ERIC Number: ED413647
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1997-Mar
Power Structures, Change, and the Illusion of Democracy: A Semiotic Study of Leadership and Policy-Making.
Spielmann, Guy; Radnofsky, Mary L.
There is ample evidence that the success or failure of school reform lies not only in the soundness and appropriateness of the reform model chosen, but primarily in its perception, acceptance, and endorsement by teachers. This essay expresses the concept of power as it applies to school reform that focuses on teacher empowerment and professionalization. The paper is based on a grounded theory developed from a qualitative case study that assessed the impact of a newly implemented, districtwide staff-development program. The data are analyzed using an ethnosemiotic approach to explain how a fundamental ambivalence in the concepts of "power" and "professionalism" may prevent the reform from succeeding, even in the absence of overt crisis or resistance. Data were gathered through interviews with and observations of 80 teachers and administrators over 7 months. The paper defines power qualitatively in four different modalities--power ("being-able-to-do"), independence ("being-able-not-to-do"), powerlessness ("not-being-able-to-do"), and submission ("not-being-able-not-to-do"). The study found that the reform framers had proceeded upon a series of false assumptions: neglecting to distinguish between having power over someone and having the power to act; treating power quantitatively as a one-dimensional commodity; and equating empowerment with professionalism without establishing a correlation between power and responsibility. Reforms must concentrate on changing the prevalent teacher culture, which is unfavorable to the professional ethic and to the establishment of truly democratic structures. Five figures are included. (Contains 23 references.) (LMI)
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, IL, March 24-28, 1997).