4.2.1.2 Back channel support

The rank order amongst the three girls also shows up in their use of back channel support. G1, who speaks least of the three girls, gives the most back channel support items of any group member (she gives 7 items) but receives fewer than either of the other two girls (she receives only 2 items). G2, who speaks the most, is given the most back channel support. The table shows the distribution below. 'Giver' is the pupil who gives the item of back channel support, while the 'recipient' is the pupil who is supported. At the foot of the table is the total number of back channel items given in the whole discussion, and the ratio of back channel items to words uttered for the whole discussion. This figure again enables cross-discussion comparisons to be made in 4.3.

Giver recipient no.of items Giver recipient no. of items

G1 G2 2 G2 G1 2

G3 4 G3 1

B1 1 B1 0

G1 gives 7 items G2 gives 3 items

G1 receives 2 items G2 receives 6 items

Giver recipient no.of items Giver recipient no. of items

G3 G1 0 B1 G1 0

G2 4 G2 0

B1 0 G3 0

G3 gives 4 items B1 gives 0 items

G3 receives 5 items B1 receives 1 item

Giver recipient no. of items

B2 G1 0

G2 0

G3 0

B1 0

B2 gives 0 items

B2 receives 0 items

Total number of back channel items in discussion: 14

Ratio of back channel items to number of words: 1:50.5

Neither of the boys used back channel support to show interest or to become active in the discussion, although B1 showed he was listening by his eye movement, and by laughing at appropriate moments. When B1 eventually takes the floor, he does receive back channel support from G1 (line 37) during his first turn. However, G2 interrupts him at line 38, and he stops speaking. His second turn at line 48 receives no back channel support and is ignored by the girls.

As commented on above, the girl who speaks the least, G1, gives the most back channel support and receives the least of the three girls, while G2, who receives the most, gives the fewest items. This pattern emerges also in other discussions in the sample. There may be a simple relationship between the quantity of back channel items produced and the amount someone speaks - that back channel is received in proportion to how much someone talks, so those who talk more will receive more, while those who talk less have more available time to listen and to produce back channel. On the other hand, the data may be revealing that the quantity of back channel support given to speakers affects how long they hold the floor for: speakers who are given back channel support hold the floor for longer than those who are not given back channel support. If this is the case, G1, G2 and G3 (who gives back channel support to G2 but not to G1) appear to be actively engaged in creating and perpetuating a hierarchy amongst themselves.


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