Above the law? The democratic implications of setting ground rules for dialogue

Matan Barak, Adam Lefstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Dialogic pedagogy aims to promote deliberative democratic skills, virtues and practices within an equitable and empowering classroom environment. This article problematizes the practice of setting classroom ground rules in light of dialogic pedagogy’s democratic aspirations. Specifically, we explore the space for dissenting voices within the process of constituting ground rules and the extent to which ground rules regulate teacher (and not only student) behavior. We investigate these issues in a case study of the process of negotiating ground rules in a fourth-grade Israeli classroom. During a discussion in which the class reflected on classroom discourse norms, students resisted the teacher’s interpretation and even accused her of obstructing their participation, thereby highlighting questions regarding teacher’s role and authority in the deliberative process of constituting ground rules. We use linguistic ethnographic microanalytic methods to investigate the unfolding of events in the classroom, and discuss the problems arising from an ostensibly democratic process of constituting ground rules in which the teacher is beyond criticism and above the law. We conclude with discussion of the possibilities of developing a more profoundly democratic and inclusive process of negotiating and maintaining classroom discourse norms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-210
Number of pages16
JournalLanguage and Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Democratic education
  • dialogic pedagogy
  • ground rules
  • linguistic ethnography
  • student voice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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