Our Model of Dialogue

Our model of dialogue for having good controversial conversations at CSB and SJU

Our model of dialogue is one of the central fruits of our research. It identifies several key components of campus conversations on controversial issues: courage, civility, common ground, objectivity, values, and inclusiveness. We created this model by performing a “factor analysis” of data from our initial survey, particularly the section in which we provided respondents with a list of behaviors that might occur in a controversial conversation and asked them to indicate how positive or negative each behavior is (the “ideal” score), how often they perceive each behavior in conversations on our campuses (the “real” score), and how often they personally engage in each behavior (the “personal” score).

Factor analysis allowed us to identify clusters of behaviors that generated similar responses; we then performed a reliability analysis on each of those clusters of behaviors. Five clusters emerged from this process; we identified these as “flight,” “civility,” “common ground,” “objectivity,” and “values.” The “flight” cluster included only behaviors generally rated as negative, and so we hypothesized a corresponding set of positive behaviors that might be identified as “courage.” The “civility” cluster includes both positive behaviors (e.g. listening attentively) and negative behaviors that correlate inversely with them (e.g. using insulting language). We added a sixth component, “inclusiveness,” to our model to reflect the significance of a single item on our survey, “Participants with extreme views spoke more than those in the middle.” Although our factor analysis did not link this item to any others on our survey, we found a larger gap between “ideal” and “real” scores for this item than for any other behavior. As a result of further analysis of our data, we identified one final cluster of behaviors that we have identified as “competitiveness.” Although this cluster is not included in our model, we have included some analysis of these behaviors below.

Table 15, Components of Dialogue and Conversational Behaviors, lists all of the behaviors from our additional survey, grouped according to these seven clusters. The composite scores listed for each cluster are averages of student responses, all on a five point scale. Tables 16, 17, and 18 show the behaviors that were rated most positively and most negatively by our student respondents, as well as the behaviors that showed the largest gaps between “ideal” and “real” scores.

After we identified these clusters of behaviors, we developed our own model of how each conversational component would be expressed in an exemplary campus conversation. This model is spelled out in the Controversial Conversations Assessment Rubric, which we used to evaluate observed conversations in spring 2007. In the next sections, we analyze each component using data from those observations, from surveys conducted in the campus laboratories, and from the original survey (see Table 19, Controversial Conversations Assessment Rubric,) and

(Table 20, Controversial Conversations Assessment Rubric Spring 2007 Results)