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The Problems with Praise in Parent–Teacher Interaction

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This research advances our understanding of what constitutes “a compliment” and “self-praise” in social interaction. Examining video-recorded naturally occurring parent–teacher conference interactions, this article demonstrates that participants treat utterances that praise nonpresent students as implicating praise of parents: parents respond to teachers’ student-praising utterances as compliments; teachers laugh after they explicitly credit student success to parents, displaying their orientation to these crediting utterances as delicate because they leak teachers’ evaluation of parents based upon students’ performance in school; and parents work to avoid articulating student-praising utterances, thereby avoiding implications of self-praise. This research thus reveals that, rather than affording a mutually enjoyable moment of celebration transparently supportive of social solidarity, the action of praising students occasions interactional problems for conference participants.

Keywords: Compliments; Multimodal Institutional Interaction; Parent–Teacher Conferences; Preference Organization; Self-Praise

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2012

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