Bernstein’s Classification and framing: Towards students’ affectivity in a Chinese as Foreign Language classroom

Year: 2019

Author: Xu, Wen, Zammit, Katina

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In spite of policy and educational discourses underpinning “Asia literate”, Chinese teaching and learning is a fragile undertaking across all phases of Australian schooling and the drop-out rate of non-Chinese background school learners is as high as 94% before Year 10. An extensive range of literature has pointed out that the current curriculum and pedagogy in Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL) education disengage many learners. In addition, the theorization of students’ affectivity in the operation of power and control relations is not fully articulated and developed in Bernstein’s theoretical work. This paper juxtaposes these two themes by adopting Bernstein’s conceptualization of classification and framing and Fair Go Project’s (FGP) high affective learning experiences in the insider classroom as theoretical frameworks. Classification is a concept of power relations, which investigates boundaries of knowledge; framing is a concept of control relations, which analyses the pedagogic relations between teacher and students. High affective learning experiences indicate students’ positive feelings about CFL learning, the teacher and peers. This hybrid theoretical framework aims to outline the affective dimensions of pedagogical practices in a Year 5/6 Chinese language learning classroom in a low SES Australian primary school.

Data sources included teacher-researcher’s lesson plans, journal entries and students’ focus groups. Firstly, lessons were segmented into phases according to Gregory’s phase theory, and codes of classification and framing were plotted each phase to unpack the power and control relations in the classroom practices, by analysing lesson plans and journal entries. Secondly, students’ description of their emotional engagement and interests in CFL learning were analysed, drawing upon the FGP’s high affective learning experiences. It was found that a collection type of curriculum piqued students’ interest and curiosity and brought them more exposure to the outside world. The classroom practices featured by flexible pedagogical relationships helped build rapport and strengthen the emotional interactions between the teacher and students, students and students, which yielded the positive educational output. This article tentatively concludes that a pedagogical model with a strong classification and fluctuating framing in CFL lessons was most likely to afford low SES students a sense of wonder and refresh their feelings about Chinese learning. The results may contribute to apprenticing teachers into the structuring of their pedagogical communication so as to improve students’ interest and retention rates in CFL education.