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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