.g., gaze, smile, gestures, and embodied actions) for instructors and students in L2 classroom interactions. Thus, employing multimodal analysis for classroom interactions is crucial for closely analyzing the roles of materials that interlocutors simultaneously combine within the complex “multimodal ensemble” (Bezemer & Kress, 2008, p. 166). Such detailed sequential, multimodal analysis can provide rich empirical interactional data, illustrating what the competent use of materials by instructors actually looks like and the sequences in which materials may or may not support students’ understanding and learning in L2 classrooms. In fact, such L2 teacher competencies and practices might indirectly influence how students can coordinate speech, gesture, gaze, and manipulation of materials in classroom interactions for learning. Such coordination can be part of learners’ classroom interactional competence(Walsh, 2006).
Last, because the role of materials in L2 classroom interactions has received little attention (e.g., Guerrettaz & Johnston, 2013), these findings suggest the need for more investigations of this topic. This study calls for more empirical studies that exhibit the roles of materials both for instructors and students in various language and literacy-related classroom contexts. In addition, as noted by Guerrettaz et al. (2018), more research on materials use in classrooms will lead to much-needed collaboration between the fields of materials use and materials development.
In L2 classroom interactions, instructors and students employ various materials along with verbal and nonverbal interactional resources for meaning making, and they adapt all such interactional resources for their own purposes. When teachers and learners are aware of the important roles of materials and employ them agentively, materials become resources that can enrich learning and teaching. In other words, it is not only a matter of whether materials are effective based on their particular type or quality but also whether instructors and students perceive their meaning-making potential and adapt them purposefully. In fact, materials are not supplemental to L2 classroom interactions but are part of a complex system contributing to learning and teaching. Therefore, we need to pay more attention to the powerful roles of materials—for both instructors and students—as they emerge in L2 classroom interactions.