Developing communicative competence through participation in an international teaching assistant program
This dissertation presents an ethnographic case study of a semester-long international teaching assistant (ITA) course. Data and analysis are based on participant observations and video-recorded presentations of ITAs, focusing on their developing their communicative competence. The author uses the framework of ethnography of communication (Hymes, 1972) and the notion of communicative competence (Hymes, 1972; Savignon, 2002) to examine what skills students were expected to develop in the program, how they developed grammatical and sociocultural competence and how they negotiated competence, identities, and power relations in the ITA Program as they perform their oral presentations. Findings suggest that while the division of communicative competence into four components is a useful heuristic for second language educators (Canale & Swain, 1980), it proves problematic when one uses it as an analytical tool, since the intertwined nature of language competence is constantly complicating any attempt to interpret communication in discrete categories. The findings also show that communicative competence for ITAs is wrapped up with what counts as good teaching, or at least organizing a good presentation or lecture, and this may vary by department or discipline.