A Comparison of Two Models Used to Predict Student Strategy Choice for Classroom Conflicts

Although the topic of conflict has received much attention in communication literature, the topic of conflicts between students and teachers has not. The purpose of this dissertation was twofold: to examine what classroom conflicts exist between students and teachers, and to determine which of two existing model best predicts conflict strategy choices for students. In communication literature, there is a divide in how conflict resolution is examined. Some researchers do so using communication predispositions such as argumentativeness, verbal aggressiveness, communication anxiety, and communication competence as a basis for predicting conflict strategies. Other researchers predict strategies from the perspective of attributions made in conflict episodes. In this research, two studies were conducted. First, 710 students were asked to identify conflicts they had experienced with classroom teachers. These conflicts were coded and categories of classroom conflicts emerged around the themes of class/work conflicts and teacher personality conflicts. From these responses, a new instrument for studying conflict, the Student-Teacher Conflict Index, was developed. In the second study, 171 students were presented with the new index which contained several hypothetical classroom conflicts. The students were asked to identify how they would respond in each situation. Discriminant analyses were conducted to determine whether a communication predisposition model or an attributional model best predicted students’ strategy choices. A mixed model was determined to best predict strategies with the trait of verbal aggressiveness, and attributions of responsibility, stability, and personal control being the strongest predictors. Additionally, it was determined that strategy choice seemed to influence channel selection: More students who chose distributive strategies selected mediated channels to communicate than did students who chose integrative strategies. Most of the hypotheses involving communication predispositions and strategy choice were supported, while the hypotheses involving attributions and strategy choice were not. These results were interpreted and discussed. Following this, suggestions for future research are proposed. Examining teachers’ approaches to conflict, or examining the affect of culture on classroom conflict are two examples of ways that this research could be developed further.