Leveling the Field: Negotiating Positions of Power as a Preservice Teacher

Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Action in Teacher Education, Vol. 35, Issue 4, 2013, p. 230-251.
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

Drawn from a larger study, the authors examine how one preservice teacher negotiated positions of power with students in ways that enabled and prohibited him from enacting his preferred teacher identities.
Specifically, this study illustrates how video analysis opened opportunities for this preservice teacher to reflect on the relationship between positions of power and identity enactment during moment-to-moment classroom interactions.

This study used grounded theory method (Corbin & Strauss, 2007) and discourse analysis (Gee, 2011) framed around positioning theory (Davies & Harré, 1990) to explore the following questions:
In what ways did the preservice teacher negotiate power?
How did those negotiations shape his teacher identities?
What role did video analysis have in reflection about those negotiations?

The participant in this study was Jay, a White middle-class male in his early twenties.
He positioned himself as a lover of popular culture and a poet/writer.
Jay also positioned himself as a teacher who hoped to implement aspects of critical pedagogy, such as facilitating dialogue that questioned power relations.
Jay’s preservice teaching experience took place in a ninth-grade English classroom with students between ages14 and 17, who were predominantly Latino/a and spoke Spanish and English.

The authors collected data through 1) teacher beliefs, (informal conversations with Jay).
2) unit plans, (3) video analysis assignment, (4) field notes from seminar discussions, and
(5) informal conversations with Jay.


The analysis challenged Jay to study how he positioned himself as a teacher, how students positioned him, and how he positioned students during classroom interactions.
In addition, the analysis of transcripts expected that Jay compare those enactments to his teacher vision and to critically think about how positions of power affected those enactments, including how he practiced critical pedagogy.

Jay examined the impact of his interactions at a local level.
For example, Jay justified how his talk and behavior aligned with his preferred teaching identity.
He examined how he enacted his preferred teacher identity by referencing specific moments within the transcripts and videos.
In addition, Jay also reflected about his difficulty negotiating positions of power impacted his ability to construct preferred teacher identities.
Specifically, he highlighted how students, resisted his “presence” or positions of authority by “derailing” the academic conversation to off-topic laughter.

At the end of his reflection, he stated that he wanted to handle those kinds of episodes better and realized that if he could do that, he might be able to situate himself and students in a student-centered classroom.
From this, Jay learned that pedagogy is also about the ability to negotiate positions of power in ways that provide compromise for students and teacher within a classroom.

At the same time, it is evident that Jay needed more support from his teacher education program to help him understand the power structures that existed and how to develop solutions.
For Jay, this relates to the dilemma of enacting critical pedagogy practices during his student teaching.

The authors could offer support by providing successful case studies about how teachers negotiate positions of power in ways that allow them to enact their preferred teacher identities.
They argue that small group conversations about the video analysis assignments might also foster richer discussions compared to whole group conversations during our seminar course.

Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2007). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positionings: The discursive production of selves. In B. Davies (Ed.), A body of writing (pp. 87–106). New York, NY: AltaMira Press.

Gee, J. P. (2011). Tools for discourse analysis. London, UK: Routledge.

Updated: Sep. 03, 2014