Spatializing English-literacy classrooms and third-space possibility: Classroom analyses based on teacher-student power relationships within a Korean secondary-school context
Lee, Su Jin
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This multiple case study investigated the power relationships between teachers and students in three 10 th grade English classrooms organized by differing ability levels within a Korean secondary school, the impact of these relationships on teaching methodology, and the students' related English-literacy activities inside and outside of the classrooms. The study addressed three primary research questions: (a) What is the nature of the power relationships between Korean teachers and their students in three English language classes that focus on reading and writing development? (b) How do the students adapt and adjust to the instruction inside and outside of these classrooms? (c) With regard to these power relationships between the teachers and students, what situations do the adults and young people consider as helpful in creating the best teaching and learning environment? Major data sources were interviews, observations, and teaching-and-learning artifacts from participating English teachers and their students. Within-and cross-case analyses revealed that, based on the teachers' and students' existing power relationships in the classrooms, each class was divided into Teacher Space (the part of the literacy lesson in which the teachers' overt power is recognizable), Teacher-Student space (the part of the literacy lesson in which the teachers' and students' shared power is apparent), and Student Space (an unofficial, hidden, covert, and invisible space in which students exercise their power in various ways). All three examined classrooms exhibited the teachers' traditional use of authority (Teacher Space), which reduced students' involvement in learning in some way. Moreover, traditional patterns of communication in Korean education limited authentic interaction during English lessons; these customs often caused an absence of understanding between the teachers and students, thereby creating and occasionally increasing complaints against the other party. Based on these findings, I suggest the importance of educators in Korea learning to construct a Third Space in English literacy classrooms--a unique learning place, built on mutual trust, co-constructed by the teacher and the student through authentic dialogue that allows the greatest possible achievement for all parties who assume ownership of the classroom environment.