Constructive Conflict in Classrooms and Beyond
Conflict has exercised the minds of scholars since the establishment of the academy. Yet, those studying conflict continue to struggle over what, precisely, it is, and how and why it occurs. While theorists have made progress in understanding the destructive conflicts that precipitate harm, they have made comparatively less headway in comprehending the constructive conflicts that promote positive social change and development. Those who have probed constructive conflict have contributed to theories of cooperation, collaboration, and transformation but have not adequately theorized the connections between these constructive conflict categories or how partners accomplish them during face-to-face interaction. The thesis investigates the what, how, and why of interpersonal constructive conflict. Specifically, the thesis takes a transdisciplinary approach, bringing contributions from peace and development research, conflict resolution, sociology, social psychology, and education research into conversation with each other, using this conversation to investigate constructive conflict inside primary school classrooms. The empirical study—consisting of 174 lesson observations and 97 interviews with 88 students and 24 teachers—allows the author to witness, participate in, and document constructive conflicts as they occur and explore these interactions from the perspectives of participants. Thus, the thesis makes three contributions to the unfinished task of conflict theorizing. Empirically, the thesis contributes thick descriptions of constructive conflict inside classrooms, addressing a gap in our knowledge of lived experiences in a conflict-prone context. The thesis additionally contributes the CARE Framework, a tool for a relational analysis of conflict dynamics and participants’ motivations. Finally, the thesis advances a Theory of Constructive Conflict. Inspired by grounded theory and symbolic interactionism, the model synthesizes theory and practice to understand constructive conflict as multiple phenomena consisting of cooperative, collaborative, and transformative categories.
Doctor of Philosophy
Göteborgs universitet. Samhällsvetenskapliga fakulteten
University of Gothenburg. Faculty of Social Sciences
School of Global Studies, Peace and Development Research ; Institutionen för globala studier, freds- och utvecklingsforskning
fredagen den 11 juni 2021, kl. 13.15, Linnésalen, Seminariegatan 1B, Göteborg (samt via Zoom)
Date of defence
Olsson, Elizabeth M.
CARE framework, collaboration, cooperation, grounded theory, interpersonal conflict, participant observation, schools, transformation