Date of Award

Spring 2005

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Todd A DeMitchell


The purposes of this study were: (1) to see if there is a difference in the way representatives from labor and management report the use of dialogue and debate while sitting together around the teacher contract bargaining table, and (2) to determine if individuals who approach the table and engage in dialogue have a greater satisfaction with bargaining than those who engage in debate. The research survey collected background information about the negotiators, the outcome of their bargaining, and their perceptions of success. It also contained 19 diametrically opposed statements related to dialogue or debate, and respondents used a Likert-type scale to describe the nature of their 'table talk' (defined as the conversations that occurred when management and labor sat together around the bargaining table). The population consisted of 39 New Hampshire school districts that bargained contracts in the 2001--2 school year.

This research found that labor was more likely to view the table talk toward the neutral or debate end of the scale, while management tended to view the identical conversations toward the dialogue end of the continuum. However, the two parties had a fairly consistent rank order of the 19 statements with three easily identifiable groupings. Since these statements were seen in a similar manner by the respondents, Berman's conceptual framework of dialogue and debate works nicely within the confines of teacher bargaining. These data show a degree of consistency in the way they view and report the talk that occurs at the negotiation table.

The individuals reported a fairly high level of satisfaction with their bargaining; few of the respondents reported a lack of success. Lack of success was less dependent on the product of the bargaining but more dependent on the manner in which the parties conducted their 'table talk' (process). When the dialogue/debate score was correlated to the success of the bargaining and whether a wise agreement was reached, weak to moderate correlations were found. This establishes that those who engage in dialogue have a slightly greater personal satisfaction with their bargaining than those who approach the table and engage in debate.