RE: Authority of the teacher

From: Carol Macdonald (
Date: Thu Aug 05 2004 - 08:59:11 PDT

In the following book by Christopher Winch, who is a philosopher of
education, you may find some help. He says that we must make a clear
distinction between power (regarded as bad in education) and authority
(which he sees as vital). I hope this helps:

Winch, C. (19 ) The Philosophy of Human Learning. London: Routledge

Different forms of classroom life require different forms of authority. If
you want to chat, you can write to me offline.


-----Original Message-----
From: mpsmith@UDel.Edu [mailto:mpsmith@UDel.Edu]
Sent: Thursday, July 29, 2004 12:52 AM
Subject: Authority of the teacher


I would like to ask for some guidance as I begin my dissertation proposal.
have decided to explore authority in different educational environments -
traditional teacher-run school context (probably middle school context), an
innovative school and a "free choice learning environment" (community center
context). I was inspired to do this research from reading a recent book by
Alexander Sidorkin, "Learning Relations," in which he describes a crisis in
traditional, unilateral teacher authority of the classroom. I hope in my
research to explore this "crisis" in authority and the possibilities for new
mutual, relational and dialogic forms of authority.

I have two major questions right now as I delve into the literature in this

1. It would be very helpful to learn what is meant by "authority" from as
relevant perspectives as possible (behaviorist, cognitive, Marxist,
interactional, social constructionist, Foucaultian, liberal political
perspectives, etc.). I would appreciate any "classic" work in educational
research anyone is familiar with, although I'm not limiting myself to
educational contexts (I would be interested in research coming from other
contexts, such as business, political or clinical contexts).

2. What practical issues do people try to raise with the issue of

One working hypothesis I have is that there are different kinds of
one that is more "teacher-run" and one that is more relational or
collaborative. In successful teacher-run authority, students would do what
they are expected to do by the teacher. Collaborative authority would be
characterized by shared responsibility for what is learned (where students
co-participants in a learning community).

Thanks for your help,



Mark Smith
School of Education
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716 USA

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