Mediating the Lions of Postmodernism: An Efl Field Application of Vygotsky, Bourdieu, and Derrida

Andrew Buhr


Many ESL/EFL teachers see a need for learners to engage with English both as linguistic structure, and as a means
of social interaction. Therefore, this research project developed a simple material that would foreground structure
within relevant social contexts. It explored how to facilitate the social construction of meaning for a target segment
of text within the socio-cultural frameworks of postmodern theorists Vygotsky (1978), Bourdieu (1977, 1984), and
Derrida (1973, 1976). The widespread need for the combination of both structure and social context formed the
problem, and the solution presented was an everyday 3x5” study card (C-card) with a sentence written on the front,
and a target word from the sentence elaborated upon on the back. This artifact was tested for its ability to facilitate
dialogue, or mediate, between a student and a professor (a novice/expert diad). The research question posed was:
Does the C-card support a topic dialogue between a novice and an expert in a second language? This question was
investigated from both a quantitative and a qualitative perspective using a Likert-scaled questionnaire, interviews,
participant and non-participant observations. The results suggested that the C-card provides support for on-topic
dialogue between a novice and an expert in L2. These findings have implications for the teaching of academic
materials, which are normally out of a true social context. Applications include English for Specific Purposes (ESP),
collaborative and communicative activities, and even community building within the field of activity theory.

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