Undergraduate student identities and their manifestation in the genre practices of classroom presentations

  • Robert James Gray

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


Abstract Despite its importance to learning and assessment across the academy, the L2 undergraduate classroom presentation has received less research attention than other academic genres. In particular, the use of multiple modes of communication within classroom presentations, and the micro-genesis of student identities which occurs through such actions have received minimal research attention. Focussing on psychology undergraduates at a Turkish university, this thesis seeks to understand how engagement in the multimodal genre practices of classroom presentations produces the identities of student participants. To this end, the theoretical framework draws on a diverse yet complementary set of theoretical and methodological resources; principally, Multimodal Interaction Analysis (Norris, 2011), genre theory (Swales, 1990, 2004), Appraisal (Martin & White, 2005) and Positioning (Davies & Harré, 1990; Kayı-Aydar, 2019). Following an extensive review of literature, ethnographic and discourse-analytical data was collected from ten participants in an English for psychology class over three months in 2017 via audio-recorded in-depth interviews, video observations of presentations, classroom observations and documents. After initial transcription, during which the generic structure of the presentations was mapped, the contributions of eight participants were selected for analysis. Fifty-one key excerpts from these presentations were sampled and transcribed across seven modes of communicative action using ELAN 5.1 (2018) transcription software. The presentation and interview data were interpreted via a combination of genre and thematic analysis, and illustrative extracts were selected to support the claims made. Student identity was predominantly produced by self-positionings taken around overlapping core and peripheral aspects manifested through the genre practices of classroom presentations and interviews. The presentation genre consisted of four main sections, each of which included several moves/steps which shaped but did not determine the positioning of students during their performances. The central role of spoken language in performing moves in the genre was modified by actions in other modes. The major novel contribution of this thesis is its development of the metaphor of alignment to describe the continuous process by which participants produced the core aspects of their student identities at different levels of awareness and effectiveness through the multimodal practices of the classroom presentation genre. Another significant finding is the lack of involvement with peers that characterised many of the talks. The discussion highlights and defends the framing of student identity developed in this thesis in the light of to previous studies. Recommendations for the local context include the deeper embedding of Prep School and ESP classes into faculty courses, an increased focus on the development of speaking skills and training on multimodal communication for presentations. Finally, a genre-based approach to instruction which integrates student identity and multimodality into presentation instruction is described, and I indicate possible directions for future research based on the findings from this study.
Date of Award17 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorTrevor Grimshaw (Supervisor), Gail Forey (Supervisor) & Jim Mckinley (Supervisor)


  • undergraduates
  • English learners
  • presentations
  • genre
  • identity
  • Multimodality
  • Turkey

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