A tale of two tracks: Analysis of student dialogue in standard and honors high school English classes

Carren Marie Gallaher, Tennessee State University


This study explored dialogue as a transformative, useful tool in standard and honors high school English classes. Framed by the recurring literary theme of the potent value of human dialogue, this study examined the potential that classroom discourse has to solve some of the problems associated with curriculum tracking. A survey of related literature revealed that curriculum tracking, a historical construct of public education in America, presents the problems of inadequate literacy skill development among students in lower level classes and lack of critical social awareness among students in upper level classes. By facilitating a constructive learning experience through the use of student dialogue, this qualitative study examined a tenth grade standard English class and a tenth grade honors English class during a two-week unit in which the two classes were offered identical instruction. Findings derived from video recordings of daily class sessions, audio-taped student interviews, daily field notes, and student-created artifacts indicated that students in the standard level English class demonstrate risk taking tendencies and tremendous feeling in their dialogue. Students in the honors class articulated their solid work ethic and capacity for intelligent thinking through their dialogue. Using Critical Discourse Analysis, two illustrative cases were analyzed, confirming the aforementioned tendencies of each group. The overall determination from this study was that dialogue was both a help and a hindrance in establishing a literate, awakened classroom environment.

Subject Area

Secondary education|Curriculum development

Recommended Citation

Carren Marie Gallaher, "A tale of two tracks: Analysis of student dialogue in standard and honors high school English classes" (2009). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3356160.