Thank you for Adding Diversity, Now Conform: Understanding Diversity of Conversational Style in Classroom Participation and Academic Advising
3 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2011
Date Written: January 1, 2010
The legal academy places great effort in diversifying the student body to include more racial and ethnic minorities, more international students, and even students from different parts of the United States. Many law schools have made great progress in adding diversity to the student body, with many even succeeding in creating a gender balance representative of the general population.
However, beyond including more women, minorities, and geographically diverse students, law schools must prepare students for their profession while avoiding teaching methods that create a discriminatory environment for those diverse students. Unfortunately, too much of the recent empirical and anecdotal research and reports suggest that the legal curriculum does create a divide for diverse students, especially women, minorities, and socio-economically diverse students.
Although the legal academy is currently exploring modifications to the curriculum that could address some of these problems, less attention has been given to possible fundamental contributing factors like conversational styles. This article applies Deborah Tannen’s research about the sociolinguistics of conversational styles to the law school setting. This article begins to examine how diverse conversational styles can lead to unintended discrimination in the law school setting. Finally, this article suggests initial steps law students can take to reduce the impact of diverse communication styles between students and professors.
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