Open Access Dissertation
Date of Award
TALKING CIRCLES FOR ADOLESCENT GIRLS
IN AN URBAN HIGH SCHOOL: A RESTORATIVE PRACTCES' PROGRAM FOR BUILDING FRIENDHIPS AND DEVELOPING
EMOTIONAL LITERACY SKILLS
MARTHA ANN SCHUMACHER
ADVISOR: Dr. Loraleigh Keashly
DEGREE: Doctor of Philosophy
Restorative Practices and Restorative Justice programs in schools are a new and emerging field. Meeting in Circles to build community, resolve conflict, and learn interactively are core components of these programs. This ethnographic study, which took place February 2010 to December 2011, evaluates 12 small, out-of-classroom Talking Circles for 60 adolescent girls as part of a Restorative Practices program in an urban high school. The primary data source are participant observations of the weekly Talking Circles and semi-structured interviews with 31 of the students involved in the Circles. The Talking Circles were grounded in the theoretical frameworks of both the Relational Cultural Theory, which promotes growth-fostering relationships, and Restorative Justice, which promotes connection, caring and justice. Four relational themes emerged in the study: a) joy of being together and building friendships; b) feeling safe with each other; c) being free to express genuine emotions; and d) cultivating empathy. Evidence of emotional literacy development included a) improved capacity to listen; b) better management of anger and conflict situations; and c) becoming more sensitive to others. The findings demonstrate that the Talking Circle provided a safe space to nurture growth-fostering relationships as described by the Relational Cultural Theory; growth-fostering relationships supported the development of emotional literacy skills, which led to personal power; personal empowerment gave rise to self-efficacy. It appears this type of out-of-classroom Circle addresses some of the psychosocial and emotional needs of students that are not met in other school venues, and may provide a tool for addressing teen disengagement and loneliness; for working with gender-specific issues; for teaching and practicing emotional literacy skills; and for introducing the merits of respectful dialogue.
Schumacher, Martha Ann, "Talking Circles For Adolescent Girls In An Urban High School: A Restorative Practices Program For Building Friendships And Developing Emotional Literacy Skills" (2012). Wayne State University Dissertations. 618.