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Native peers as mediators and experts in language learning in Higher Education

Suvi Kotkavuori EMAIL logo , Kaisa Hahl and Raili Hilden

Abstract

This qualitative study explores how native peers as teaching assistants can support language learning in Higher Education. The data of five semi-structured group interviews of 15 teaching assistants in total were analysed thematically. The results indicate that the assistants embraced multiple roles during the programme and within the lessons. However, in the role of a peer student who collaborated on an equal level with the learners, they could best facilitate learning and communication. As native speakers, they complemented the teacher’s expertise by their regional and up-to-date cultural and linguistic knowledge. This article supports a wide view of mediation adopted by the CEFR Companion Volume and focuses on its two mediation activities. The so-called didactic triangle was used to illustrate how native peers mediated between the teacher, the student and the subject to facilitate the language learning process. The assistants acted as mediators in different ways, interculturally and pedagogically. Nevertheless, a few assistants experienced challenges when assisting at lower CEFR levels. Thus, it is essential to discuss roles and expectations as well as the process together with the teachers, the students and the assistants.


Corresponding author: Suvi Kotkavuori, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, E-mail:

Appendix

Course assistant programme (CAP) – group interview with the assistants

  1. How did you get involved with CAP? Did you have any particular reasons that made you to apply for it?

  2. How was it to be an authentic element in the class? (finding your place)

  3. Which of the following roles do you recognize having in the language classes:

    1. the teacher’s assistant,

    2. the students’ tutor/adviser,

    3. a peer student?

    4. any other?

  4. The triangle below is often used to define the relation between the three components in a class: the student, the teacher and the subject. Where in the triangle would you place yourself? How would you describe your relationship with

    1. the students

    2. the teacher(s)

    3. the subject

    … and how did these different relations evolve during the process?

  5. Your activities (see logbook) in the class were many: helping in pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, listening & written comprehension, spoken and written communication, bringing cultural information:

    1. Were there situations in the above-mentioned areas where the teacher turned to ask your advice/opinion? Could you give an example? How often did it happen?

    2. Were there situations in the above-mentioned areas where the students turned to ask your help? Could you give an example? How often did it happen?

    3. Did you get a chance to give your ideas and put them into practice? Any examples?

    4. Did some of the above-mentioned activities happen out-of-classroom? Or without the teacher?

  1. Looking back at the CAP experience, how would you evaluate its importance to the language course? In other words, what would have missed from the teaching–studying–learning process if you were not there?

  2. Is there something you would do differently? Is there something you think that the teachers should consider better?

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Received: 2021-06-23
Accepted: 2021-10-01
Published Online: 2022-06-09
Published in Print: 2022-05-25

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

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