Compelling student voice: dialogic practices of public confession

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11 Scopus citations


Encouraging and developing voice in the classroom is a key aim of dialogic pedagogy, but teachers’ elicitation of student voices is not always experienced as empowering. This case study investigates a sixth grade literacy lesson discussion about responding to peer group social ostracism. The teacher pressed students to adopt and articulate a stance on this socially and morally charged issue, resulting in a series of student public confessions. Using linguistic ethnographic micro-analytic methods, we examine the realization of voice in these events. Though some confessions were student-initiated, their contents were firmly directed by the teacher and dominated by her voice. Students were compelled to take a stand, and to express improper thoughts or actions, in an appropriate voice, or be challenged and/or judged inadequate. This case study shows how attempts to empower voice can back-fire; we argue that dialogic pedagogy should include a right to remain silent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)110-123
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • Voice
  • classroom discourse
  • confession
  • dialogic pedagogy
  • linguistic ethnography
  • pedagogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Linguistics and Language


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