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Norms and accountability in a refugee classroom

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Spencer Hazel


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Language classroom participation involves participants producing socially acceptable and appropriate behaviour according to the normative expectancies pertaining to the social event. However, although participants are socialized from an early age into classroom participation practices, these are not necessarily uniform. Especially in cases where participants come from diverse sociocultural backgrounds, there may be no single set of norms of conduct to invoke. Instead participants are negotiating the rules of engagement in situ. Because of this diversity of expectations to normative conduct, some participants may experience particular conduct as deviating from what they consider a ‘natural order of things’. Consequently, deviations from this natural order are seen by participants as breaches of this orderliness. Such breaches attract attention, and they necessitate more than an accounting for them, including mitigating conduct and explicit apologies. Moreover, this may engender anxiety for the breaching participant, attract moral and psychological evaluations, and may threaten a breacher’s status in the group.Drawing on audio and video recordings of classroom interactions in a Danish language school, this paper focuses on the moral accountability of classroom participation in this particular type of language classroom. The students are recent refugees, mostly Syrian, who are participating in a ‘Danish at Work’ project with the explicit double aims of teaching the students Danish and socialising them into Danish workplace norms. This dual focus in the classroom entails negotiation not just of norms for language classroom participation, but also norms for participation in Danish workplaces.The analysis concerns episodes where participants display an orientation to some or other transgression of the situated norms of the classroom. In particular, we consider cases where classroom participants, including teachers, deal with the conduct of students as moral-implicative transgressions. In doing this, we investigate how students, while learning the Danish language, are also socialized into particular norms for social conduct both for the classroom context and in the wider societal context, and moreover, how teachers orient to the students as requiring this form of instruction into moral conduct. Theoretically, the paper explores what the notion of moral accountability can bring to the sociolinguistic theorising of norms.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hazel S, Lønsmann D

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Sociolinguistics Symposium 22

Year of Conference: 2018

Online publication date: 27/06/2018

Acceptance date: 09/11/2017