The Question of Power in the Classroom


I’ve been pondering the role of power in the classroom since investigating “Whole Brain Teaching”.

I’m not a fan of hierarchal power structures. Even as a manager, I would describe myself as a servant manager. As an educator, I’m a facilitator or even partner in learning.

I attribute a lot of this to my feminist rearing. But also it’s a very contemporary view not in education, but also management and even economics.

But what sort of effect does power have on learning? Is there any benefit to reducing the hierarchy of the classroom?

Actually there is! There is evidence that autonomy affects level of motivation and mastery. Daniel Pink is a big proponent of the link between intrinsic motivation, autonomy, and mastery, which is described in this video:

So autonomy is important. But can we ever eliminate the hierarchy in the classroom? As much as we try, typically there still needs to be a teacher. To answer this, I think we need feminist pedagogy. Feminist Pedagogy looks to challenge hierarchies in the classroom. I found an interesting article that discusses how to limit the power imbalance in the classroom:

This article acknowledges the power that is inherent in the existence of a ‘roster’, but suggests this can be overcome by introduces democracy to the classroom. Interestingly, this can be achieved with many of the teaching strategies I’ve discussed in this blog. The key is to balance engagement and ensure that all views are heard and that no one person dominates the class.

Feminist Pedagogy shares many of qualities with other contemporary perspectives, such as transformative and andragogy. But it also acts to disrupt hierarchies and dominance, which has many benefits for learning. It makes me wonder why this perspective it is  missing (or just glanced over) from most textbooks on adult learning.



What’s really interesting about the feminist pedagogical perspective is that it shares a lot of qualities with other contemporary views, such as andragogy and transformative learning.


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