A narrative inquiry into spatial experience: Learners' recollections from pre-COVID-19 classroom setting
Mustafa Zeki Çıraklı 1, Ali Şükrü Özbay 1 *
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1 Department of English Language and Literature, Karadeniz Technical University, Turkey
* Corresponding Author


Many theories, techniques and strategies are concerned with the development of an ideal educational setting that enables learners to demonstrate growth and improvement. Research to date mostly envisaged the classroom setting as an external aspect of the educational medium and discussed it in terms of social interaction, communicative requirements, physical structure and services. The learner’s spatial experience, however, needs to be explored from different perspectives such as spatial interaction and memory reconstruction. Moreover, the educational setting has undergone a critical change after COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. The significance of this study is that it explores the recollections of individual learners from the pre-COVID-19 classroom setting following their virtual setting (Adobe-Connect) experience.  The study focuses on the learners’ personal (subjective) memories rather than the objective description of the medium and draws on the critical difference between educational “setting” and educational “space”. It raises questions as to the role of the classroom setting and spatial experience in learning and memory. The study also aims to examine the participants’ recollections of the pre-COVID-19 classroom experience about the setting elements and objects as well as explores to what extent the classroom setting turns into an experiential space before and after COVID-19 pandemic. Qualitative measures were used within the scope of narrative inquiry to collect data in order to validate and confer the findings. The participants were two senior BA students at a Department of English Language and Literature (ELL) in Turkey. Their spatial experiences were explored through the participants’ small narrative accounts about the pre-COVID-19 classroom and online virtual classroom. The results were discussed according to the spatial practice conceptualized within the theory of postromantic education, which argues that unless educational “setting” is transformed into educational “space”, there would be no ground for experience and learning. The study revealed that the participants were both narrators and focalizers when they were talking about conventional classroom settings and treating the objects as carriers of emotions and stories. The participants reported that classroom objects were still vivid in mind, restored in the memory, and reconstructed in the imagination, which showed that the participants under consideration had a spatial experience and the classroom was transformed from setting to space. As regards the Adobe Connect virtual classrooms, the participant narrators were rarely focalisers, and the small narratives changed into narrative fragments, which shows that online virtual classroom is questionable in terms of spatial experience. The study concludes that the participants’ small narratives are punctuated with the references to setting elements and objects in the form of emotive spatial experience and positive episodic memories. The indicators and verbal elements were loaded with psychological and experiential implications. The study presents the implications for applied linguistics and classroom research and makes suggestions for further studies. 



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