The author has used personal experiences and research to show that conversational styles of students are different and are based on diverse factors. Teaching strategies in classrooms should thus be diverse, for every class offers diverse challenges. Failure to do so will lead to inequality and prejudice in students' participation in conversations: tendencies which will hinder the teaching-learning process as a whole. The author posits that small-group interaction should be adopted as a means of understanding the students' conversational styles. Students should also be allowed to observe their own interaction in order for them to realize their conversational strengths and weaknesses. This is because the conversational style of students is influenced by various factors, among them gender, age and ethnicity. The author has expounded on how these factors affect students participation in classroom conversations. This is followed by suggesting that students should not be treated the same way, for “treating people the same is not equal treatment if they are not the same”(5).
The author rightly points out that, in class, “a greater percentage of discussion time is taken by men’s voices”(1). This tendency is also evident in my current class. Unlike men, most girls in my class shy away from asking and answering questions. The author has attributed this to the different ways in which boys and girls socialize with peers, a fact that has also been echoed by Janet Lever, Marjorie Goodwin, and Donna Eder. It is explained that typically girls prefer to talk intimately to each other, thus becoming best friends. On the other hand, the formation of friendship in boys is not based on talking, but on activities. Boys tend to associate more with peers with whom “they do things with”(1).
The tendency of boys to play in groups that are hierarchical has an influence on how they converse in class. The author notes that “high-status boys give orders and push low-status boys around” (1). This makes the boys develop feelings that language should be used to display ones authority, skill, knowledge, and to challenge opposition. As a result, when boys are asked to debate in class, they take this as a challenge and are quick to participate. These tendencies may explain why girls’ participation in classroom conversations is minimal if compared to boys.
It has to be noted that teachers, who judge students' success from participation in classroom discussions, are misguided. A student may fail to contribute to a classroom debate because of factors like gender, and not because she/he is less intelligent. An example is Jane, my classmate in high school. Jane was very quiet and shy in class, but she always topped the class in written examinations.
The author has proposed that students should “become observers of their own interaction”(5). This is seen as very crucial in their education, as it may raise awareness about the importance of participation in classroom conversations. In addition, students will be able to understand their conversational preferences, their prejudices against peers, and how to overcome their conversational drawbacks. Let us take my example. I am the quiet type in class. However, when I am with a few friends outside the classroom, I become very talkative. Why? My problem, as rightly cited by the author, is lack of confidence in what I know. I now believe that more self-examination of my conversational behavior will enable me to participate more in classroom conversations.
In conclusion, I agree with the authors' assertion that the conversational styles of students are influenced by diverse factors. As a result, teachers should seek to understand such factors in order to enable an efficient teaching-learning process.