Breaking with the IRF and EPA: Facilitating student-initiated talk

Chris Hale

Teachers interested in fostering more student autonomy in their ESL classrooms often find it difficult to break away from the preferred institutional discourse models, particularly the initiation-response-feedback (IRF) pattern and Explicit positive assessment (EPA). Moving away from teacher-controlled exchanges can prove problematic for students and teachers not accustomed to more student-centered learning approaches. In this study, the author examines data from one of his own ESL classes where he attempted to encourage breaks from the IRF/EPA discourse patterns. Most surprising was the extent to which students themselves broke with traditional teacher/student discourse roles and worked together to co-construct a socio-cognitive learning environment.