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Examining the Role of Trust in Shaping Children's Approaches to Peer Dialogue


by Jennifer Hauver James, Jessica F. Kobe & Xiaoying Zhao — 2017

Background/Context: Research reveals that peer dialogue can contribute to improved cognitive ability and reasoning, increased tolerance for difference, and appreciation for talk as a means of problem solving. When invited to participate in such dialogue, however, not all children do, and often, degrees of engagement reflect demographic patterns.

Purpose: The researchers sought to understand what shapes students’ decisions about if and how to engage in peer dialogue.

Research Design: This exploratory study examined children’s approaches to a deliberative dialogue session with their peers in which they were tasked with reaching consensus about how to spend money allotted for playground equipment.

Data Collection and Analysis: Data included interview transcripts from conversations held with 18 children (aged 9–11) prior to their participation in the session. Transcripts underwent an iterative process of inductive and deductive coding.

Findings/Results: The authors detail several differing goals children held as they prepared for dialogue and explain how those goals shaped the roles they intended to assume. They then explore children’s assessments of their peers’ trustworthiness—a powerful indicator of if and how they would participate.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The authors discuss avenues for further research and suggest that given the critical role of trust in children’s approaches to dialogue, educators should take seriously the responsibility of creating spaces in which all children feel they can take the risks necessary to learn.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 10, 2017, p. -
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21898, Date Accessed: 4/29/2017 5:29:26 PM

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About the Author
  • Jennifer James
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    JENNIFER HAUVER JAMES is Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia. As a civic educator, she seeks to understand the institutional, discursive, and sociopolitical contexts that shape possibilities for democratic learning, particularly in public school settings. Her most recent research explores various dimensions of young people’s thought and action across civic spaces. Her recent works include Religion in the Classroom: Dilemmas for Democratic Education and Feminist Community Engagement: Achieving Praxis.
  • Jessica Kobe
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    JESSICA F. KOBE is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research interests fall at the intersection of civic education, critical dialogic pedagogy, and multiculturalism. Embracing cosmopolitan and transformative definitions of democratic civic education, she is currently exploring how children engage in dialogue about and across difference with their peers. She is committed to doing narrative inquiry work that invites children to play a strong role in the research process.
  • Xiaoying Zhao
    University of Georgia
    E-mail Author
    XIAOYING ZHAO is a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice at the University of Georgia. Her research interests center on civic education and spatial theories. She has a forthcoming piece in the journal Citizenship, Teaching & Learning.
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