Category building of international students as language learners in two secondary schools


  • Anna Filipi Monash University, Australia



Membership Categorisation Analysis, identity, English language learning, international students


This paper reports on a small scale study of category building in the context of English language learning. The data for the current study is derived from the interviews with two students, one from China and the other from Mongolia, in two schools in Melbourne. The study uses Membership Categorization Analysis to give an account of identity by examining how categories of English language learner emerge and shift during the course of the interviews. The categories established by the participants in the two interviews were constructed around different attributes belonging to the category of international student. These emerged as a series of categorical binaries including international student and local student, language competence and language deficit, mainstream English and English as an Additional Language (EAL), and home country and Australia. As the participants took part in the interview, they moved towards accounts that integrated multiple viewpoints resulting in dynamically shifting categorisations. Through these categories, it was also possible to show how students were invited to display their learning and knowledge of English, and to give accounts of their English language development.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biography

  • Anna Filipi, Monash University, Australia

    Anna Filipi is a senior lecturer at Monash University. She teaches in the Languages and TESOL programmes in the Faculty of Education. Her research interests include Conversation Analysis, interactional properties of first and second language acquisition and learning, early childhood interaction, classroom interaction, bilingualism, language assessment, and spatial discourse.


Australian Journal of Communication, (2013) 40(2),

Amuzie. G. L., & Winke. P. (2009). Changes in language learning beliefs as a result of study abroad. Michigan State University, Second Language Studies, Department of Linguistics and Languages, A-711 Wells Hall, MI 48824-1027, USA.

Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. H. (2002). Constructing discussion tasks in university tutorials: Shifting dynamics and identities. Discourse Studies, 4(4), 429-453.

Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. H. (2005). University students resisting academic identity. In K. Richards & P. Seedhouse (Eds.), Applying conversation analysis (pp. 124-139). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Benwell, B., & Stokoe, E. H. (2006). Discourse and identity.Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Birrell, B. & Healy, E. (2010). The February 2010 reforms and the International student industry. People and Place, 18(1), 65- 80.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Trans. R. Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bridges, S., & Emerald, E. (2013). Intersecting global and local: The intercultural and intersubjective constructions of “expatriate” and “local” teachers in the search for the “xfactor.” Pedagogies: An International Journal, 8(4), 316–335.

Carrell P.L., Gajdusek L., Wise T. (2001) Metacognition and EFL/ESL reading. In H. J. Hartman (Ed.), Metacognition in learning and instruction. Neuropsychology and cognition, vol. 19 (229-243). The Netherlands: Springer.

Chuang, M-S. K. (2017). Micro-analysing anatomy laboratory pedagogy. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Monash University.

Department of Education and Training (n.d.a). Retrieved from:

Department of Education and Training (n.d.b). Summary statistics Victorian Schools Flyer. Retrieved from:

Deppermann, A. (2013). Interview as text vs. interview as social interaction. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 14(3) art.13.

Dumendon, I. E., & English, R. (2013). Fish out of water: Refugee and international students in mainstream Australian schools. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 17(10), 1078-1088.

Filipi, A. (2009). Toddler and parent interaction: The organisation of gaze, pointing and vocalization. The Netherlands/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. NJ: Prentice Hall Inc.

Gee, J. P. (2000). Identity as an analytic lens for research in education. Review of Research in Education, 25(1), 99-125.

Geertz, C. (1973). The interpretation of cultures. London: Hutchinson.

Glenn, P. (2013. Interviewees volunteered laughter in employment interviews: A case of ‘nervous’ laughter?, In P. Glenn & E. Holt (Eds.), Studies of laughter in interaction (225-276). London, UK: Bloomsbury Academic.

Goh, C. (1997). Metacognitive awareness and second language listeners. ELT Journal, 51(4), 361-369.

Goh, C. (2010). Listening as process: Listening materials for self-appraisal and self-regulation. In N. Harwood (Ed.), English language teaching materials: Theory and practice (pp. 179-206). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Golato, A. (2005). Compliments and compliment responses: Grammatical structure and sequence organization. The Netherlands: John Benjamins.

Hall, S. (1987). ‘Minimal selves’ in identity: The real me. ICA Document 6. London: Institute for Contemporary Arts.

Hester, S., & Eglin, P. (1997). Culture in action: Studies in membership categorization analysis. Washington, D.C.: International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis & University Press of America.

Holliday, A. (2005). The struggle to teach English as an International Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Kasper, L. (1997). Assessing the metacognitive growth of ESL student writers. TESL-EJ: The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language, 3(1).

Lerner, G. H. (1996). On the “semi-permeable” character of grammatical units in conversation: Conditional entry into the turn space of another speaker. In E. Ochs, E. A. Schegloff, & S. A. Thompson (Eds.), Interaction and grammar (pp. 238–276). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Matthews, J., & Sidhu, R. (2005). Desperately seeking the global subject: International education, citizenship and cosmopolitanism. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 3(1), 49–66.

Ochs, E. (1993). Constructing social identity: A language socialization perspective. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 26(3), 287–306.

Penuel, W. R., & Wertsch, J. V. (1995). Vygotsky and identity formation: A sociocultural approach. Educational Psychologist, 30(2), 83–92.

Pomerantz, A. (1984). Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.), Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 152-163). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Richardson, K., & Hurworth, R. (2007). Moving towards independence: International student needs beyond the classroom. Paper presented at the 18th ISANA international education conference, November 27–30, Stamford Grand, Glenelg, Adelaide.

Sacks, H. (1972). On the analyzability of stories by children. In J.J. Gumperez & D. Hymes (Eds.), Directions in sociolinguistics: The ethnography of communication (pp. 325-345). New York: Rinehart & Winston.

Sacks, H. (1995). Lectures on conversation. Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Stafford, G. (2004). Accumulating cultural capital? Some lessons from history for understanding mainland Chinese students in Australian high schools. Asia examined: Conference proceedings of the 15th biennial conference of ASAA, Canberra, Australia, pp.11, 92.

Stokoe, E. H., Benwell, B., & Attenborough, F. (2013). University students managing engagement, preparation, knowledge and achievement: Interactional evidence from institutional, domestic and virtual settings. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 2(2), 75-90.

Stokoe, E. H., & Edwards, D. (2006). Story formulations in talk-in-interaction. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 56-65.

Vandergrift, L., & Goh, C. (2012). Teaching and learning second language listening: Metacognition in action. New York: Routledge.

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Wang, J. (2016). Capitalising on well-roundedness Chinese students’ cultural mediations in an elite Australian school. In A. Koh & J. Kenway (Eds.), Elite schools: Multiple geographies of privilege (pp. 33-49). NY: Routledge.







How to Cite

Category building of international students as language learners in two secondary schools. (2018). TESOL in Context, 27(1).
Share |

Similar Articles

11-20 of 82

You may also start an advanced similarity search for this article.