chapter  1
13 Pages

Teachers, Power, and Agency

ByTina Y. Gourd

This chapter attempts to articulate a useful framework for understanding teacher power. Teacher agency is the enactment of power as a teacher, and thus agency is neither "positive" nor "negative." The structure-agency relationship is a crucial sociological phenomenon in the study of human agency and has been explored by a variety of social theorists. Although teachers can choose to use their agency to defend or maintain the status quo, they can also make choices that confront ruling ideologies and discourses. Discourse theory proposes that a critical space for agency exists in contested and ambiguous spaces, as the existence of multiple and competing avenues of action or speech makes the choices of individuals particularly significant. Teacher agency is complex, multi-layered, and fundamental to teaching. In the structuralist conceptualization of structure, institutions are conceived of and characterized as distinct and powerful entities divorced from human actors.