Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, Vol 9, No 1 (2012)

Understanding metalinguistic development in beginning writers: A functional perspective

Honglin Chen, Pauline Jones
Issued Date: 30 Dec 2013


Internationally, English curricula increasingly emphasize the explicit teaching of knowledge about language. This paper reports on a small pilot study of an ongoing project investigating the relationship between explicit teaching about language and its uptake by students. Drawing on the underpinnings of Vygotskian sociocultural theory and Hallidayan systemic functional linguistics, this paper presents an interdisciplinary approach to the analysis of development in students’ metalinguistic understanding. The approach recognizes the centrality of the expert’s mediation via classroom interaction involving data drawn from observations of lessons, interviews and writing conversations with students. The findings demonstrate some of the complexity involved in learning a grammatical concept: that is, in recognizing, acquiring and applying metalinguistic knowledge to the task of becoming increasingly literate. The paper argues that the purpose of teaching metalinguistic knowledge should be to support learners to become confident and successful users of language. Our findings also make some important suggestions for pedagogic practice with respect to teaching knowledge about language to young learners.

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DOI: 10.1558/japl.v9i1.81


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