Dialogic authorial academic language learning: An alternative to genre pedagogy

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This paper reenvisions academic language learning in the university from a dialogic authorial perspective inspired by the work of Bakhtin. I argue that language pedagogues have misappropriated the radical alternative Bakhtin poses for language learning in his critique of genre through adopting a Vygotskyian internalization approach to discourse and a post-structuralist interpretation of Bakhtinian dialogic discourse as intertextuality. I explore how genre pedagogy has adopted these misunderstandings of Bakhtin to prioritize students’ and scholars’ socialization within pre-existing, commonly accepted, shared, authoritative patterns of discourse. I claim that genre pedagogy tends to legitimize the practice of university writing curricula to postpone students’ engagement in meaning making, focusing on training over education. I explore the consequence of this prioritization on socialization and training in form for suppressing students’ dialogic addressivity to and problematization of the ideas of others, which is an essential for meaningful academic discourse. By contrast, a dialogic authorial approach to language learning prioritizes education through students’ and scholars’ ontological engagement in posing problems and authoring meaning in communion with others. The expectation is for language forms to become a necessary byproduct of the production of utterances that are meaningful to oneself and responsive to others. When focused on meaning, academic language forms become invisible except when there are challenges with intelligibility or modality. I argue for a radical rethinking of university language learning curricula in terms of a focus on voice and the “stylistics” of form to serve meaning making.

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Dialogic Pedagogy

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