Mathison J: The Inner Life of Words: an investigation into language in learning and teaching.
PhD thesis, Department of Educational Studies, University of Surrey., 2004.
Abstract: This is a qualitative inquiry into the possible relationships between language and thought for teachers and learners. This research has as its central focus some questions about the dynamic nature of language. These were 'what is the role of language in the formation of conceptual structures', 'what light might an inquiry into this subject throw on the processes of teaching and learning' and 'what kind of method could best be used to illuminate such questions?'
The thesis uses Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) as a method for inquiring into people's deeply subjective experience, especially for modelling those experiences.
The methodology was both action research and phenomenology, inquiring into people's deep subjective experiences. There were two phases to this project; the first consisted of my own interviews of six people who had attended a course I had taught in Riyadh in 2000. Both phases paid attention to what in NLP terms, are called internal representations. I explored their responses to a number of language structures in interviews, which aimed to elicit some deep introspections from the learners. The second phase was the analysis of transcripts of six more interviews carried out by two collaborators, where I track changes in people's constructs of learning, and themselves as learners.
The interview data is used to develop working hypotheses about the relationships between language and thought. These involve proposing that language transmits messages about how information is to be decoded, as well as content. A key finding appears to be a number of basic epistemological processes that are mediated through language, and which play a role in the construction of knowledge. The study offers models that describe the interactions of language and mental constructs, and lists some basic epistemological processes.
Practical implications of the study concern teachers' awareness the power of language, and the potential need for the training of teachers to address the interplay between language, thought and learning.