Social Studies Research and Practice
Volume 6, Number 1, Spring 2011
The Role of Emotion in Democratic Dialogue: A Self-Study
Georgia Southern University
University of Texas, Austin
This study contributes to existing scholarship on democratic education by focusing explicitly on the affective dynamics of teaching with and for discussion. More specifically, the purpose of this research is to critically analyze the first author’s efforts to address the role of emotion in democratic dialogue within the context of classroom-based discussions and the work of preparing future social studies educators for their role as discussion facilitators. We found that despite the instructor’s stated goals and her efforts to teach about the constructive role of emotion in learning to communicate across difference, overall, students continued to judge dispassionate and disembodied speech acts as appropriate, while expressions of anger, frustration, or exasperation were judged inappropriate. More specifically, if a female student spoke with anger or frustration during class discussions, her concerns, ideas, and questions tended to be ridiculed, ignored, or dismissed, while the same emotional rule did not apply to male students. If our intent is to facilitate communication across difference, we must actively attend to the ways in which social hierarchies inform discussion by carefully considering how emotional expression and experiences are positioned.