Auto Mechanics in English : Language Use and Classroom Identity Work

Sammanfattning: This is a compilation thesis consisting of three different articles with the purpose to explore the relationships between language practices, identity construction and learning in the context of the Vehicle Program, a vocational program in Swedish upper secondary schools. A feature of the particular setting studied here that sets it apart from the general education of auto mechanics in Sweden is that it was carried out in English.The study focuses on language practices within a community of practice where the norms for second language use, gender arrangements and identity work are negotiated in conversations between students and between students and teachers. The language practices are considered as talk-in-interaction, and identity construction and learning are understood as processes in socially situated activities.The study was conducted through an ethnographic approach, including observation, field notes, approximately 200 hours of video recorded interactions, and interviews with students and teachers. The recorded interactions were analysed using tools from conversational analysis and methods focusing on linguistic activities and interactional patterns. An eclectic approach combining linguistic ethnography, ethnometodological conversation analysis and socio-cultural theory of learning, in particular the concept of communities of practice, form the basis of the theoretical framework.The findings in study I highlight that language alternations are repeatedly used in the workshop as a meta-language to play around with language, which relates to emerging communicative strategies that also produces – and helps contest – local language norms. Study III suggests that teasing in students’ peer relations are not only disruptive, off-task behavior, thereby rendering them important only from a classroom management perspective. Teasing, this study proposes, should rather be seen as an organizing principle by which the students are able to position themselves in relation to an institutionally established language ideology. Study II focuses on how participants invoke and renegotiate conventional forms of masculinity tied to the ability of handling tools. Such micro-processes illuminate how gender is a constantly shifting social category that is done, redone and possibly undone. The findings suggest that new forms of auto mechanic student identities are formed that challenge current dominant discourses about what a mechanic should be.

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