Resistance in Academic Becomings: a diffractive analysis of resistance in student language encounters in UK masters level learning

The paper reports on an on-going study examining masters-level students grappling with academic language, and their resulting ‘becomings’ in academic roles through classroom language encounters. The novel methodology utilises various Deleuzian concepts diffractively (Barad, 2007; Lenz Taguchi, 2012) to provoke alternative thoughts around the assumptions and expectations inherent in learners’ academic language encounters.
Confronting academic language expectations and assumptions of communicative competency, masters students are often caught between the roles of student-researcher-academic. This experience reportedly generates a changing sense of self in their ‘becoming academic’. The question central to this paper is how the ‘academic becoming’ of masters students is embodied in their classroom language encounters. As will become apparent, much of this embodiment takes the form of ‘resistance’.
Issues regarding academic language is a well-researched area claiming a vast amount of literature, often dominated by conventional discourse analysis practices. This paper will demonstrate how using an unorthodox methodology can provoke alternative thoughts and new discussions, away from previously held concepts of language in education. By “reading insights through one another” (Barad, 2007, p. 25), diffraction helps to rupture the rigidity of previously held thoughts. Troubling these notions then enables new and alternative ideas about masters students’ ‘becomings’ in the progression of their studies. In doing so, the paper considers expectations and assumptions on students’ communicative competency through diffracting the concepts of assemblage, minor & major language, and (de/re)territorialization (Deleuze & Guattari, 1984). Thinking through these theories, the paper exposes how language acts as an intensity in classroom events (Deleuze & Guattari, 1984). Untangling the workings of this phenomenon, alternative notions of how learners ‘become academic’ are illustrated and new perspectives are provoked.
Through this methodology, the emergent analysis has already yielded some interesting implications. It has been observed that there is a paradoxical relationship between resistance to reading and group at masters level, and students then retrospectively citing reading and group work as the basis for deepening their understanding in their studies. The paper will detail how diffracting data fragments through the Deleuzo-Guattarian concepts above has enabled the research to uncovered this ‘resistance’ as an embodied force of transition in masters students.

The research will contribute to the theoretical and empirical research literature on academic language. It could also help to promote further understanding in Masters students’ relationship to group work and reading, known issues in the field of higher education research.