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How do We Know the Teacher is not Talking about Himself? Demonstrations in Science Classrooms

Although the development of the sciences was mediated in crucial ways by the development of visual representations, language continues to be treated as the dominant representations mode in science teaching. Among the teaching methods, lectures are the primary means and students are most frequently tested on he verbal (conceptual) aspects of a subject. It is interesting, therefore, that students often claim to understand a lecture, yet are unable to reproduce its contents some time later. The problem may arise that although students tend to focus on the lecture's verbal and written productions, the latter also deploy many other semiotic resources- including hand/arm gestures, body movements, and facial expressions- to which students do not sufficiently attend. We developed a research agenda aimed at understanding these other semiotic resources in the hope of deriving assistance to students for better learning from lectures. In this study, we focus on instances where demonstrations occur and investigate the semiotic resources provided by the lecturer to facilitate understanding. Form a three-month study of twelfth-grade biology lessons in human anatomy and physiology recorded with two cameras, we analyzed all those instances where the lecturer makes reference to someone else in his speech but gestures with or points to his own body. In these instances reference and self-reference are conflated as the body that points and gesticulates is also the thing being pointed to, and bodily signs become their own references. We provide answers to the questions, "What are the verbal and nonverbal markers the teacher uses during these instances, which may be used to disambiguate reference and self-reference?" and "What verbal and nonverbal aspects of the discourse serve as semiotic resources for the interpretation of these communicative productions?" We show that lecturers not only use other modalities to communicate science but also deploy semiotic resources that the audience use for making sense of lecture demonstrations.

Pozzer-Ardenghi, L., & Roth, W.-M. (in press). How do we know the teacher is not talking about himself? Demonstrations in science classrooms. Journal of Pragmatics.

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