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The seminal work on discourse analysis was carried out in classrooms and it is from this that an understanding of structure of the exchanges that make up spoken discourse is drawn Sinclair and Couithaerd 1975 identified three levels of discourse the exchange a turn-taking interactional sequence the move or contribution of a participant to the exchange in a turn and the act identifiable within the move and playing a specific linguistic function such as questioning or instructing The three-part exchange teacher initiation student response teacher feedback IRF was proposed as the basic unit of classroom interaction since referred to by Lemke 19851990 as dialogue Mehan 1988 p121 describes what are arguably features of classroom speech genre The instructional phase is composed of characteristic interactional sequences This exchange of academic information in interactional units is called elicitation sequences These units are interactional in that they are a joint production of teacher and student they are sequential in that they occur one after the other in interaction These sequences have three interconnected parts an initiation act a reply act and evaluation act Students and teachers share an understanding of the social situation in terms of appropriate discourse and accompanying behaviour ie teachers and students come together in classrooms knowing that certain types of interaction - including the IRF sequence - are appropriate in the situation and it is their role to participate using the register of the classroom The IRF sequence is generally equated with exchanges where the teacher is responsible for the initiation of interaction with the aim of eliciting information and the exchange is continued possibly though extended sequences until the raply called for is obtained Mehan 1988 p127 However IRF sequences can be initiated by students and it can be argued that at tertiary level this is both acceptable and desirable in tutorial situations as described earlier in this chapter Newman et al 1989 p127 describe the IRF
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