Friday, 12 June 2009

Who has and who should have power in the classroom?

When teaching, have we ever stopped for a minute to think about who takes the decisions in the lesson?
Who decides what is taught? Who decides how and when it is going to be taught?
Are we ready, as teachers, to hand over some power? Or is it precisely power what makes us different from the students?
To me, teaching is all about sharing and negotiating with the students. How am I going to help them if I only teach what I think is relevant and not what they really need? How am I going to help them if I can only rely in one way of teaching?
After observing a lesson at a Secondary School in Buenos Aires City, I wrote a report focusing on power. I analysed what decisions were taken by the teacher (and/or by the students) and which were the general tendencies. Were students given opportunities to take some decisions? Or everything was set and established by the teacher?

I invite you now to go over my report. I really hope you enjoy it as much as I did while writing it. I can assure you it will be a great opportunity for you to reflect on your own teaching. It really helped me realise how important it is for a teacher to be aware of the decisions we take (or let students take). As you will notice while reading the report, I tried to analyse both aspects of classroom power: who does and who should take the decisions (this was done, of course, following my own heart and my personal views).

2nd Report / Alejandra de antoni / Classroom Observation / Methods 2 2009 2nd Report / Alejandra de antoni / Classroom Observation / Methods 2 2009 alez_avrill This is a report of a 40-minute lesson I observed at a secondary school in Argentina. It was a class of 12 and 13 year-olds. They are learning English as Foreign Language and their level is somewhere between elementary and pre-intermediate.
The object of analysis of this report is Power. Who is in charge of taking the decisions in the classroom? The teacher? The students? Or both?
What are the implications of handing over some decision-making and what consequences it brings about in the activities' outcomes and students' learning process?
I really hope you enjoy my reflection and, of course, your comments and reactions are welcome! (:

After writing my report, I came to the following conclusion:

I generally share some decision-making with my students. I don’t generally let them decide everything simply because there are some things that have to be done in a certain period of time (this is related to what I explained in points 5 and 6 above). Of course I know that there are certain aims that we should achieve in a certain period of time but, at the same time, I know that we can sometimes negotiate the way in which we are going to do so. I know that sometimes I put at risk some short-term goals (for instance, practising a certain language topic in a given activity) while letting them decide on the way they will carry out an activity or the topics they are going to talk about. It’s definitely more demanding and risky for us to hand over power but, in the end, it is a lot more rewarding because they will not only enjoy what they are doing but they will also remember it! The key is M & M: Motivating and Memorable!


  1. After going over the issue once and again, Alez, I've come to feel the question is not "who holds power in a given class" but "how does each class member use the power they have (by right)to contribute to everybody's learning?". Do you understand my point?

    I'm glad you feel comfortable sharing responsibility with your students. I'm certain your work will empower many of your learners, making you an educator they'll remember with a smile!

    Looking forward to reading more from you,

  2. I really got your point, Gla!
    And I totally agree!
    Each class member should use their power so as to contribute possitively to build a good learning environment. Learning is cyclical and there will be moments in which our students will learn from us and there will be others in which we will become learners and our students will be our teachers.
    Learning does not make us less powerful. Learning gives us an infinit number of ways to become more powerful.
    Let's show our students how beautiful it is to learn!