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.