Estudio sociocultural de la televisióN

Linguagem – As práticas discursivas como locus de investigação

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Linguagem – As práticas discursivas como locus de investigação

Language – Discourse practices as locus of investigation

Television in classroom discourses: an empirical study

Maria Angeles Rebollo Catalán, University of Seville, Spain

1. Roots and sources of study
Starting from sociocultural theory and, specifically, its contribution about semiotic mediation, this paper presents an empirical study1, whose basic purpose has been to explore ways of mediation concerned with the construction of educational discourse in Adult Education. We are interested on the ways of mediation supported by television. This theory provides a conceptual frame to understand the relationship between sociocultural setting and mediated action (Werstch, 1993).
Theoretical considerations about the utterances’ distinctive features open the way to empirical verification of specific characteristics of the educational discourse.
Nowadays, sociocultural theory constitutes an emergent field of research in Social Sciences, which integrates diverse scientific approaches. In this frame, we can recognize labour of several researchers that are carrying out continuous advances in this theory (Cole, Wertsch, Kozulin, De Pablos, Ramírez, Tulviste). Among sources more recently linked to this theory, the Mikhail Bakhtin’s contribution points up. This author’s works have been very important to amply and bring up to date the basis of sociocultural theory. This influence is observable in recent works concerned with notion of internalization (Wertsch, 1998; De Pablos, Rebollo y Lebres, 1999) and semiotic mediation (Wertsch, 1991; Cole, 1996). The relationship between Vygotski and Bakhtin are based on similar concept of mental functioning process and its generator mechanisms.
Cognitive mediation constitutes a revolutionary notion of this theory. The power of mediation to generate mental functions lies in its symbolic nature; in this way, it is interesting in study the role of mediational means in different social activities. Some educational challenges may be to identify meanings that students create about an specific cultural tool, to know the sociocultural setting in which these meanings have arose and to analyze their process of construction..
Based on bakhtinian ideas, a variety of authors (Zinchenco, 1985; Wertsch, 1991) have proposed the notion of mediated action in order to study the mediation. Mediated action may be defined as human action, carried out by an individual or group, that employs ‘cultural tools’ or ‘mediational means’. It involves a kind of dialectic between mediational means –proposed by sociocultural settings– and their unique and particular use by an individual or individuals.
Although these tools and the sociocultural settings are so closely bound together and pre-exist to particular individuals, yet the active role of the human beings in their use and transformation of these cultural tools and their meanings is considered. Mediated action allows us to study the dialogical relationships between cultural tools and social contexts.
Bakhtinian approach about language as mediational means in the development of cognitive processes (thinking) has opened the way not only to a more precise definition of the concept of mediation but also to an empirical study of the verbal thought. More precisely, it is possible now to support the theory that the different use of the languages modes (writing, mathematics, television, cibernetic, etc.), which are linked to different activities and sociocultural contexts, it has an effect on the capacity of abstraction. This brings about a process of generalization of knowledge and makes eassiest the development of more complex ways of thinking. Not only form a theoretical but also an empirical approach, both notion of mediation and mediational means are an starting point to further developments in educational technology. Professor De Pablos’s works (1998; 1999) are quite remarkable regarding the latter.
In the Bakhtin’s works, (1986; 1995), the concept of utterance constitutes the basic unit of discursive communication. It points out a way of mediated action since it shows the dialectic relationship between the instruments proposed by different settings (school, family, church, army, business, etc.) on the one hand and the individual use of these instruments (creative) that brings about new more complex semiotic forms, on the other.
Bakhtin proposed social languages and speech genres as forms of utterances relatively stable and normative. These are constituent of the language in use. They are characterized by being closely bound together to either social groups or social contexts. Among discoursive genres one can find specific genres for a class, a hospital and so on. He distinguished between primary and secondary genres according to degree of decontextualization of language. Primary genres are characterized by its primary symbolic relationship (sign-object), while secondary genres means a rupture of real facts (sign-sign). Bakhtin related secondary genres mainly to writing communication as this mode of communication means the re-appropiation of language by agents as a symbolic secondary system. Rhetoric and argumentative discourse arise as a consequence of writing and both are typical of educational institutions.
To some extend, the use and privilezation of certain discoursive genres makes reference to the ways individuals interpret culture in different contexts of activity and, more specifically, they figure out the concept of the institutions in which they develop and participate in cultural frame. These typical modes of language make reference to instituted social aims and the structures of social participation, which are inherent to institutions. Besides, contents and conceptual frames, both academic subject, are a mean of cultural representation which is showed in the way knowledge is selected, organized and presented to apprentices. This knowledge has been arisen from the historical-cultural background of the human kind.
Utterances’ characterization as well as development of relatively stable patterns of them according to links with specific contexts of activity pave the way to explore how certain “cultural tools” arise new ways of thinking. Partly, this research is the empirical proof of bakhtinian theory; we observe those characteristics features of the classroom discourse and then we get to explore empirically speech genres in the formal scholarship. Regarding television, the way television programmes rest on the real-fiction mechanisms as well as on the identification and understanding of television genres not only facilitates decontextualization of knowledge but also creates other ways of complex thinking, which can be identified with the use of secondary discoursive genres.

2. Aims and method
The main aims of this study are to know the features of classroom discourse and to identify typical speech genres in school contexts. Starting from these empirical features, we purposed to find stable association among cattegories, composing stable types of utterances. Besides, another target is find out different television pictures and setting pictures in apprentices’ discourses, which allow us to explore how the school contexts contributes to appropriation from an abstract plane of cultural tools like television.
The research design has been defined by the application of discussion group. This technique of data collecting has been applied in four cases selected according to literacy level: Elementary (A1), Post-Elementary (A2), Intermediate (B) and Advanced (C). In this activity of debate, we asked apprentices about television and their relationship with it in different contexts (school, family). We were interested on their opinions about television, their customs regarding it in different settings as well as television impact on various spheres of social life and, specifically on education.

3. Data analysis
In this research, we have used a cultural approach of discourse analysis. This approach focuses on discourse as evidence of social, cultural, interactional and psychological processes. This concept of language is based on the identification of dynamic relationships between language and ways and processes of thinking (Gee y Otros, 1992; Gee y Green, 1998; Crawford y Valsiner, 1999).
This discourse analysis approach –based on mediated action as unit of analysis- may reveal the relationships between mediational means proposed by sociocultural settings and particular use by individuals. It is possible to study classroom discourses through notion of utterance introduced by Bakhtin. It is defined by three components: content, style and structure. These components are broken down specific categories. More precisely, speech style is composed by tone, referenctial object and addresee’s picture. In this paper, we center our interest in speech tone and addresee as expressive categories of speech style.
Both, the application process and the kind of articulated process are set in a continuum from exploration of basic units of analysis to the discovery of more complex structures. We have used a variety of analysis techniques such as descriptives, analysis of multiple correspondences, cluster analysis, and so on. In this way, description analysis of the categories (frequencies and percentages) has been used in order to identify school speeches and its most outstanding characteristics. Starting from these data, analysis of multiple correspondences has been used to explore the inner structure of the data. It has been done by finding links among categories.
Besides, cluster analysis has been used to reduce the variability of utterances in their own typology. Finally, analysis of contingency charts and chi-square test have been useful to identify the most significant differences among the groups of apprentices belonging to different educational levels.

4. Results and conclusions
Regarding the features of discourse, the results have revealed that speech style and structure are more significative components to characterize classroom discourse than speech content. Both, style and structure are useful to identify different ways of school discourse.
The utterance’s structure shows the television approaches and uses by apprentices. We have identified two ways of speech structure: concrete and abstract both, in function of simbolic expressions degree. These ways are closely linked with apprentices’ mental representation about television. In the first stances, comments about specific television program in anecdotal plane show ways of contextualized expressions. Besides, we have identified another more conceptual discourse, that it is linked to notion of television genres (reality shows, magazine, road movies, etc.) It implies a better knowledge and mastery of television language by individuals.
In the following graph, we can see how contextualize structure is the most frequent to the rest in all of the groups and how it is more significant in elementary and post-elementary groups. On the other hand, we can see a opposite tendency regarding the frequency in use of an abstract structure in the groups, increasing this type of speech structure according to schooling level. It is higher in the advanced academic levels. That is, we can observe in the graph that groups A1 and A2 (Elementary and Post-Elementary levels) are characterized by using contextualized structure only, while in groups B and C (Intermediate and Advanced levels) both contextualized and abstract co-exist. These results point towards Bakhtin explanation about the complex nature of speech genres as well as towards his theory about how primary genres do not dissappear when others more complex are added but that they are reintegrated and then, it creates mixed ways of speech full of different types of elements. Accodingly, contextualized forms do not dissappear when other more abstract are added, but they co-exist in the apprentices’ discourse.

The lack of abstract concepts in discourses of elementary groups and its increasing use in higher educational groups suggests that activity of debate contributes to formation of concepts on the basis of anecdotal cases. In fact, it is possible to observe an increasing evolution according to educational level of groups, from a lack of concepts or presence of experiential television approach in elementary levels to progressive use of a conceptual television approach more significant in higher educational levels. In the Elementary Level, television is observed through more evident pieces such as television programmes. This picture is fragmented and shows a contextualized mental representation of television. On the other hand, a more abstract concept of television is linked to argumentative and rhetorical functions of language and to speech orientation towards educational addressee as we’ll show further on distinguishing types of speech genres.

In relation with speech tone, the most significant data are referred to ordinary and rhetoric tone.
Ordinary tone is very much used in all of the groups of study (around 70%), except in advanced level in which its use is lower (around 50%). The results about rhetorical tone show a increasing trend according to educational level. From a theoretical point of view, use of this speech tone is linked to a higher knowledge and mastery of educational contexts and its typical tools for activity of debate in these contexts.

Addresee’ picture is a significative variable to reveal apprentices’ setting mastery and their setting pictures. In this way, it has been identified three types of addresee. On the one hand, we have observed utterances focused on actors of educational community such as apprentices and teachers.

This type of addresee shows a concrete and specific nature and is closely linked to school activity in course (debate). On the other hand, educational addresee has an institutional kind such as classroom or school. Finally, social addresee points out groups of social life such as parents, neighbours, andalusian citizcens, etc. This addresee shows apprentices’ social identity through different social languages.

In relation to addresee, the results show a significant presence of social addresee in groups belonging to elementary level, decreasing obviously in intermediate and advanced level. In these groups of higher educational leve, the most of utterances are focused on educational addresees, either through concrete agents of educational community or through school as institution.

The results related to speech tone and speech addresee point out the same line proposed by Ramírez (1995), who distinguished between protoargumentative speech and argumentative speech as typical modes of discourses in the educational processes of decontextualization of language. In our study, protoargumentative utterances are more characteristics of elementary and post-elementary levels. In these groups, utterances usually focus on social addresees and show a everyday tone based on anecdotes. Argumentative utterantes are more frequent in the higher educational levels. These modes of discourse are usually based on concepts and applied to educational addresees, defining this context of activity as an educational activity.
The statistical constrast by means of chi-square test shows that the main differences observed among the groups in relation to speech features are statistically significant, what indicates its suitability to characterize types of utterances. The following chart shows the results obtained for each variable.




c2 Value




Degrees of Freedom




Significance c2

P £ 0.001

p £ 0.001

P £ 0.001

Chart 1. Value c2 (chi-square) and significance for the categories of speech structure,speech tone and type of addresee.

4.1. Classroom speech genres
Starting from stable inner relationships among categories, it has been reduced the variability of utterances to ten types of them, which are typical discoursive genres in activity of school debate.
Some of these types of utterances such as referenctial argumentative or conceptual argumentative are characterized by educational addresee and rhetorical tone. Other types of utterances seem characterize the inner dynamic of a debate: joker, polemicist, functional or colloquial. The main feature of these utterances is the kind of speech tone used. Besides, every one of them has an specific function in a debate. More precisely, functional and colloquial discoursive genres are deliberately neutral in relation to speech tone and structure and their use are linked to regulatory function in course of debate.
Furthermore, other types of utterances show social identities, since they are characterized by social addresee and ordinary tone based on anecdotes; a kind of them is everyday-daily. Their use implies to privilege typical ways of discoursive actions in significant social settings, out of school.

In relation with speech genres identified, the basic differences among groups are observed in the frequency of use of everyday-daily, context situated, referenctial argumentative and conceptual argumentative, drawing two opposite tendency. In the following graph, we can see the increasing presence of argumentative discourses according to schooling level. On the other hand, others speech genres more expressive of everyday culture such as everyday-daily and context situated are more typical discourses in the elementary levels. The chi-square test has allowed us to prove that verified differences among groups are statistically significant.

Some concluding remarks
Regarding the results of research, we have proved that discourse, both style and structure are main features of educational discourses. Starting from these features, we have observed a great variety of speech genres in Adult Education context, showing thus a heterogeneous and diversificated discourse profile. Besides, we have verified that there is a close relationship between the types of discourses used by apprentices and their setting pictures (mental representation). More specifically, it has been explored how the apprentices adjust their discourses according to their pictures of setting. Furthermore, the outcomes also point out that there are different pictures of television, which can be explained depending on principle of descontextualization of cultural tools. A television abstract picture have arisen together with argumentative and rhetoric functions of discourse, revealing concepts and events which are specifically propitiated by this cultural instrument.
In a more comprehensive sense, application of sociocultural theory to study television allows us its analysis as cultural tool, proving different pictures of television according to degree of abstraction of language used by apprentices. The more abstract approach to television is characteristic of argumentative speech genres, which reveal concepts and events promoted by television such as reality-fiction dialectics, television genres, programme planning, and so on.
Besides, we have verified the relationship between mediated action and sociocultural settings through links between setting pictures and speech structures used by apprentices to analize television, proving a close connection among educational addresee, argumentative speech genres and abstract approach to television. In the opposite, it is observed a close relationship between social addresee (related social identities) and everyday speech based on a contextualized and natural approach to television.
In summary, the results of this sociocultural study support two research and development outlines about teaching media. On the one hand, it is necessary to develop researches that lay the foundations of study about teaching-learning processes mediated by cultural tools and, on the other hand, design and application of educational media based on contributions of sociocultural theory. Starting from this work, other new educational aspects can be considered in sociocultural studies, since different constructs proposed by this theoretical approach can be useful to characterize the teaching-learning processes; some of thes outlines may be to study how certain television programmes are reconstructed by apprentices in activities of school debate, or how they solve problems using a kit cultural tools proposed by educational settings.


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KOZULIN, A. (1990): Vygotsky’s Psychology. A biograpgy of ideas. Harvard University Press. (Trad. cast.: La Psicología de Vygotski. Madrid, Alianza editorial, 1994).

RAMÍREZ, J.D. (1995): Usos de la palabra y sus tecnologías. Una aproximación dialógica al estudio de la alfabetización. Buenos Aires, Miño y Dávila.

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La televisión en los discursos escolares: un estudio empírico
Partiendo de las aportaciones de la teoría sociocultural en torno a la mediación semiótica, esta comunicación presenta un estudio empírico, cuyo objeto ha sido explorar las formas de mediación de la televisión en la construcción del discurso escolar en el ámbito de la Educación de Personas Adultas. Esta teoría aporta elementos conceptuales para la comprensión del vínculo entre escenario sociocultural y acción mediada (Wertsch, 1993), así como para el análisis genético de los discursos grupales. Las consideraciones teóricas en torno a las dimensiones caracterizadoras del enunciado como unidad de acción mediada abren el camino para la contrastación empírica de las características específicas del discurso educativo.
En concreto, los principales objetivos de este estudio son conocer los rasgos del discurso escolar e identificar géneros discursivos propios de la escolarización formal. Además, otro área de interés es descubrir las formas en que se proyecta la televisión y el contexto en los discursos de los alumnos, permitiendo explorar hasta qué punto los contextos escolares apoyan la apropiación de este instrumento cultural desde una vertiente abstracta. El diseño de investigación se ha concretado en la aplicación de la técnica de grupos de discusión sobre cuatro casos, seleccionados en función del nivel de alfabetización.
Respecto a los resultados, se ha constatado que el estilo y estructura discursiva son las principales dimensiones caracterizadoras del discurso escolar. A partir de estas dimensiones, se ha observado la existencia de una gran diversidad de discursos que configura el contexto escolar de la Educación de Personas Adultas, mostrando un perfil heterogéneo y diversificado.
Además, se ha observado una estrecha relación entre los tipos de discurso que emplean los sujetos y la imagen que éstos tienen del contexto; de tal modo que se observa la adaptación del lenguaje empleado en función de esta imagen. Asimismo, se han constatado diferentes formas de uso o aproximación a la televisión en función del grado de descontextualización empleado.
La aproximación más abstracta a este medio se asocia a funciones argumentativas y retóricas del lenguaje, revelando conceptos y fenómenos propiciados específicamente por este medio.

1 This study has been carried out in the sine of the Educational Research, Evaluation and Technology Group. A synthesis of the basic research outlines in this group can be consulted in:

Catálogo: eventos -> br2000 -> trabs
trabs -> El sujeto y la subjetividad : algunos dem los dilemas actuales de su estudio
trabs -> Identidad e historia constituyen los núcleos básicos a partir de los cuales pretendo mostrar en esta categoría, cómo los profesores universitarios van creando formas de representación particulares en cuanto a la profesión que desempeñan
trabs -> Piaget y Vigotsky en la perspectiva de las relaciones entre comprensión y explicación
trabs -> La comunicación : su papel en los procesos de socialización y aprendizaje en la institución escolar
trabs -> Developing exploratory talk and collective reasoning among mexican primary school children
trabs -> Título: Evaluación del impacto comunitario de una actividad
trabs -> Produccion y consumo de herramientas culturales en una clase de fisica en un colegio secundario

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