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ERIC Number: ED209729
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1981-Aug
Pages: 40
Abstractor: N/A
Reference Count: 0
The Role of Language and the Language of Role in Practical Decision Making.
Mehan, Hugh
In observing 51 decisions made in a school district over the period of a year concerning the placement of elementary students in special education, the author noted that most decisions seemed to be presented and accepted rather than debated. To discover why, he analyzes one meeting and placement decision of the district's eligibility and placement committee. After describing the district's student referral process and the paths followed by special education students, the author lists the four phases of the committee's proceedings, including information presentation, decision-making, parents' rights explanation, and student goal-setting. Analysis of the language used by the meeting's participants in the information-presentation phase shows that the professional participants presented (without interruption) test-based academic information, using mystifying technical language. However, the nonprofessionals' observational, emotion-based information was elicited by questions, was frequently interrupted, and was communicated in everyday language. Further, the nonprofessionals depicted the student in situational, historical, and biographical contexts while the professionals did not. The author concludes that the roles of professional and layperson are embedded in the language used in the meeting, and that the different authority assigned to these roles explains the acceptance without debate of the professionals' recommendations. (Author/RW)
Publication Type: Speeches/Meeting Papers; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Professional Role; Role; Technical Language
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (Toronto, Ontario, Canada, August 24-28, 1981). Not available in paper copy due to marginal legibility of original document. Figure 1 may be illegible.