12 June 2012
Applications of Nexus Analysis to Investigating Educational Policy and Practice
The hallmark of educational linguistics is its problem-centered approach to issues in language (in) education (Hornberger, 2001; Hult, 2008). These practical problems or issues are often complex in nature, mediated by a confluence of factors from individual to sociopolitical scales and everything in between—all interconnected (Hult, 2010a; Larsen-Freeman & Cameron, 2008). A related methodological challenge, then, is balancing attention to what Halliday (2007) refers to ‘synoptic and dynamic perspectives,’ in essence attending to our objects of study as they appear in real time (synoptic) while also taking into account how they are articulated as part of larger systems (dynamic). For instance, how can we understand a particular conversational exchange between a student and a teacher in a classroom in interactional terms while also determining how this exchange is mediated by larger scale factors such as the life trajectories of the individuals involved and/or the curricula and policies in place? This workshop presented nexus analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004) as a meta-methodology for addressing these kinds of issues in educational linguistic research. Drawing upon his own work (e.g., Hult, 2010b, 2012) as well as the work of others who have employed this approach (e.g., Compton, 2010; Lane, 2010, Pietikäinen, 2010), he demonstrated how principles of nexus analysis serve to tease out relevant factors in complex educational problems and, in turn, aid in tracing how those factors are influenced by discursive processes on other scales.
Nexus analysis combines elements of critical discourse analysis, ethnography of communication, and interactional sociolinguistics yet it is more than the sum of these parts, offering a novel and holistic empirical perspective that is ideally suited for addressing multidimensional research questions. In the workshop, he focused particularly on (a) key concepts of nexus analysis and their relevance for educational linguistics, (b) ways in which nexus analysis can guide critical thinking about data collection and analysis, and (c) practical benefits and challenges of applying nexus analysis. During interactive discussions, participants had the opportunity to experiment conceptually with the potential application of nexus analysis to their own current research.
Compton, S. (2010). Implementing language policy for Deaf students from Spanish-speaking homes: The case of agents in a Texas school district. Master’s thesis. University of Texas at San Antonio.
Halliday, M. A. K. (2007). On the concept of “educational linguistics.” In J.J. Webster (ed.), The collected works of M.A.K. Halliday, volume 9: Language and education. London: Continuum.
Hornberger, N. H. (2001). Educational linguistics as a field: A view from Penn’s program on the occasion of its 25th anniversary. Working Papers in Educational Linguistics, 17(1-2), 1-26.
Hult, F. M. (2008). The history and development of educational linguistics. In B. Spolsky & F. M. Hult (eds.), The handbook of educational linguistics (pp. 10-24). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Hult, F. M. (2010a). Theme-based research in the transdisciplinary field of educational linguistics. In F. M. Hult (ed.), Directions and prospects for educational linguistics (pp. 19-32). New York: Springer.
Hult, F. M. (2010b). Analysis of language policy discourses across the scales of space and time. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 202, 7-24.
Hult, F. M. (2012). English as a transcultural language in Swedish policy and practice. TESOL Quarterly, 46(2), 230-257.
Lane, P. (2010). “We did what we thought was best for our children”: a nexus analysis of language shift in a Kven community. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 202, 63-78.
Larsen-Freeman, D. & Cameron, L. (2008). Complex systems and applied linguistics. New York: Oxford University Press.
Pietikäinen, S. (2010). Sámi language mobility: scales and discourses of multilingualism in a polycentric environment. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 202, 79-101.
Scollon, R. And Scollon, S.W. (2004) Nexus analysis: discourse and the emerging internet. London: Routledge