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Creating Dialogic Spaces Around Controversial Issues in Teacher Education

by Jill M. Hermann-Wilmarth - April 04, 2008

Background/Context: Dialogic space is imperative for teacher educators and students to grow and learn around polemic issues. For this space to work as dialogic, it is imperative that the histories and truths of the people interacting within the place are taken seriously and acknowledged. For a dialogic space to be present in classrooms, teachers and students must be willing to engage in conversation that pushes the boundaries of participant comfort zones and provides a place where participant identities and histories are taken into account.

Focus of Study: This article examines qualities that encourage engagement in dialogue around polarizing issues between a teacher educator and a preservice student. In this case study, “Jianna,” a self-described conservative Christian, and the present author, the out lesbian instructor in the class, engage in a dialogue around gay and lesbian issues in elementary education. At the center of our dialogue is the timely and contentious issue of the intersection of conservative Christianity and the inclusion of gay- and lesbian-themed texts in elementary classrooms. This case provides an example for educators who seek to address polarizing issues with their students. I identify three characteristics necessary for the creation of dialogic space: the desire for dialogue among all dialogue participants, common texts and common language, and the coexploration of personal perspectives.

Research Design: This is a qualitative study with data drawn from in-depth interviews with one participant, teaching journals, student papers, and student discussions.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The researcher argues that when teachers work to establish space where reciprocity is both modeled and expected among their students, the opportunities for dialogue around threatening issues could be increased. This dialogue provides the opportunity for increased knowledge around these issues.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: April 04, 2008
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15189, Date Accessed: 7/30/2021 11:15:31 PM

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About the Author
  • Jill Hermann-Wilmarth
    Western Michigan University
    E-mail Author
    JILL M. HERMANN-WILMARTH is an assistant professor in the College of Education at Western Michigan University. Her research interests include critical perspectives on teacher education and GLBT issues in education and literacy. Her most resent publications include “Full Inclusion: Understanding the Role of Gay and Lesbian Texts and Films in Teacher Education Classrooms” in Language Arts and the coauthored “Queering Early Childhood Practices: Opening Up Possibilities With Common Children’s Literature” in the International Journal for Equity and Innovation in Early Childhood.
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