Abstract The institution of schooling can be an anxiety provoking space for some students (Reda, 2009; White, 2011). One in every five children has mental health illnesses, and anxiety disorders are the most frequent condition (Merikangas, Nakamura, & Kessler, 2009). Teachers are in the unique position of being able to observe students’ variations in interactional styles on a daily basis. Acknowledging the numerous ways students engage in class beyond verbal responding is crucial to supporting their success. There has been extensive research on classroom discourse (e.g. Cazden, 2001) and the importance of helping students to converse academically (e.g. Zwiers & Crawford, 2011). But what happens for some learners when classroom discourse is privileged at the expense of listening and writing? A limited amount of scholarly research exists on this topic (e.g. Schultz, 2009, Reda, 2007, 2009, 2010); most of which views quiet students through a deficit lens. Participation is viewed as a verbal response that fits into the teacher’s routine. However, my research opens up new ground by centering the insights of students as they navigate the space of school, and studies what impact acknowledging their preferences has on their school participation. Using the alternative dissertation format I conducted two studies and wrote three manuscripts that pursued my interest in finding ways to better serve the range of quiet learners. My first study, a year-long action research conducted in a sixth grade classroom, I aimed to learn how my quiet students mediated their thinking through other means beyond speech and how I could support the development of their positive learner identities. I found that students demonstrated engagement in classroom activities in ways besides talk. They also advocated for themselves and their specific needs for learning in the classroom. Finally, the student’s identities as learners shifted over the course of the study. My second study was a two-year longitudinal case study that focused on a student, Tina, positioned as a selective speaker. The article I wrote based on this study describes our learning journey during those two years, focusing on the communication practices, tools, and curricula that helped Tina build self-efficacy to support all areas of learning. Understanding the role of silence in the classroom is a complex process. By taking an inquiry stance to understand why students are being quiet, teachers can learn how students engage and participate in learning (Schultz, 2010).
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. April 2018. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Lori Helman. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 105 pages.
The Quiet Continuum: Listening and Learning from Quiet Students in the Classroom.
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