The dimensions of peer talk among nontraditional preservice education students

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Teaching and Leadership


Sari Knopp Biklen


Teacher education, Educational sociology, Communication

Subject Categories

Other Teacher Education and Professional Development


Few studies have examined peer interactions during preservice education, particularly from the perspective of the participants. The purpose of this study was to examine the role of peers in the construction of meanings around preservice education and student teaching, in particular, the role of peer talk. Informants were non-traditional preservice students enrolled in a secondary education program.

Research questions. This project was designed to explore the following questions: (1) What is the role of peer talk in learning how to teach? (2) How do preservice students talk with each other? What do they talk about with each other? (3) When do students talk with each other? (4) What types of peer talk take place in different contexts? (5) What is the relationship between students' biographies and peer talk? (6) How do students describe their interactions with their peers? What function does peer talk serve for students? (7) Do students develop collegial communities? How does that process develop through peer talk?

Methodology. This is a descriptive study. I used qualitative research methods. I collected data through participant observation and in-depth, open-ended interviewing over three semesters. I had 29 informants from a variety of content areas.

Findings. As I analyzed data, three dimensions of peer talk were revealed: (1) filters and frames around peer talk, (2) the peer talk itself, and (3) meta talk, how the students talked about talk. Biography contextualized peer talk. It was an initial filter and framework through which talk with peers was initiated, understood, and valued or devalued. The students in this study engaged in a variety of types of peer talk. There was a strong contextualized nature to talk. Students' perspectives on peer talk were illuminated through their meta talk. I argue that it is necessary to examine all of these dimensions of peer talk in order to more fully understand the complexities of peer talk. This study starts to fill the gap in our knowledge about the dimensions of peer talk, as well as provide descriptive information about non-traditional students in preservice teacher education.


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