Focus Groups Discussion as a Perfect Fit for Ecological Research Applied to Get an Insight into Critical Language Awareness of L2 Users
Extending Research Horizons in Applied Linguistics - Between Interdisciplinarity and Methodological Diversity - Hadrian Aleksander Lankiewicz
Hadrian Aleksander Lankiewicz [+]
University of Gdańsk
Language research of the so-called discursive turn has incorporated the analysis of human narratives as a legitimate narrative knowledge (Jameson, 1984: xix) pertaining to the way of data collection, data itself and a method of data analysis. Hence, the methodology of social sciences and humanities postulates the notion of the “narrative turn” (De Fina, 2009). Yet much of narrative based research is still executed according to structural tenets, e.g. a remarkable body of conversational analysis. The assumption of human agency and activity, typical for the “post perspective” necessitates knowledge building paradigm to de-vest the researcher from his/her centrality and scientism requiring the application of recognized scientific methods informed by normativity and the rigor of Occham’s razor parsimony. Additionally, face validity of any research entails the need to account for the dynamic nature of phenomena to integrate the observer and the observed. To counteract the indeterminacy principle, it is important to approach any problem via participatory action research. One type of research methodology promoting active experimentation is focal research groups based on discussions and interaction among selected individuals moderated by the researcher. The role of a researcher as a “facilitator” or “moderator” makes this method markedly different from traditional interviews and allows obtaining data different form traditional one-to-one interviews, even if one applies the technique of open questions. This method or technique, as it is inconsistently referred to, has been known since the 1940’s in sociology or psychology but has become very popular across other disciplines such as education, communication and media studies, feminist research, health research and marketing research (cf. Nyumba, Wilson, Derrick, & Mukherjee, 2018: 21). The rationale for this methodology is very much compatible with ecolinguistic research to account for the phenomenological orientation of any research endeavor since, as Kramsch (2002) metaphorically puts it, it is impossible “to tell the dancer from the dance”. Such an approach helps maintain ecological validity and postulates an inherently critical/ethical stance towards doing academic research (van Lier, 2004: 168). We apply it into the study of critical language awareness of L2 users with regard to the notion of legitimization of translingual processes of bi- and multilingual language users and resulting from it empowerment of the L2 user (Lankiewicz et al. 2016). The application of qualitative data analysis techniques, such as discourse analysis (Potter & Wetherell, 1987), content and ethnographic analytic techniques (Morgan, 1988) as well as critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995), offers invaluable insights into critical language awareness of L2 users. The findings highlight a very (inter)subjective and dynamic nature of the method and its data analysis techniques. The chapter ultimately presents an array of methodological advantages derived from the application of this methodology to this kind of research. It, among others, underscores a non-reductionist way of data collection and their analysis and, on the other hand, helps to delve into language awareness of L2 users, envisioned as an attitudinal and perceptional continuum in which the linguistically uncritical mind believes that language is a structurally fixed monolith, geographically defined, communicatively neutral and unambiguous as well as normatively unequivocal. Alternatively, the critical mind presupposes that language is unfinalizable, transformative in nature and perceives it more as a way of an activity, i.e. posits languaging in the place of language.