Teachers' conceptions of discussion: a grounded theory study
Larson, Bruce E. (Bruce Edward)
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The purpose of this dissertation was to develop an initial theory of social studies teachers' conceptions of classroom discussion. I explored teachers' thinking about characteristics and purposes of classroom discussions, and factors that seem to influence teachers' use of discussion. Six high school social studies teachers participated in this study: three taught in a suburban high school, and three taught in an urban high school. These teachers were purposively selected to permit data collection from a diverse and theoretically interesting sample. Data were collected through in-depth interviews and a think-aloud task, and were analyzed using grounded theory's constant-comparative technique--an inductive method of generating hypotheses that are grounded in data. During the analysis of these data, six conceptions of discussion emerged. Teachers thought of discussion as recitation, teacher-directed conversation, open-ended conversation, a series of challenging questions, guided transfer of knowledge, and as practice at verbal interaction. In addition to these conceptions of discussion, five factors emerged that seemed to influence the teachers' use of their conceptions: student diversity, lesson objectives, age and maturity of students, sense of community in the classroom, and interest level of students. Explanations and excerpts from the data are provided to illustrate each of the conceptions and factors of influence. These hypothetical categories--both the conceptions and the influences--contribute to previous research on discussion by revealing the complexity of teachers' conceptions of discussion, the influence that students have on the teacher's use of discussion, and the importance of the teacher as discussion leader. Implications of these findings for teachers, teacher educators, and for researchers who are interested in classroom discussion are also examined.
- Education - Seattle