Monash University

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Topic extension in discussions among learners of English in Vietnam

posted on 2017-02-27, 01:07 authored by Tran, Huong Quynh
The last 20 years have witnessed a growing number of Conversation Analysis (CA)-grounded studies in second language (L2) classroom contexts. The literature of L2 classroom interaction and learning has highlighted not only the need for the explication of classroom interaction from socially and contextually oriented CA perspectives but also the necessity for extending the research contexts to a wide range of learners with diverse backgrounds. As teacher-fronted classrooms have been gradually replaced by group-work, the analytic focus needs to move to interaction among learners. However, little research has focused on the micro-analyses of student-student interactions in pairs and groups through an investigation of sequence organisation and turn-taking. Situated in an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) university education in Vietnam, this study explored how topic extension was achieved in pair and group discussion tasks among Vietnamese language learners of English in naturally occurring English classes. Integrating the use of CA, in terms of both research findings and methodology, this study explicated topic extension by drawing on the three concepts of CA: namely turn-taking, sequence organisation and epistemic engine. The primary data source was the corpus of audio- and video-recordings of students’ interaction during discussion tasks in classroom contexts. The participants were 24 participants in two English levels of proficiency, pre-intermediate and upper-intermediate. The analysis was conducted through a data-driven approach, using instances of students’ interaction in discussion tasks to uncover the patterns and features of topic extension from their embedded contexts. The findings of the study showed that the students in both levels of English tended to use task-guided questions to co-construct the first pair part of an adjacency pair to extend the topic in discussion tasks. The topic extension was achieved by a series of questions and answers so that the adjacency pair structure was at the heart of the sequence organisation for topic extension. The levels of adherence to the questions were varied according to English proficiency, ranging from the strict adherence to the task-guided questions leading to communication problems and to different types of adaptation of the question prompts. The study showed that follow-up questions were used to extend the topic in discussion tasks. Along with the analysis of task-guided questions and follow-up questions for topic extension, the occurrence of gaps between turns in sequence and receipt tokens was varied, owing to types of questions and language proficiency. The findings showed that the topic extension was achieved through the extension of response turns with diverse features such as repetition, opinion-reason patterns, word-searches and turn-sharing to either the task-guided questions or the follow-up questions. The analysis also highlighted the contribution of the students’ background knowledge and shared domains of knowledge to topic extension. Through the exploration of topic extension in this situated context, the study argues that topic retains its crucial role in L2 speaking classes, particularly in discussion tasks. This study has provided an insight into student-student interaction competence and fills a gap in the body of CA knowledge in L2 classroom contexts.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Anna Filipi

Additional supervisor 1

Miriam Faine

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education