Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level



Curriculum and Instruction


Felicia Lincoln

Committee Member

Michael Wavering

Second Committee Member

Freddie A. Bowles

Third Committee Member

Christian Z. Goering


Language acquisition, Language Learners, Learning opportunities, Positioning Theory, Power, Social Interactions, sociocultural theory


In this qualitative study, the researcher investigated four aspects of positioning used by teacher and ESL students in a mid-south state of the United States. This study was based on the Positioning Theory of Davies and Harré (1990). The study aimed to explore various types of positioning used by the participants and how they impacted social interactions among the students and between them and their teacher. The researcher used four questions to outline the scope of the research, focused on: 1) how ELLs’ different positioning in the ESL classroom promoted or limited their learning opportunities; 2) how the ELL teacher positioned the students according to their language level into powerful or powerless; 3) how the ELL student participants positioned themselves and shaped their identities when interacting with their classmates, teacher, and the researcher; 4) how the classroom seating arrangement (as a type of positioning) promoted or limited learning opportunities. The original number of student participants was 17 from two different classes, as well as two teachers. After observing both classes extensively, the researcher decided to focus on two students and their teacher from one classroom and consider them as the focal students for this study. The study was based on collecting classroom observation data from interactions using audiovisual recordings, interviews, field notes, and other related documents. After careful analysis of the research data, the researcher found that the two focal participants were the most engaged in classroom discussions because of the different ways they shaped their identities. These participants positioned themselves and were positioned differently by their classmates and ELL teacher as powerful, responsible, expert, good learner, model student, and in some cases as shadow teacher. Additionally, the findings of this study showed that the different positioning by these students was due to the different motivational factors used by the two students, their culture, their gender identity, and their personalities. The classroom teacher played an important role in some of the positioning aspects used by the students while learning their second language. The classroom seating arrangement and instructional methodologies promoted, and sometimes limited, the learning opportunities for the students.