SOAS University of London

Department of Linguistics, School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics

Gender and Linguistic Fieldwork Abstract

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ in Polish ELT: gaining insights from within the classroom
Łukasz Pakuła, University of Poznań

This talk will report on an extensive fieldwork carried out in Polish state-run schools. The data we draw on were collected in the course of a British Council-funded project entitled “Investigating Gender and Sexuality in the ESL classroom: Raising publishers', teachers' and students' awareness” and comprise audio-recorded EFL classroom interactions, focus groups with teachers and students as well as in-depth interviews with Ministry of Education reviewers.

In this talk, we demonstrate how gender matters in a fieldworker’s professional experience in the present-day Poland. Here, we pay attention to the socio-political climate and ‘moral panics’ (Cohen 1972) surrounding the “ideology of gender” (P. ideologia gender) (see Pawelczyk and Pakuła 2015) and their impact on research opportunities/possibilities. We also aim to show gender dynamics within a classroom setting and how gender (and sexuality) is made relevant during classroom practices as well as during extra-curricular ‘educational chitchat’ (Pawelczyk and Pakuła 2015). Further insight into how gender matters in the Polish EFL classroom is offered via focus groups that served to uncover students’ and teachers’ perspectives. Finally, gender-related language policies are accessed through in-depth interviews with Ministry of Education reviewers. In order to analyse the gathered data, we utilise methods and insights of (feminist) critical discourse analysis (Lazar 2014) critical pedagogies (Norton and Toohey eds. 2004; Monchinski 2008) and queer linguistics (Motschenbacher 2011; Nelson 2007, 2009). We intend to point to the importance of ‘gender’ as a crucial concept in fieldwork and how this fact is linguistically manifested in the studied contexts. The analyses also show how categorization of women and men in essentialist ways -- during classroom exchanges -- is commonly drawn on in various aspects of teaching EFL in Poland. In this way EFL teachers close down discussion of gender and sexual diversity and instead impose dominant categories of femininity and masculinity as well as promote heteronormativity and, potentially, sexism and heterosexism (Queen 2006).

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