Exploration of Classroom Cultures of Learning in the Russian EFL Higher Education Context

  • Olga Dolganova

Student thesis: Phd


This study documents an investigation of classroom cultures of learning within the context of teaching English in a Russian higher education institution. Specifically, the classroom cultures of four English language teachers are explored through the concept of cultures of learning and the dimensions of invisible context developed by Wedell and Malderez (2013). This investigation, involving an ethnographic move with a series of narrative interviews and lesson observations, revealed that although a number of similarities can be traced, the four participant teachers create their own small classroom cultures of learning that largely represent their own CLTness as informed by their personal understandings of the communicative classroom. The exploration shows that the teachers' understanding of their classroom cultures is shaped by their pedagogical beliefs about what constitutes good teaching enacted through an apprenticeship of observation experience and influenced by the national culture's beliefs about teachers, teaching, and learning, the institutional culture of learning, and the international culture of English language teaching. The teachers' beliefs about good teaching and about their students, while serving to filter macro influences, enable these teachers to develop their sense of plausibility and create classroom cultures where students feel comfortable and respected. Echoing previous research suggesting that classroom contexts are co-constructed, this study accentuates the role of students in their implicit role in the construction of classroom cultures. The findings reveal that for these teachers, the students are the main point of reference in their desire to establish and maintain a classroom culture that is comfortable and supportive. Tensions that arise in the classroom trigger processes of negotiation between the teacher and the students and, although these negotiations are mostly implicit, they encourage the dynamic nature of classroom cultures. Owing to these negotiations, the teachers manage to acquire the students' acceptance of their rules and norms and this appears to be considered as some sort of a validation point for the teachers, which, in turn, facilitates the development of the teachers and their respective classroom cultures. This finding positions the students as central to the teachers' estimations of themselves. While the study confirms that People, Place and Time are the primary components of classroom cultures, it contributes to the importance of the concept of Time for understanding the dynamic nature of classroom cultures and for understanding the context in wider terms.
Date of Award31 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorDiane Slaouti (Supervisor) & Zeynep Onat-Stelma (Supervisor)


  • classroom cultures

Cite this