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Native Pathways to Education
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Cross-Cultural Issues in

Alaskan Education Vol. II

SOCIAL CONTROL AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION
IN AN ALASKAN ATHABASKAN CLASSROOM

Howard Van Ness
University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Introduction

This paper presents a microethnographic analysis of the organization of behavior as six Koyukon Athabaskan students, one non-Indian student, and a Koyukon Athabaskan teacher “get ready” for an instructional activity in a rural Alaskan kindergarten classroom. The analysis of getting ready as an event in this classroom provides an example of the ways a Koyukon teacher and her students establish a social organizational structure to accomplish an instructional activity. Of particular importance to the analysis are the demonstration and display of the covert and indirect ways the Indian teacher exercises her classroom authority as she orchestrates the establishment of the whole groups’ structure by the class. As the teacher and the students go about getting ready, they complete certain observable tasks, e.g., some of the students move their chairs to new locations in the classroom, the teacher distributes the workbooks containing the material for the coming instructional activity, and the students find the page in the workbook containing the exercise to be worked on. The ways in which the teacher and the students go about accomplishing these tasks also establishes the structural configuration of the social organization of the class for the coming instructional activity -- the teacher and the students working through the workbook exercise as a whole group.

The study was conceived as a preliminary venture to assess the utility of microethnographic analysis in providing insight into the workings of Alaskan “cross-cultural” classrooms. This term is conventionally used in Alaska to mean classrooms with students of Eskimo, Indian, or Aleut descent. The microethnographic analysis began through the process of video-taping and recording the movements and speech of the teacher and the kindergarten students. An eight-minute, fourteen-second sequence was selected for analysis and the teacher-student dialogue was transcribed and keyed to the video tape. The three segments analyzed include (1) the transition between the Bilingual lesson and the Reading lesson, (2) “getting ready” for the Reading lesson, and (3) the Reading lesson. Each of the student and teacher interactions was numbered and each of the students has the designator “S” plus a number. The designator for the teacher is “T”.

The analysis was organized around the following questions:

  1. What are socially significant structural elements or features of the organization of face-to-face interaction during the segment
  2. How are these elements observable in the students’ and teacher’s behavior
  3. How are these elements organized together as a system and how can such a system be analytically comprehended
  4. What insights for substance and method in further research are suggested by this preliminary single case analysis?

Several assumptions were made in conducting this research. The first is that the behavior of the teacher and students during the segment is organized around participants’ “definition of the situation,” i.e., as the definition of the situation changes during the segment, the organization of the teacher’s and students’ behavior also changes (see Goffman, 1964, Kendon, 1975, Erickson, 1975 and Florio, 1976, for discussion of “situations” and “situated behavior”; see Cazden, 1970, Blom and Gumperz, 1972, for discussions of “situated verbal behavior”).

The second assumption made is that the definition of the situation is negotiated or jointly elaborated by the participants (in this case the teacher and the students) in a process of continual monitoring and interpreting of the social environment -- the setting, the task, and each other’s behavior -- that seeks discrimination of the context of social activity (Kendon, 1975; Cicourel, 1974; Goffman, 1961).

The third assumption made in conducting this research is that, as members monitor and interpret the social environment in face-to-face interaction, behaviors appropriate to the emerging definition of the situation are generated by the participants through a process of “tacit choice-making.” Cicourel combines the interpretive capability and tacit choice-making by participants in positing the notion of “interpretive procedures,” described as “constitutive of members’ sense of social structure or social organization” (Cicourel, 1974, p. 44). Interpretive procedures serve the “executive function” for an individual in everyday social life in helping him to interpret the social environment (including the behavior of others) in negotiating a definition of the situation, and to select social behavior appropriate to the emerging definition of the situation from his communicative repertoire (Cicourel, 1974).

The fourth assumption is that the corpus of tacit knowledge operated on by an individual’s interpretive procedures in negotiating the “definition of the situation” and in generating appropriate social behavior is culturally organized. Implicit in this assumption is a “cognitive theory of culture,” discussed by Goodenough (1964; 1971; 1975) and Spradley (1972). According to this point of view, a society’s culture consists of

. . .whatever it is one has to know or believe in order to operate in a manner acceptable to its member . . . By this definition, we should note that culture is not a material phenomenon . . . it does not consist of things, people, behavior or emotions. It is, rather, an organization of these things. It is the forms of things that people have in mind, their models for perceiving, relating, and otherwise interpreting them (Goodenough, 1964, p.36).

The fifth assumption is that the organization of behavior is emergent in the conjoint social interaction of the teacher and the students as they individually exercise their interpretive procedures. The teacher and students mutually monitor and interpret the social environment, including one another’s behavior, in an active process of achieving or accomplishing the social organization described and analyzed in this paper (see Garfinkel, 1967, for discussion of the social order as members’ accomplishment).

Viewing the classroom social order during the segment as an interactional accomplishment by the teacher and students focuses attention on both as active agents in the establishment and maintenance of the classroom order. In adopting this perspective, this study is distinguishable from such efforts as Flanders (1970), those reviewed in Dunkin and Biddle (1974), Grant and Hennings (1971), and Good and Brophy (1973), which focus primarily on the teacher as the active agent in the classroom social order. This view is also distinguishable from the view of the classroom social organization as consisting of sets or relationships and attendant rights, obligations, and duties ascribed to teachers and students by the conventions of the institution (cf. Firth, 1954; Goodenough, 1965). Studies such as Waller (1932), Grambs (1968), Jackson (1968), and Eddy (1969) focus on the regularities of these limits or boundaries across classrooms in describing the classroom (school) as an institution distinct from other institutions as arenas for social life in the society.

Florio reconciles the institutional order of classrooms with the interactional order of everyday classroom life by suggesting that variability of behavior is allowed by the institutionally conventional ized social arrangements: “. . . a teacher can behave in a variety of ways -- with students, parents, or cohorts -- and still be a teacher” (Florio, 1976, p. 39). While the organization of the teacher’s and students’ behavior is bounded by institutional conventions for appropriate or expected behavior, these conventions for classroom social arrangements are mediated by Koyukon Athabaskan knowledge of appropriate social behavior. The Koyukon Athabaskan teacher and students “get ready” for an instructional activity in a classroom setting in ways consistent with Koyukon organization of social behavior in face-to-face interaction.

The Exercise of Authority: Indian vs. non-Indian Styles

Philips (1972), studying non-Indian teachers in Oregon, reported incongruity between the culturally organized ways authority is exercised in the classroom and in the Warm Springs Indian community. Erickson and Mohatt (1976) considered how a teacher could exercise authority in ways consistent with those of the Indian community. “We would expect more covert ways of exercising social control: less attention directed to individual children in the presence of other children as an ‘audience,’ less overt monitoring of the classroom behavior of individual children through verbal and non-verbal sanctions by the teacher” (p. 9). In analyzing their classroom data, they found consistency between the theoretically generated form for the Indian exercise of classroom authority and the ways the Odawa Indian teacher actually exercised authority in her classroom. As the year progressed, they also found signs of “adaptive drift” by the non- Indian teacher (who was characterized as concerned, possessing good intuition and who also benefited from helpful advice from his Indian principal) toward the “Indian general form” in his exercise of classroom authority.

The study presented in this paper, following Philips (1972) and Erickson and Mohatt (1976), pays particular attention to the ways the Athabaskan teacher exercises her authority in the classroom. This aspect of the inquiry explores the interactional devices manifested by the teacher as she exercises her classroom authority and the degree of voluntariness and self-determination in participation allowed the students by the teacher.

One of the ways teachers on the Warm Springs Reservation exercised their authority in ways discontinuous with those of the Indian community is in the use, as a pedagogical device, of placing students in the position of committing “public mistakes.” Erickson and Mohatt (1976) investigated “to what extent the teacher, by questioning, commanding, praising, smiling, looking pointedly and other means of directing attention to a specific child, focuses on what that child is doing in the presence of an ‘audience’ of other children” (p. 4). Their findings indicate that the Indian teacher put students in the public “spotlight” much less than did the non-Indian teacher; additionally the non-Indian teacher seemed to make decreasing use of the “spotlight effect” as the year progressed. The inquiry here combines the insights of Philips (1972) and Erickson and Mohatt (1976) in examining the degree to which the social organization of the lesson is organized around the teacher’s placing students “in the spotlight” and the management of “public mistakes” by the teacher and the students.

Analysis of the Lesson

In the lesson analyzed in this paper, initiation-reply exchanges occur throughout the sequence. The initiating may be done by the teacher as in this example:

(21) T: “(S7’s name), where’s your book like this?”
S7: (shrugs)

The initiating may also be done by students.

(30) S5: “Are we here, (teacher’s name)?”
T: “Yeah.”

These initiation-response exchanges are organized in two forms, somewhat analogous to Philips’ (1972) notion of participant structures. In the first form, the teacher interacts with students individually on a one-at-a-time basis. For example:

(83) T: “You’re finished, (S5’s name)?”
S5: (nods)

This form of teacher-student interaction occurs in two domains of performance, constituted by vertically co-occurring social phenomena: (1) private performance, and (2) public performance. Teacher-student interactions in private performance typically are signified by (1) both teacher and student lowering their voices; (2) decreases in the interpersonal distance between the teacher and the student; and (3) postural orientation by the teacher that more clearly “focuses” on the individual student to the exclusion of others. Other members of the class not involved in the private performance go about their business, manifesting behavior that indicates not only that they are not involved in the interaction, but also that they are not paying attention to the private performance (even though the private performance may be audible and visually accessible to them).

Lines 30-35 of the video-taped transcript provide an illustration of teacher-student interactions in private performance. The teacher is standing at the head of Table B (Fig. 1). The teacher, S5 and S7 are speaking in lower voices than they use in public performance.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Teacher and student locations during the lesson.
[click on image for a bigger view]

(30) S5: “Are we here, (teacher’s name)?”
The teacher orients her upper trunk, head and gaze to S5. S6 and S7 briefly glance at the teacher and S5, then return to looking at their books.
T: “Yeah.”
S7: “Here, (teacher’s name).”
The teacher shifts her feet, orients her upper trunk, head and gaze to S7. S5 and S6 glance briefly at the teacher and return to their books.
T: “Yeah, on this side.”
Teacher points. S5 and S6 glance briefly at S7’s book, then return to their own.
S7: “This one?”
Teacher remains oriented to S7. S5 and S6 continue looking at their books.
T: “Yeah.”

Teacher-student interactions in public performance typically are signified by both teacher and student speaking louder, with greater interpersonal distance between the participants, and a more inclusive postural focus by the teacher. In public performances, it is not necessary for other members of the class to “actively disattend” to the interaction. An example of the teacher interacting with an individual student on a one-at-a-time basis in public performance occurs in lines 83-84 of the transcript. The teacher is sitting on the end of Table A (Fig. 1); S5 is in his seat. The teacher’s voice is noticeably louder than it was in the example cited above of private performance.

(83) T: “You’re finished, (S5’s name)?”
S5: (nods affirmatively).

The second form of teacher-student interaction in the lesson is the teacher interacting with the class as a whole group:

(47) T: “What page are we on?”
S2: “Ah--”
Many: “40.”

By definition this form occurs only in public performance.

The teacher interacting with individual students on a one-at-a-time basis in private performance, the teacher interacting with individual students on a one-at-a-time basis in public performance, and the teacher interacting with the class as a whole group comprise three social contexts for interaction in the lesson. These three contexts are organized together in a more superordinate level of social organization.
Initially, the video-tape behavior record of the lesson was viewed with the sound off. In attending to nonverbal channels of behavior, the reading lesson seems to be divided into three segments (Figure 2). In the first, the students move their chairs from around Table B to the locations shown in Figure 1. The teacher moves around the room, handing out the materials for the lesson. In the second segment, the teacher remains seated on the end of Table A. During the third segment, the teacher again moves around the room interacting with the students.

Figure 2
Figure 2. Segments in the lesson.
[click on image for a bigger view]

Erickson (1975) and Scheflen (1973) demonstrate that locational and postural shifts can be reliable indicators of junctures between behavioral segments. The nonverbal behavioral clues that indicate the junctures of these three segments are: (1) the students’ relocating and the teacher’s beginning to circulate around the room; (2) the teacher’s seating herself on the end of Table A and remaining there throughout the second segment; (3) the teacher’s getting up and again circulating around the room; and (4) the students’ handing in their books.

Examination of the verbal behavior of the teacher and students during the entire sequence provides further indication that the lesson can be divided into three distinct social units. In the first segment, the teacher addresses 87.5 percent of her utterances to individual students and, on these occasions, interacts with students in private performance. In the second segment only 25.9 percent of her utterances are directed to individual students in private performance. Another 24.1 percent of her utterances address individual students on a one-at-a-time basis, but in public performance. Fifty percent of her utterances are addressed to the class as a whole group. In the third segment, 89.9 percent of the teacher’s utterances are addressed to individual students in private performance. Her only public utterance in this segment, “Ok, hand in your books,” closes the lesson. These data are summarized in Table 1.

Further indication that segment 1 and segment 2 are distinct contexts for social interaction is provided by the patterns of “who initiates” the exchanges. In the first segment, the teacher initiates only 28.6 percent of the exchanges, while in the second segment, she initiates 85 percent of the exchanges. The third segment does not differ from the second along the “who initiates” dimension: the teacher initiates 85.7 percent of the exchanges. In the second segment, however, 76 percent of the initiations are in public performance, compared with 14.3 percent in the third segment. These data are summarized in Table 2.

The data summarized in Tables 1 and 2 demonstrate coherence of particular patterns in the teacher’s and the students’ verbal behavior within the junctures suggested by their non-verbal behavior. Tables 1 and 2 also show the distinctiveness of the patterns of verbal behavior in each segment within the lesson. Figure 2 provides schematic orientation to the structural and temporal relationships of the segments in the lesson.

TABLE 1
Focus of Teacher Utterances in Public and Private Performance

Public Performance
Private Performance
Whole
Class
Small
Group
Individual
Student
Other
Subtotal
(Public)
Individual
Student

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Total

0

27

1

28

0

0

0

0

0

13

0

13

1

0

0

1

1

40

1

42

7

14

8

29

 
Total
Utterances
% Total
Utterances
Public
% Total
Utterances
Private

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

Total

8

54

9

71

12.5

24.1

11.1

 

87.5

25.9

89.9

 


TABLE 2
Teacher and Students as Initiators in Verbal Exchanges
in Public and Private Contexts

    Public     Private      
  Teacher
Initiates
Exchange
Student
Initiates
Exchange
% Public
Initiation
Teacher
Initiates
Exchange
Student
Initiates
Exchange
% Private
Initiation

% Teacher
Initiates

% Student
Initiates

Segment 1

Segment 2

Segment 3

0

30

1

0

8

1

0

76.0

14.3

2

12

5

5

0

1

100.0

24.0

85.7

28.6

84.0

85.7

71.4

16.0

14.3

The teacher and the students, however, do not generate this observable interactional order for its own sake. Nadel (1957, p.158) points out that social organizations “have jobs to do.” At the level of focusing on the social organization of the lesson as a classroom event, Nadel’s observation is relevant. Classroom lessons are organized around topically oriented tasks and activities. The particular task or activity is set by the teacher and constitutes a major element in the “teacher’s agenda” for the lesson (Mehan, et al., 1976). Another major element of the “teacher’s agenda” for a lesson includes establishing the broad structural configuration of the social organization of the lesson in ways that contribute to the “working through” of the task or activity by the students in the allotted time. It is the teacher who establishes whether the class will “work through” the task or activity as a whole group, in small groups, or as individual students. A third major element of the teacher’s agenda for a lesson is that the students “work through” the task or activity in orderly ways -- ways that do not disrupt the accomplishment of the task or otherwise irritate the teacher. Thus, from a teacher’s perspective, at the level of the lesson as a classroom event, the “job” of the social organization of the lesson is to facilitate the “working through” of the task or activity by the students in orderly ways within the allotted time.

In this lesson, the task the students work through is a “reading readiness” exercise from a page in a workbook. The broad structural configuration of the social organization of the lesson is that the students work through this exercise as a whole group under the direction of the teacher. The task and the mode for its working through were decided on by the teacher before the beginning of the lesson (personal communication). That this lesson plan was accomplished by the students and the teacher in an orderly way is observable in the behavior record of the lesson. The social order evident in the lesson, however, is not the product of the students following an explicit script written by the teacher. The evident order is “assembled” in the interaction between the teacher and the students during the course of the lesson.

Social Organization and Control in Segment 1

During segment 1, the teacher and the students “get ready” for the reading readiness exercise. As they get ready, they conjointly assemble the structural configuration for working through the readiness exercise as a whole group. We now examine aspects of the interactional order evident in segment 1 for the purposes of gaining insight into its accomplishment by the Koyukon teacher and the students.

Segment 1 occurs between the close of the bilingual lesson and the beginning of the working through of the reading readiness exercise by the class. During the bilingual lesson, the students and the bilingual teacher are clustered around Table B (see Figure 3). The instructional activities completed during the lesson are (1) playing a game with flash cards in which the teacher displays a card and individual students take turns responding to the picture on the card; (2) singing, in unison, a song about birds in the Koyukon language; and (3) singing, in unison, “Good Morning Teacher” in Koyukon and English.

Figure 3
Figure 3. Teacher and student locations during the bilingual lesson.
[click on image for a bigger view]

The structural configuration of the social organization of the bilingual lesson is that of a “whole group activity.” During each of the instructional activities, members’ involvement and attention are directed toward participation in the efforts of the group as a whole to accomplish the task. Students participate verbally in the bilingual lesson as individuals (the flash card game) and as a group in unison (singing the songs). The individual student turns during the game are embedded in the interactional organization of “playing the game” by the class as a group. This is demonstrated by the following:

  1. The allocation of turns among members of the group provides for participation by the students in ways that make for an orderly progression of the game, rather than simply the orderly completion of the turn
  2. Students not involved in taking a turn display behavior making it evident they are attending to the turns of others and are thus still part of the group playing the game
  3. The instructional activity is completed when the game ends, rather than when a turn is completed.

The working through of the reading readiness exercise by the class, the episode which follows segment 1 in the behavior record, also is structured as a whole group activity. Students participate verbally both in individual public performance and in unison as a group. Individual student verbal participation is embedded in the social organization of the instructional activity as a whole group activity. This is indicated in the following ways:

  1. Individual student verbal participation is keyed to the rate the class as a group works through the exercise. It is inappropriate for students to attend verbally, in public performance, to parts of the exercise ahead of or behind those being focused on by the group
  2. The students not “doing” an individual public performance during the working through of the exercise display behavior that indicates they are “paying attention” to the person who has the floor
  3. The completion of an individual verbal “turn” in public performance does not complete the instructional activity or absolve the participant from manifesting behavioral signs of on-going involvement in the groups’ efforts. The instructional activity is completed when the group has worked through the exercise to the teacher’s satisfaction.

Segment 1, in occurring between the bilingual lesson and the reading readiness exercise, is not only temporally intermediate between them, but it is structurally intermediate as well. It is the occasion for the restructuring of the class for the reading readiness exercise as a whole group activity after the dissolution of the whole group structure of the bilingual lesson.

The social organizational structure of the bilingual lesson begins to dissolve toward the end of the last instructional activity in the lesson, the singing in unison of “Good Morning Teacher,” when the bilingual teacher begins putting materials from directly in front of her on Table B into a cloth bag. After she begins doing this, but before the song is completed, S5 slides her chair away from Table B.

With the ending of the song, the interactional organization of the bilingual lesson more evidently dissolves. S2 and S3 slide their chairs back from Table B and posturally orient themselves to each other. S5 stands on his chair and fidgets. As the bilingual teacher says, “OK” (line 1), S1 slides back his chair and stands up; S6 moves his chair back, stretches, and looks at the books in the bookcase along the wall behind him. As S7 asks the bilingual teacher, “We’ll play that cards tomorrow?” (line 2), S4 slides her chair back from Table B, stands up and fidgets. S5 stands and stretches as the bilingual teacher responds to the question (lines 5-6).

Coincident with line 7 of the transcript, S1 and S3 begin moving their chairs to the locations indicated in Figure 1. S4 begins relocating after commenting, “Oh, boy” (line 7), on the bilingual teacher’s response to S7’s question. S3 also comments on this response from halfway across the room (line 8). S2 stands and begins moving his chair after notifying the class that “Time’s up” (line 9). While the students continue relocating, the bilingual teacher leaves the room.

The dissolution of the organizational structure of the bilingual lesson by the teacher and the students partially accomplishes the transition between the bilingual lesson and the readiness exercise. The general structure of interaction during the bilingual lesson and the working through of the reading readiness exercise is organized around the accomplishment of instructional activities. The general structure of interactions during the transition accomplished in segment 1 is organized around getting ready for an instructional activity.

The video-tape behavior record shows the teacher and the students “getting ready” for the reading exercise by completing the following tasks:

  1. The students relocate from their positions during the bilingual lesson to the positions indicated in Figure 1
  2. The workbooks are distributed to the students by the teacher
  3. The students find the page in the workbook containing the readiness exercise.

The ways the students and the teacher mutually go about completing these tasks also establish the social organizational framework for working through the reading readiness exercise as a whole group activity.

As S1, S2, s3, and S4 are moving their chairs after the close of the bilingual lesson, the certificated teacher clears her desk and gathers up the workbooks to be passed out. When the students begin to arrive at their destinations, the teacher stands, goes to Table D, and starts to lay a workbook at S3’s position (see Figure 4). S3 and S4 are involved in a “traffic jam” at the lower end of Table D and are not yet in place. S2 has reached his destination, but he is not yet sitting down. The teacher puts S3’s workbook back in the pile she is carrying, turns, and goes to look out the window between the bookcase and the piles of materials shown at the top of Figure 4. She remains looking out the window until S2, S3, and S4 are seated in position.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Teacher movements around the room during segment 1.
[click on image for a bigger view]

As they settle in, she turns from the window, moves to Table D, and hands S2 and S4 their workbooks. While this is happening, S3 begins to dig in her desk. The teacher does not hand S3 her workbook, but goes to Table A and hands S1 his. She then moves back toward Table D, but pauses about halfway there. S3 is still looking in her desk. The teacher turns, goes to Table B, and gives S5 and S6 their workbooks.

S7’s workbook is missing from the stack being passed out by the teacher. It is not until this point in the segment that the teacher speaks:

(21) T: “(S7’s name), where’s your book like this?”
S7: (shrugs)
T: “Look in your desk.”
(25) S7: “Do you remember Miss____took it.”
(27) T: “That was (S3’s name)’s.”

The teacher then turns, goes to Table D and hands S3 her workbook. Moving from Table D to the piles of materials indicated in the upper left of Figure 3, she looks for S7’s workbook. On finding it, she exclaims, “Oh, here it is!” (line 29) and returns to Table B and hands S7 her workbook.

S5 asks, “Are we here, (teacher’s name)?” (line 30). The teacher responds, “Yeah” (line 31). S7, who by this time has opened her workbook, points to the proper page and asks, “Here, (teacher’s name)?” (line 33). The teacher, leaning over and pointing at the correct page in S7’s book, replies, “Yeah, on this side” (line 34). S7, seemingly still not sure of herself, again points to the page and asks, “This one?” (line 34). The teacher responds, “Yeah” (line 35).

Turning from Table B, the teacher moves to Table A. As she does so, S1 turns around with a puzzled look on his face. The teacher, arriving at S1’s location, points to the correct page in the workbook lying open in front of S1 and comments, “Right there” (line 40).

She then moves to the end of Table A and sits on top of it, facing the class. By the time the teacher is seated, all the students have their workbooks open to the proper page. All the students, with the exception of S2, are also either looking up at the teacher or looking at their books, ready to begin the exercise as a whole group. The structural transition between the bilingual lesson and the readiness exercise has been completed.

The most evident aspect of the teacher’s behavior during the accomplishment of the transition is her movement around the room (see Figure 4). One of the functions of this movement is the exercise of control over the behavior of the students (Erickson and Mohatt, 1976). This exercising of control through “pounding the classroom beat” is more the product of the teacher synchronizing her movement around the room with the students’ readiness to receive the workbooks and to begin focusing on the material than it is deterrence effected by the immediate presence of the “fuzz.” The teacher does not begin moving around the room when the students begin relocating; she also remains seated when the bilingual teacher leaves the room. She allows the students to proceed to their new locations without exercising “teacher stares” or other overt nonverbal control devices. The teacher also abstains from exerting verbal control.

It is not until the students have essentially arrived at their destinations that the teacher stands up and begins moving around the classroom. When she arrives at Table D, S2 is not yet sitting down; S3 and S4 are still positioning their chairs and also are not seated. Rather than invoking verbal or nonverbal sanctions or prompts to “hurry them up,” the teacher moves to the window and looks out until S2, S3, and S4 are ready to begin focusing on the material.

As she hands S2 and S4 their books, S3 begins looking in her desk. She is not yet ready. Once again, the teacher neither invokes sanctions nor overtly directs S3’s attention to the workbook. She proceeds to Table A and hands S1 his workbook. Leaving Table A, the teacher pauses and checks on S3. She is still not ready, so the teacher moves without comment to Table B. When she leaves Table B, on the way to look for S7’s workbook, the teacher again checks on S3. S3 is no longer looking for something in her desk and is now ready. The teacher then hands S3 her workbook.

Examination of the teacher’s verbal behavior during segment 1 furthers the impression that the teacher is acting in concert with the students, rather than overtly controlling them. Seven of the eight teacher utterances in the segment are directed to individuals and occur in private performance. The teacher and student are at an intimate distance from each other and the rest of the students do not serve as an audience to the interaction. The teacher’s verbal behavior is thus coupled to her movement around the room; she talks with the students who are in closest proximity.

Just as she does in her movements around the room, the teacher seems to be synchronizing her verbal behavior with the “rhythms” of the class. The interactional device she employs is that of allowing students to be the primary initiators in successful verbal exchanges. She initiates only two of the seven successful verbal exchanges in which she is involved during segment 1. Both of these instances concern the whereabouts of S7’s workbook and are tangential to the accomplishment of the transition.

This portrayal of the Koyukon teacher’s exercise of her classroom authority is consistent with Erickson and Mohatt’s description of the exercise of authority by the Indian teacher in a classroom on the Canadian reserve.

Social control is distributed in Classroom 1 as a shared quantity -- leadership by teacher and by students interpenetrates rather than being divided into separate compartments. The teacher clearly has “control” of the students, but achieves this partly by paying much attention to the rhythms of student activity, and judging when students are ready for things to change (Erickson and Mohatt, 1976, p. 15).

The absence of the exercise of overt control by the teacher over the behavior of the students, and the distribution of social control as a “shared quantity” during the segment, directs attention to the accomplishment of the transition as a mutual achievement by the teacher and the students.

The establishment of the whole group structure which completes the transition is a mutual assembly by the teacher and the students as they engage in “interactional work” during segment 1. “Interactional work” is used here to mean the ways the teacher and the students, in negotiating the definition of the situation, “inform” each other of “what is going on.” This interactional work is “framed” by the classroom routines established over the course of the year. The students know that at the end of the bilingual lesson, S1, S2, S3, and S4 will move their chairs to the locations shown in figure 1, as they have been doing for nearly the entire school year. The students also know that Reading typically follows the Bilingual class in the daily schedule.

One aspect of the “interactional work” going on between the teacher and the students is the confirmation that students are to proceed according to “normal form.” The teacher, by not indicating that the students are to do otherwise, “informs” the students that S1, S2, S3, and S4 are to move their chairs back to their seats as they do each day. The students thus proceed according to a “business as usual” pattern without requiring direction from the teacher on who is to move, where, or how.

For the students, there is some ambiguity inherent in the normal form of the social organizational structure to be used on any given day to accomplish Reading. Sometimes Reading is done by students on an individual basis, sometimes it is done in small groups, and sometimes it is done by the class as a whole group (teacher personal communication). There is ambiguity, too, for the students in the normal form of the instructional activity for Reading on a particular day: it may be working in a workbook, playing games, listening to a story, or doing seatwork made up by the teacher.

A second aspect of the interactional work going on in the accomplishment of the transition is the reduction of ambiguity when the normal forms contain an array of options. The ambiguity inherent in the normal form of the instructional activity for Reading is reduced when the teacher informs the students of the coming instructional activity by passing out the workbooks. Evidence of the workbooks also indicates that Reading comes next, confirming that the daily schedule is proceeding as it typically does.

The students still do not know which page in the workbook they will be working on. Typically, when the students have worked in this particular workbook, they have taken each page in sequence. Occasionally, they work on pages out of sequence. All the students open their workbooks to page 40, the page following the last page worked on. S1, S5, and S7 are still uncertain that page 40 is the correct page. S5 and S7, individually, in private performance, verbally elicit confirmation from the teacher. S1 elicits confirmation from the teacher by turning and looking at her as she leaves Table B and begins heading in his direction. The teacher, without a word from S1, continues to his seat and confirms he has the correct page.

There is still ambiguity as to whether Reading will be conducted as individual work, small group work, or work done by the class as a whole group. The first bit of information the students process to reduce this ambiguity is that, generally, pages in the particular workbook being handed out by the teacher are worked through as a whole group. Secondly, if the work is to be done on an individual basis, the teacher typically indicates this in private performance as she hands out material. If the instructional activity is to be completed as a small group, the teacher typically begins convening these groups as she moves around the room. The fact that she neither establishes that the work be done on an individual basis, nor indicates the formation of small groups, informs the students that Reading will be conducted as a whole group activity.

The accomplishment of the transition by the class without explicit directions or the exercise of overt control by the teacher suggests a high degree of congruence between the assumptions and knowledge held by the teacher and the students about the appropriate conduct of everyday social life in classrooms. For a group of students and a teacher to be able to leave many things unstated as they accomplish a classroom transition which includes a change in teacher, the relocation of more than half the class, the distribution of material, and the orientation of the students to that material, requires that the teacher and students continually arrive at mutually consistent interpretations of what is going on and share mutually consistent understandings and expectations for how to proceed.

Not only are many things left unstated in accomplishing the transition, but the interactional work between the teacher and the students proceeds smoothly. Segment 1 takes some l31 seconds from juncture to juncture. Thirty-seven seconds of this time were taken up in locating S7’s workbook, leaving about 94 seconds for the completion of the transition. That a group of kindergarten students and a teacher complete the tasks they do and get ready for Reading in such a short time is an impressive indicator in itself of the smoothness of the interactional work going on between the teacher and the students.

A second indicator of interactional smoothness in segment 1 is the relative infrequency of “repair work, “ the channeling or correction of divergent student behavior by the teacher. Equally important is that the repair work is done smoothly by the teacher without issuing explicit directions or otherwise overtly exercising control over the students. The repair work done by the teacher during segment 1 is accomplished by not replying to particular verbal initiations by students.

Two instances of repair work by the teacher involve the non-Indian student in the class, S2. While the teacher is involved in verbal exchanges in private performance with S7 (concerning the whereabouts of S7’s workbook; lines 21-27), S2 turns in his seat, looks directly at the teacher and says, in a loud voice, “OK, ah, we’re on page 40” (line 24).

The teacher does not respond or acknowledge S2’s contribution. S2 fidgets a bit and, looking directly at the teacher, calls out, “We’re on page 40.” Again, the teacher does not acknowledge S2. S2 fidgets a bit more and continues looking at the teacher, seemingly waiting for acknowledgement. He then turns back in his seat and looks at his workbook. By not responding to S2, the teacher channels his behavior away from calling out and interrupting an ongoing exchange in private performance without overt direction or control.

The process of getting ready is accomplished without the exercise of overt control over the behavior of the students by the teacher with one exception. As the teacher begins to sit on the end of Table A facing the class, all the students, with the exception of S2, are quiet and are either looking at page 40 or up at the teacher. S2 continues to talk to S4 (who is looking up at the teacher, not attending to S2). The teacher marks the juncture between segment 1 and segment 2 by asking, “OK, what page are we on?” (line 42). The students, with the exception of S2, respond in chorus, “Forty” (line 44). S2 continues talking, addressing his talk to S4, who is attending to the teacher (lines 41 and 45). The teacher orients towards S2 and in a noticeably louder voice says, “What page are we on?” (line 47). S2 turns toward the teacher, stops talking toward s4, and says, “Ah” (line 48). The rest of the class responds in chorus, “Forty” (line 49). S2 then responds, “Forty” (line 50), having been brought into the fold.

The teacher, in orienting her posture and gaze to S2, raising her voice and asking the question again, escalates to a more overt exercise of her control in informing S2 of what is going on. It is worth noting that this escalation to a more overt form of control by the teacher is yet somewhat oblique. The teacher does not spotlight S2 in verbal rebuke or sanction; rather she informs him by orienting to him, raising her voice and repeating to the class as a whole a question that has already been answered.

The Koyukon teacher’s exercise of her classroom authority is consistent with what might be expected for an Indian teacher, generalizing from Philips (1972). First, the students are allowed a great deal of self-determination in their actions as they “get ready” for Reading. The teacher does not attempt to exercise continual and pervasive control over the students’ behavior. Second, the teacher does not “single out” in public performance either divergent student behavior or student uncertainty about what is going on; rather, she uses a variety of channels for communication to inform the students of what is going on.

The Koyukon teacher’s exercise of her classroom authority is also consistent with Erickson and Mohatt’s (1976) findings and interpretations of the exercise of authority by the Indian teacher on the Northern Ontario Reserve. First, the Koyukon teacher typically exercises her authority in covert ways during the segment. Social control is distributed as a shared quantity as the teacher and the students “get ready” for Reading. Second, there is a high degree of interactional “smoothness” in the ways the teacher and the students do their interactional work. Third, the teacher does not put individual students in the “classroom spotlight.”

Conclusions

This example suggests that a more comprehensive study of how’ Athabaskan teachers (who are few in number) and how non-Indian teachers exercise their classroom authority might provide illuminating insights into the workings of Alaskan cross-cultural classrooms. The consistency of the example with the findings and interpretations of Philips (1972) and Erickson and Mohatt (1976) suggests that systematic inquiry into discontinuities between the way social life is conducted in Alaskan Native communities and in Alaskan classrooms may provide useful information for developing and effecting styles of teaching and classroom control more appropriate to Alaskan Native students.

The analysis presented in this paper is a limited example of a Koyukon accomplishment of a classroom social organization. The analysis assumes the point of view that the ways the teacher and the Athabaskan students conduct themselves during the segment are culturally organized. Within the context of this paper, this assumption remains unexamined. Erickson and Mohatt, however, argue that such an assumption can be empirically examined and tested.

We will argue that a shared sense of pacing between teacher and students (part of their mutually congruent interactional competence -- their shared culture as defined by Goodenough) is manifested behaviorally in an interactional smoothness where presence or absence is empirically observable. This observable smoothness, in getting through an event and in getting from one event to the next, can be taken as an indicator of shared expectations and interpretive strategies on the part of the participants in the interactional scene (1976, p. 16).

While this paper has displayed the smoothness in the conduct of the interactional work between the teacher and the students, it does not argue that this smoothness is the product of the “Athabaskaness” of the participants. To be able to do so requires that lack of smoothness in the non-Indian student’s interactional work be demonstrated. This is indeed the case in behavior during the segment. At the end of the bilingual lesson, S2 does not begin relocating until he announces, “Time’s up” (line 9), although the other students are already moving their chairs. S2 tries to interrupt an ongoing verbal exchange, in private performance, to let the teacher know, in public performance, that he knows the correct page. It can be argued that while a student’s seeking the classroom spotlight is inappropriate social behavior in an Indian classroom, it would be considered reasonable behavior for a non-Indian student in a non-Indian classroom. However, interrupting an ongoing teacher-student exchange would probably also be deemed inappropriate in a non-Indian classroom. Finally, S2 is not “ready” when the instructional activity begins. These demonstrations of interactional incompetence by the non-Indian student are too few and too varied to allow convincing demonstration, but they are suggestive. They may well be the product of differences in the cultural organization of behavior between the non-Indian student and the Indian members of the class.

Elaboration of the analysis to include the entire lesson would also provide an example to contrast with one of Philips’ findings in classrooms with non-Indian teachers. The prevailing participant structure during segment 2 of the lesson is the first participant structure described in Philips, i.e., the teacher interacts with all of the students. In Warm Springs classrooms, the Indian students participated infrequently in classroom events organized in this way. In this lesson conducted by an Indian teacher, the Indian students participate freely and frequently. Microethnographic analysis of how this is accomplished by the teacher and the students could provide some illuminating insights into “the silent Indian student” syndrome.

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