How do Teachers View their own Pedagogical Authority?

Feb. 26, 2009

Source: Teachers and Teaching: theory and practice, Vol. 15, No. 1, 109–129. February 2009.

Authority, a fundamental part of the teaching–studying–learning process, is a
problematic and poorly understood component of classroom life. It can be said, in practical terms, that pedagogical authority is constructed in classrooms, in  
teacher–student interaction and in the spirit of their physical presence, confidence, appreciation, responsibility and respect, and in the way they both relate to the content and norms.

Based on the German Didaktik tradition and classroom interaction, an approach for the analysis of pedagogical authority is proposed providing an analytical tool for examining and understanding its constitutive elements and explaining its construction.
It posits the existence of three types of interaction or relation from which pedagogical authority emanates: pedagogical interaction, deontic interaction and didactic interaction.
Depending on how these relations are enacted in the classroom, they, in turn, may evolve into pedagogical authority.

Participants in the Study

The four participants in the research were Finnish (as a native language) and literature teachers in the upper grades of ordinary Finnish comprehensive schools in the Helsinki area, working with 13–16-year-old students in Grades 7–9.
The teachers who took part in this study were Pentti1 (male, born in 1949), Sirkka (female, born in 1953), Merja (female, born in 1960) and Johanna (female, born in 1970).

Pentti had been teaching for some 20 years, Sirkka for over 15 years, Merja for over 10 years and Johanna was teaching her first years at the time this research was undertaken.
These teachers were invited to participate in the study because they taught a subject the researcher was familiar with, worked in schools with similar characteristics, had varying degrees of experience and were willing to endure the one-year-long data collection period.

The Data are analyzed and some empirical evidence is provided to show the characteristics of these relations and how they construct this positive view of authority.
More research on pedagogical authority resulting from these relations in classroom settings is needed to account for this critical educational phenomenon.

Updated: Apr. 23, 2009