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Peer argument in educational settings: variations due to socio-economic status, gender and activity context

Howe, Christine and McWilliam, D. (2001) Peer argument in educational settings: variations due to socio-economic status, gender and activity context. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 20 (1/2). pp. 61-80. ISSN 0261-927X

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Abstract

Identified as an important force toward intellectual growth, peer argument is now promoted within educational policy. Nevertheless, implementation of policy is unclear, particularly when effective argument is known to be possible during the preschool years. One source of uncertainty is data indicating that the form of preschool argument varies with socioeconomic status (SES) and gender, and the study to be reported here was intended to probe this matter further. The study was based on recordings of the arguments held by 125 nursery school children. Observations were made in four activity contexts. Most children displayed sophisticated tactics, for example, justifying positions and selecting alternatives. However, sophisticated tactics were interspersed with rudimentary ones, for example, physical force and bland assertions, and (even with activity context taken into account) the manner of interspersion was dependent on SES and gender. The implications for educational policy and pragmatic theory will be discussed.