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Riskabla samtal – en analys av potentiella faror i skolans kvarts- och utvecklingssamtal


  • Johan Hofvendahl

Summary, in English

In this thesis, conversation analysis (CA) is applied to study “risk strategies” in parent-teacher-student conferences in the Swedish nine-year compulsory school. The material consists of 80 conferences collected at two different points in time: 45 from the period 1992–93 (at that time called kvartssamtal, lit. “quarter of an hour conference”) and another 35 collected in 2004 (at the present time, and since the latest curriculum from 1994, called utvecklingssamtal, lit. “development conference”). All conferences in the material concern students in the 5th grade, i.e. when students are 11–12 years old. Each year, approximately 2.6 million student conferences in total are held in the Swedish compulsory school and upper-secondary school, involving about 5.5 million participants. Yet, we have virtually no knowledge of what actually happens in these conferences, i.e. how they are conducted. Hence, this study contributes to “filling the gap” and to meeting this want, the how of the student conference as a practical achievement. The aim of the study is to analyze conversational strategies in use to handle “risk”, i.e. a moment whose outcome is uncertain and that could possibly lead to a problem. Here, strategy refers to recurrent line of action and does not necessarily comprise speaker awareness. Strategies are part (and the materialization) of everyday cultural norms, rules of social behavior and habitualized “ways of practice”. They are used “for self”, “for someone else” or “for all” and should be considered in the light of Goffman’s notion of “face-work”, i.e. what the speaker does in order to counteract possibly face-threatening acts. The study is aimed at three particular situations of considerable analytic value: (i) the opening of the conference, (ii) the initiation of talk about trouble (problem), and (iii) the closing of the conference, or more immediately, the possibility for students and parents to raise their own issues. The results show that the conference opening is a coordinated achievement and to a great extent oriented to meet the possibility of the student being nervous. The conference is an “ordinary conference” and the opening questions are “what I ask any student”. When a speaker initiates talk about possible trouble, the pace decreases and utterances very often comprise “perturbations of delivery”, i.e. filled and unfilled pauses, mitigating expressions, abandoned turn beginnings and restarts, “repairs”, etc. These and other circumstances make it possible to forecast the action as (possibly) a trouble-initiating action. At the closing of the conference, students and parents are commonly offered the opportunity to raise their own issues. However, when analyzing the different ways of offering a prolongation of the conference, the study shows that the opportunity is strongly restricted, e.g. due to the design of the question.

Publishing year




Document type



Linköping University


  • Communication Studies


  • parent-student-teacher conference
  • conversation analysis
  • strategy
  • risk
  • kvartssamtal
  • utvecklingssamtal
  • samtalsanalys
  • strategi




  • Jan Anward


  • ISBN: 91-7045-782-4

Defence date

24 March 2006

Defence time


Defence place

Linköpings universitet


  • Anna Lindström (Professor)