The Ecology of Explaining

Tim Greer
Kobe University, Japan

Thinking, doing and learning do not occur in a vacuum; they are part and parcel of a complex ecology of interaction that includes both the embodied talk of others and the potential incorporation of objects and text from the surrounding environment. Language learners often require scaffolded explanations, so relative experts can call on a diverse array of such resources to explain unknown vocabulary and therefore occasion teachable moments within otherwise mundane talk. 

Adopting a Conversation Analytic approach to language learning "in the wild", this presentation will explore some of the interactional practices that non-professionals employ to socially accomplish understanding through drawing on gestures, print and other environmentally accessible objects to teach the meaning of words to relative novice speakers of the target language. By timing the deployment of gestures and objects to the precise trajectories of the interaction, the explainer and the explainee inhabit each other's actions (Goodwin, 2018), making cognition and learning observable to each other through the sequential unfurling of the talk.