Authority, power, and morality in classroom discourse

Teaching and Teacher Education 17 (2001) 873–884 Authority, power, and morality in classroom discourse Cary Buzzellia, Bill Johnstonb,* a Department...
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Teaching and Teacher Education 17 (2001) 873–884

Authority, power, and morality in classroom discourse Cary Buzzellia, Bill Johnstonb,* a

Department of Curriculum & Instruction, School of Education, Indiana University, 201 N. Rose Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47405-1006, USA b Program in TESOL and Applied Linguistics, Indiana University, Memorial Hall 313, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA Received 2 June 2000; received in revised form 14 September 2000; accepted 20 October 2000

Abstract This paper examines the complex relationships among authority, power, and morality in classroom discourse. We begin by suggesting that teacher authority is an ever-present feature of classroom interaction. We further point out how theoretical and empirical research has demonstrated convincingly that teaching nearly always involves unequal power relations and at the same time is fundamentally moral in nature. We then outline Bernstein’s (Pedagogy, symbolic control and ideology: Theory, research, critique, Taylor & Francis, Bristol, PA, 1996) notion of pedagogic discourse as a means of clarifying the relations among authority, power, and morality as they are played out in classroom discourse. We analyze an extract from a transcript of a writer’s chair activity in a third-grade US classroom, focusing on two dilemmas of authority that the teacher faced in this activity; we suggest that these dilemmas can be best conceptualized in terms of Bernstein’s twin notions of regulative discourse and instructional discourse, the two components of pedagogic discourse which reflect the twin notions of power and morality. Finally, we consider the implications of the analysis for a deeper understanding of the moral dimension of classroom discourse. r 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. Keywords: Classroom interaction; Pedagogic discourse; Teacher authority; Moral dilemmas; Moral dimensions of teaching; Expressive morality

1. Introduction This paper examines the practice of authority in classrooms and argues that authority is best understood in relation to the twin concepts of power and morality. We illustrate our contention with an analysis of an extract from a third-grade writer’s chair activity in an American classroom.

*Corresponding author. Tel.: +1-812-855-4968; fax: +1812-855-5605. E-mail addresses: [email protected] (C. Buzzelli), [email protected] (B. Johnston).

The issue of authority in education has been explored in some depth by various scholars; yet, as Oyler (1996) points out, most of these explorations and analyses are fairly theoretical, abstract, or general in nature, and do not go into detail about how power relations are played out inside specific classrooms. Exceptions to this generalization include Oyler’s own work and that of Gore (1994, 1996). On the other hand, while the topics of power and morality have each been the focus of empirical and theoretical investigation in educational research, the two have rarely if ever been juxtaposed. Researchers have looked either at morality (e.g. Noddings, 1984; Jackson, Boostrom,

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& Hansen, 1993) or at power (e.g. Apple, 1982; Gore, 1994). However, as Maxwell (1991) and others have noted, there is a relationship, and an intimate and important one at that. Our intention in this paper is to examine the relationship between authority, power, and morality, and specifically to suggest how this relationship plays out at the micro-level of classroom interaction. Our work in this area is based upon the premise that teaching is inherently a moral activity. Our conceptualization of the morality of teaching, in turn, has far less to do with distinguishing between good and bad practices. Rather, our interest in this research concerns ways in which moral values, conflicts of values, and moral dilemmas are played out in the context of classroom discourse. In the process of engaging with this issue, we have found it useful to apply different yet related theoretical frameworks to the micro-analysis of linguistic and other interaction in classrooms. The present paper constitutes one such application.

2. Authority, power, and morality in education 2.1. Authority in classrooms There is a long history of debate regarding the role of authority in education. Two fundamental and opposing traditions of thought can be discerned. One tradition maintains that educational settings can and should be authoritarian in nature. Spring (1999) identifies this tradition with thinkers from Plato (in The Republic) through Adam Smith (1776) and his Wealth of Nations to the Soviet educational theorist Makarenko (1955). According to this line of thought, the role of education is ‘‘to train individuals to sacrifice for the common good’’ (Spring, 1999, p. 12). The authoritarianism flows from education’s role in supporting the state. In contrast to this position, over the last two centuries or so there has developed a powerful tradition of anti-authoritarian or radical approaches to education. This line is represented by such theorists and practitioners as Neill (1960), Goodman (1964), and Illich (1971). These writers

see authority as a bad but avoidable thing, and devise structures for schools and educational systems that seek to minimize the role of authority in the processes of schooling (see Spring (1999) and Welker (1992) for reviews of radical philosophies of schooling). In our own work, we take a third position in making two fundamental assumptions about authority in teaching. Firstly, we believe that the authority of the teacher is a constant in education. We believe that this is so whatever form of pedagogy is involved, and however the teacher is prepared to share authority or devolve responsibility to the students. Such a position is held by writers as different as Noddings (1984, 1992) and Freire (1972), and accords with our own experience and everything we have read about actual classrooms. This situation is not value-free. Far from it, in factF as we shall argue hereF the way the teacher’s authority is enacted in the classroom is a profoundly moral matter. Nevertheless, we believe that however it is realized, it is a matter of fact that in the vast majority of the world’s classrooms, the teacher possesses authority. Of course, as Spring (1999) points out, much theorizing about authority in education acknowledges this fact and focuses to a very large extent on the question of how to reconcile it with the goals of a democratic education. Secondly, we follow Oyler (1996) in conceptualizing teacher authority as having two distinct though interrelated facets. In her study of the ways in which a first-grade teacher shares authority with her students, Oyler describes how student-initiated talk during instructional events fell into two categories: ‘‘process-type comments or questions’’ and ‘‘content initiations’’ (p. 13). Oyler notes the similarity of these two categories to Peters’ (1966) distinction between the teacher being in authority and being an authority. The former refers to the teacher’s ability to direct actions within the classroom, the latter to her status as the possessor and transmitter of sanctioned forms of knowledge. It is worth noting that the two dimensions of teacher authority discussed above are in fact intimately bound up with each other; some would say they are coexistent. A well-established

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formulation of this position is Foucault’s (1980) concept of power/knowledge. Foucault argues that legitimated forms of knowledge and legitimated forms of power are essentially part of the same regulatory mechanism. In educational terms, this point has been made with great clarity by Hoskin (1990), who draws attention to the ‘‘double meaning’’ (p. 30) of the word ‘‘discipline,’’ which refers both to the formal exercise of regulatory power (put simply, managing a class) and the legitimated bodies of knowledge that form the substance of education (teaching the lesson). Like the concept of ‘‘discipline,’’ we see the concept of ‘‘authority’’ as including both these notionsFthe teacher possesses authority both in the sense of having the power to direct classroom activities, and in the sense of having the knowledge that the students need to acquire. 2.2. Power relations in teaching This mention of power brings us to the question of power relations in classrooms and in schooling generally. The ideological critique of power relations in education is represented by writers from Young (1971) and Bernstein (1975) to Apple (1982) and beyond. Briefly, these writers depict the school as a societal institution which serves in the ongoing reproduction of existing power relations, and hence inequities, prejudices and so on. The aim of schooling is to produce ‘‘good’’ citizens: i.e., citizens who do what they are told and serve in their turn to replicate the state as it stands. Part of this process involves the reproduction of legitimate forms of knowledge. Apple puts it succinctly: ‘‘Schools allocate people and legitimate knowledge. They legitimate people and allocate knowledge’’ (1982, p. 42). Critical pedagogists (Giroux, 1988; McLaren, 1989) concur with the ideological analyses stated above, yet they call for an active role for teachers in explicitly counteracting the reproductive and hence, oppressive agenda of the school. Critical pedagogy, in turn, has itself been criticized by many. Ellsworth (1989), for instance, notes that critical pedagogy has engendered its own orthodoxy and hierarchy, and that its elitist use of language and overly optimistic vision of demo-


cratic classrooms is ultimately exclusive and disempowering from the point of view of the students themselves. Similarly, Oyler (1996, pp. 24–25) observes that in many cases, a simplistic view of power relations in the classroom sees teacher power as a bad thing in itself. She further points out that this view is rooted in a belief in the supreme importance of the individual and of individual freedom. The power of the teacher, then, is seen quite simply as an undesirable restriction on the freedom of learners; this leads to what Oyler calls ‘‘abdication of teacher authority’’ (p. 24). Gore (1994, 1996, 1998) emphasizes this point, noting that for Foucault the question is not whether a certain practice is good or evil, such that good practices are advocated and implemented and evil practices are to be avoided. Rather, Foucault is concerned with how practices are used. Gore notes that previous analyses of classroom practices have focused on the ways in which power is held by individuals or groups of individuals. For Gore, Foucault’s assertions that ‘‘power circulates rather than being possessed’’ (1996, p. 2) shifts the emphasis of analysis from those who hold power to the mechanisms of schooling. Such a shift leads Gore to propose that we begin with the question: ‘‘What specific practices actualize relations of power in pedagogy?’’ (1998, p. 280). To address this question, Gore has focused her own research at the micro-level of classroom interaction. Because her goal is ‘‘demonstrating, rather than only asserting, disciplinary power’’ (1994, p. 5) analyses must examine the shifting movements of power between teacher and students. Thus, for Gore, once instructional practices that actualize power are identified, we can then begin to examine how to use them. It is this notion of power that we shall be using in the present paper. 2.3. Morality in education The final concept that we utilize, morality, has been the subject of increasing attention in the educational literature over the last two decades, first by theorists such as Noddings (1984), Tom


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(1984) and others, then by researchers working with empirical data (e.g. Jackson et al., 1993; Noblit & Dempsey, 1996). Different conceptions of what morality is have been proposed. We will adopt the fairly straightforward definition offered by Buzzelli and Johnston (in press): morality ‘‘constitutes that set of a person’s beliefs and understandings which are evaluative in nature: that is, which distinguish, whether consciously or unconsciously, between what is right and wrong, good and bad.’’ We also follow Buzzelli and Johnston in further asserting that ‘‘moral beliefs, values, and understandings are played out at the critical point of contact between the private, individual sphere and the social realm’’: that is, ‘‘moral beliefs are both ‘personal’ and ‘cultural’.’’ The literature on morality in education is extremely diverse and covers a wide range of issues. Nevertheless, certain themes and common understandings recur. There appears to be general agreement upon the following points: First, teaching itself involves moral action (Tom, 1984). Teachers are moral agents (Bergem, 1990; Johnston, Juha! sz, Marken, & Ruiz, 1998), and education as a whole, and thus classroom interaction in particular, is fundamentally and inevitably moral in nature (Goodlad, Soder, & Sirotnik, 1990; Ball & Wilson, 1996). From the teacher’s point of view, teaching involves constant and complex moral decision-making (Tippins, Tobin, & Hook, 1993), and also a sensitivity to possibilities in contexts and individuals that Simpson and Garrison (1995) call ‘‘moral perception.’’ Second, it is widely recognized that the ways in which moral issues are realized in the classroom are both complex, subtle, and allpervasive. What Jackson et al. (1993) refer to as the expressive morality of the classroom includes what teachers and students say and how they behave, but even extends to the layout and decor of the classroom. The moral layeredness of classroom teaching (Hansen, 1993) must thus be acknowledged as a constant feature of educational contexts. Lastly, there will always exist discrepancies between the various moral values played out in

the classroom. These discrepancies may be seen as conflicts (Colnerud, 1997; Joseph & Ephron, 1993), moral dilemmas (Johnston, 1991), or contradictions of values (Whitehead, 1993; Placier, 1996), or in terms of moral relativity (Willett, Solsken, & Wilson-Keenan, 1998); but in either case, the notion of a single set of moral values for the classroom is highly problematic (Applebaum, 1996). A degree of uncertainty and ambiguity must always accompany discussion and analysis of the moral in classrooms and in education (Johnston et al., 1998). In the present study, our understanding of morality in education concurs largely with the picture outlined above. The preceding selective literature review positions our own examination of authority, in relation to power and morality, in its theoretical and conceptual context. However, since, like Gore, we wished to examine these issues at the micro level of classroom discourse, we needed a framework with two crucial features: (1) it would allow us to focus on the interplay of power and morality in relation to teacher authority at the micro level of classroom discourse, and (2) it specifically framed classroom discourse as moral in nature. The work of Basil Bernstein, and specifically his notion of pedagogic discourse, was especially appropriate for our analysis of the moral dimensions of classroom discourse.

3. Theoretical framework: Bernstein’s pedagogic discourse Over the years in a number of his writings Bernstein (1975, 1990, 1996) has outlined the notion of pedagogic discourse. For Bernstein, pedagogic discourse is a principle which leads to ‘‘the embedding of one discourse in another, to create one text, to create one discourse’’ (1996, p. 46). The pedagogic discourse embeds the discourse of specialized competencies to be acquired, that is, what learners are to learn, in the discourse which creates and regulates social order. Bernstein refers to the former discourse as the instructional discourse and the latter discourse which ‘‘legitimizes the official rules regulating order, relation and identity’’ (1990, p. 188) as the regulative

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discourse. He notes that the two are often separated as the ‘moral and instructional’ but that in fact there is only one discourse: a single pedagogic discourse constituted by a grammar that functions as a recontextualizing principle: Often people in schools and in classrooms make a distinction between what they call the transmission of skills and the transmission of values y. Most researchers are continually studying the two, or thinking as if there are two: as if education is about values on the one hand, and about competence on the other. In my view there are not two discourses, there is only one y. The regulative discourse is the dominant discourse y this is obvious because it is the moral discourse that creates the criteria which give rise to character, manner, conduct y In school it tells children what to do, where they can go. (1996, p. 46–48) Bernstein views the regulative discourse as the moral discourse because it creates ‘‘a moral regulation of the social relations of transmission/ acquisition, that is, rules of order, relation and identity, and y such a moral order is prior to, and a condition for, the transmission of competencies’’ (1990, p. 184). Bernstein summarizes these relationships noting that ‘‘[p]edagogic discourse is then a recontextualizing principle/discourse which embeds competence in order and order in competence or, more generally, consciousness in conscience and conscience in consciousness’’ (1990, p. 185). Bernstein’s concept of pedagogic discourse is especially appropriate for our analysis of teacher authority and the interplay of power and morality that underpins it. Pedagogic discourse specifically frames classroom discourse within a context of both power relations and moral values by revealing how the instructional discourse is embedded in the regulative discourse. This is particularly important because it provides us with a means of analyzing how the dual nature of authority examined earlier is contained in a single feature of classroom discourse: a discourse that both creates and regulates social relations and social identities. Of course, the regulation that Bernstein talks about occurs in some form in every class-


room, and is an inherent feature of the discourse of instruction. Bernstein’s work brings this fact to the fore and allows us to appreciate its centrality in teaching. It also raises an important point about the level of analysis used when examining classroom interactions. For Bernstein, an understanding of the nature of symbolic control must include analysis of pedagogic discourse as it occurs at the micro level of classroom interaction. In this paper, we take the same approach. This is consistent with Gore’s call for the use of micro analyses as the most appropriate way of examining the mechanisms of schooling. Thus, Bernstein’s construct of pedagogic discourse provides us with a moral lens through which we can examine the complex interplay of authority, power, and morality as it occurs in the moment-to-moment, turn-by-turn interactions between teachers and children. Our use of Bernstein’s construct of pedagogic discourse is also in keeping with the suggestions offered by Heath (2000). When making suggestions for the use of qualitative methods in studying language in education, Heath reminds us that ‘‘we cannot forget the extent to which we now understand the embeddedness of language in systems of meaning, situation, and ideologies surrounding teacher-student relations’’ (2000, p. 58). We agree with Heath’s observation. As the literature cited above indicates, the relationship between power and authority has been examined from a variety of perspectives, as have the moral dimensions of teaching. Yet, few studies have specifically examined the interplay among power, authority and the moral dimensions of teaching and this is what is of central interest to us, namely, how the interrelation of authority, power and morality play out at the micro level of classroom discourse. Our method in performing this analysis will have as much in common with literary analysis as with conventional discourse analysis. Rather than attempting to demonstrate statistical relations or formal aspects of discourse, we are more interested in how discourse is used by the participants, especially in this case the teacher, to bring about certain ideological endsFthat is, how the form and content of the discourse are intertwined (Bakhtin, 1981). For this reason, our reading of


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the transcript will be selective, interpretive, and speculative, rather than exhaustive or definitive in nature (Wells, 1999). We aim to suggest possibilities of interpretation rather than establishing fixed meanings. Our goal in this research and in using Bernstein’s notion of pedagogic discourse is to examine the ‘embeddedness’ of the instructional discourse within the regulative discourse. Put differently, analyzing classroom dialogue as pedagogic discourse provides a powerful means of examining how the language of instruction, in Bernstein’s phrase quoted above, ‘‘embeds competence in order and order in competence.’’ Thus, by using the notion of pedagogic discourse as the analytical tool for examining classroom discourse, we can develop a better understanding of the often hidden political and moral dimensions of classroom interactions.

4. The beer dialogue We now turn to an examination of classroom dialogue to illustrate the points we outlined above. We selected this dialogue for two reasons. The first reason is that this dialogue illustrates a teacher’s dilemma. The teacher’s dilemma is a struggle between enacting her beliefs on how to nurture children’s emerging voices as authors while at the same time enacting her authority as a regulator of what and how the children write. Her latter concern focuses on developing in children the skills of self-regulation so that as writers they will understand and monitor the influence that their words and stories may have on others. This teacher, like the teachers Ball and Wilson (1996) write about, experiences the dilemma of being caught between her own values of respecting the individual voice, the writer’s voice, that she wants to nurture in each child, and her own concern for respecting the discipline and craft of writing. Put differently, she is concerned with nurturing and encouraging students’ expression of their own voice, that is, in part, a representation of their own identity as an author as expressed in their writing, and the concern of guiding and instructing students in learning the responsibility that accom-

panies authorship. This struggle is heightened for both teacher and students because it occurs during an author’s chair activity the purpose of which is for children to share stories they have written. Our intent is to examine how the content of writing instruction is embedded within a discussion of conduct and social order. It involves the ways the teacher guides and instructs, in effect aiming at the regulation of students’ behavior. Guiding, instructing and regulating students’ behavior are moral aspects of teaching that involve the teacher’s expression of her power and authority. The second reason we selected this dialogue is that it involves a number of exchanges between the teacher and her students focusing on a specific moral issueFhow to deal with Robbie’s use of the word ‘beer’ in his story. We believe an in-depth analysis of a single dialogue provides a rich opportunity to explore how the complex relationship among power, authority and morality are played out in the day-to-day world of an elementary classroom. The dialogue that appears below was recorded in a third-grade classroom during an author’s chair activity. During this activity, students take turns reading stories they have written. After the reading of each story, the author asks fellow students if they have comments or questions about the story. We join the dialogue as Robbie begins his story. (1) (2)

T: All right, Robbie. Go ahead. Robbie: OK. I’m gonna start a new chFstory, because my other one, I had so many misspelled words, and, um, I haF, in my first chapter is at jammin gym, and I just started on it today, and, here I go! (Begins reading) Joey, come on. If we are going to jammin gym, we have got to go now. I have rented a limo to take us there. OK. Let’s go. The limo is here. We are on our way. Joey said, ‘Hey guy, up in the front, where’s the beer?’ Under the seat. Joey, move out of the way, AAAAHH! Joe’s hanging out the window. And

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(3) (4)



(7) (8)

(9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16)

that’s all I said. (Class claps) Response. (Children put their hands up) Jessica. Jessica: How in the world did Joey get out, hanging out the window? Robbie: Because I pushed, I knocked him out of the way and he hit the door, and he’s hanging off the door, outside, and we’re going a hundred miles per hour on the freeway. He’s hanging by his pinkies and then we go up to a hundred and ten and he falls out the window. Chris? Chris: Um, well, this is just a suggestion, all right, um, oh, I’m just supposed to ask one questiony Are y’all gonna get caught drinking that beer? Robbie: He is. Well, actually, he’s going to get arrested because he falls out the window and he rolls a couple of feet and then goes up to the bank and he goes where all the money’s hid, and then he breaks in, and then he goes to jail, and then that’s when the real funny part’s going to be. When we go to jail. When HE goes to jail. (To group asking to see who is to share next or for a final question:) Anybody? (Students point and mumble among themselves) Kate. Kate: Noy T: Uh, before Robbie leaves I want to discuss some little something thatFI’m wondering if, what you thought about. JustFwhen he used the word beer in the story, uh, I’m wondering, how do y’all feel about that? Mark: Some kinds of beer are good for you. Robbie: It’s alcohol. It’s non-alcohol. Mark: You know, like root beer, it’s not alcohol. T: Well, that wasn’t said. Mark: He cany T: That wasn’t said, see. Robbie: I can change it to that. T: Well, I’m just thinking, you know


like, uh. What would be acceptable as far as words that we use here at school, and uh, what are your thoughts on it? Whispering among children: ‘‘It’s OK,’’ ‘‘I don’t like it,’’ ‘‘I don’t think’’; Will, standing near the teacher, says something. (17) T: Wait a minute, turn around and tell everybody. (18) Will: I don’t like the worFwhen he uses beer in the story. It’s sort of a slang word, especially if it’s a kid’s story that you’ll be reading to a class. I mean, grown-ups, like, if you were reading a grown-up book, you’d probably find some stuff like that in it, but not in a kid’s story. (19) Mark: I know, if he changed it to root beer, it’d be SAFE. (20) Chris: Safe? (21) Ann: I used to drink root beer. Robbie makes an inaudible comment. (22) Clare: Well, what if it gets public? I mean, it’ll give children the idea to do it. (23) Marie: I know and it’ll influence them. Most students look toward the teacher. (24) T: OK. Well, I don’t ever really want to make a person change their words or their thoughts in a story, but just every once in a while something kind of comes up, maybe a word that maybe is, might offend somebody else in the room or might, like Clare saidFClare, what was it you just said abouty? (25) Clare: It might get published one day, and if you likey childreny encourage them to do it. (26) T: In other words, it might influence somebody. And again, I don’t ever want to make you change something, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts on it because there’s certain subjects that, uh, might or might not be acceptable to children.


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5. Analysis and discussion of the beer dialogue In our analysis we will focus on two issues, both of which can be couched in terms of tensions of authority. First, the teacher faces the problem of supporting students’ competence as writers while also nurturing an awareness of how their writing may influence others. Essentially, the teacher must address the notion that classroom discourse, as Bernstein argues, intertwines the instructional and the regulative into a single pedagogic discourse. Secondly, the teacher faces the question of how to exercise her authority for moral ends (Hoskin, 1990). These two interrelated issues arise when Robbie includes beer-drinking as an element in his story (2). 5.1. Using authority to support students’ writing The teacher’s response to the first issue begins at (8) when she first calls into question Robbie’s use of the word ‘beer.’ Robbie, noting the concern, attempts to change the meaning, saying at (10) ‘‘It’s non-alcohol’’. However, the teacher refers back to the text twice for clarification: at (12) ‘‘Well, that wasn’t said’’, and at (14) ‘‘That wasn’t said, see.’’ At this point the teacher is using the original text to regulate the parameters of the discussion in that she seems to be saying that we can only talk about what is in the text. This is followed at (15) with Robbie’s saying ‘‘I can change it to that.’’ The teacher does not directly address this suggestion, perhaps leaving Robbie wondering why it is rejected. At (16) the teacher raises the topic of appropriate writing and texts at school when she asks: ‘‘What would be acceptabley here at school.’’ She then asks for the students’ thoughts. This section of the dialogue is interesting for several reasons. In raising the question about what is acceptable, a message is sent to students that there are aspects of writing which must be regulated and that the regulation must be performed by them as authors. Although the teacher wants the students to express their ideas through writing and story telling, she is calling their attention to the norms that define what is acceptable at school. At this point in the discussion, the teacher is saying to the students

that an important part of being a good writer involves being a responsible writer and this responsibility entails maintaining an awareness of what is appropriate for a particular contextFin this case, the classroom. In making this point, the teacher embeds learning how to write in the broader framework of using moral standards to regulate and guide what one writes, and that each of these demands a conscious awareness of the other. The teacher is at once expressing herself as an authority on writing in the way she is guiding the students in developing an understanding of the responsibilities of a writer toward their audience and the context in which they write, while at the same time maintaining her position as a teacher in authority, as exemplified by that fact that she initially raises the question about the appropriateness of the word ‘beer’ in Robbie’s text, and subsequently guides the discussion. For the teacher who is both an authority and in authority, this means that her actions are a means both to instruct and to regulate the students’ writing behavior. Thus, we see how the dual meanings of authority are present by way of the teacher’s contributions to the dialogue. Further, our recognition of these dual meanings of authority serves to inform our understanding of pedagogic discourse. As Bernstein (1990, 1996) notes, the instructional discourse is embedded within the regulatory discourse. This means that our understanding of instruction is always within the context of regulation. Thus, the teacher’s statements are part of a regulatory discourse which has embedded within it the instructional discourse concerning learning how to write. 5.2. Using authority for moral ends The second issue the teacher faces involves her role as moral agent specifically in her relation (Noddings, 1984) with Robbie. In this issue, the central dilemma of authority seems to be roughly as follows. On the one hand, her respect for the individual voices of the studentsFa value which, presumably, leads her to conduct such activities with the children in the first placeFsuggests that she should allow Robbie to write whatever kind of story he likes. Furthermore, she seems committed

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to what might broadly be seen as a constructivist approach to teaching, leading her to believe that rather than telling children things, they are more likely to learn if they can engage their own voices in dialogue to think them through. This is why the teacher says she ‘‘just wanted to hear your thoughts on it’’ (26). On the other hand, the teacher has a moral duty towards Robbie and also the rest of the class, which she perceives as encouraging that which is ‘‘good’’ and discouraging that which is not; and it is this duty that impels her to comment on Robbie’s mention of beer. Here, she is concerned about both the values that Robbie is ‘‘picking up,’’ and about the moral messages that are being sent to all the other children in the room. Such concern is emblematic of teaching as a moral activity (Hansen, 1998). At the same time, however, the teacher’s concern highlights the nature of the dilemmas continually faced by teachers (Hansen, 1998). In the teacher’s response to this dilemma, we see her actively figuring out how best to use her authorityFin the dual sense of power and knowledge referred to aboveFin the interest of moral guidance and moral rightness. This struggle is played out publicly, for example, at (24), when she comments: ‘‘Well, I don’t ever really want to make a person change their words or their thoughts in a story, but just every once in a while something kind comes up, maybe a word that maybe is, might offend somebody else in the room,’’ and at (26): ‘‘And again, I don’t ever want to make you change something, but I just wanted to hear your thoughts on it because there’s certain subjects that, uh, might or might not be acceptable to children.’’ The teacher’s response to her dilemma hinges around the word ‘‘but’’ in this utterance. She evidently wants the students to find and express their own voices. Indeed, she is acutely anxious not to ask them to change their words and thoughts. But she also has to weigh the possible negative moral influence of what the students’ voices might express, what she terms here as things that ‘‘might offend’’ others. What the teacher seems ultimately to be aiming at is what might be called self-regulation on the part of the students (Buzzelli, 1995; Green, 1999).


Interestingly, while she explicitly rejects Robbie’s posthoc attempts at self-regulation, she simultaneously nurtures it in the other children. Her first, rather vague contribution at (8) (‘‘I’m wondering, how do y’all feel about that?’’) is intended to lead the children to an awareness of the need for selfregulation. When they fail to pick up on this, her next question addressed to them is more directive, while still refraining from any overt moral judgment: ‘‘What would be acceptable as far as words that we use here at school and, uh, what are your thoughts on it?’’ (16). She directs things further when, it seems, she hears that Will has got the idea, and, using her authority, gives Will the floor. At this point, the other children also follow along, and soon they are chiming in with ‘‘It’ll give children the idea to do it’’ (Clare at (22)) and ‘‘It’ll influence them’’ (Marie at (23)). Here the specific dual authority invested in the teacher, over both process and product, is used to apply what in political science has been called ‘‘soft power’’ (Barber, 1995) in the interests of moral agency. The dilemma resides in the fact that it is debatable whether, for example, ‘‘It’ll give children the idea to do it’’ is a contribution in Clare’s own voice, or whether the teacher, through her control of the discourse with the help of her own authority, has put words in Clare’s mouth. Thus, in this dilemma of the teacher we can see the intersection of many of the themes from the present paper. First and foremost, though, her dilemma is a clear example of Bernstein’s pedagogic discourse: The instructional discourse of learning how to write in order to express one’s own unique voice is embedded in, and thus subject to and trammeled by, the regulative discourse that establishes and maintains moral rules of social relations and identities, and thus adjudicates what is and is not offensive and, more generally speaking, morally acceptable. In taking part in and overseeing pedagogic discourse, the teacher is inevitably using her authority both for purposes of regulating power relations and for moral ends: she is both a political and a moral agent in the classroom. Finally, the teacher’s dilemma in the beer dialogue represents a concrete example of the abstract dilemmas of teacher authority referred to


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above, which theorists have long grappled with. How should teachers use their authority in ways which support student learning yet do not represent an imposition on their individual freedom (Tobin, 1995)? And conversely, how can a teacher nurture a classroom where students’ voices can be heard and yet where these voices are informed by a sense of responsibility? The beer dialogue shows how these dilemmas are enacted in very real ways through actual classroom interactions, and how teachers have to re-address them afresh each time they arise.

6. Conclusion and implications Through our analysis of this dialogue, we have considered how the teacher’s dual authority is brought to bear in instructing students in two important aspects of writing. One aspect has to do with a conscious awareness of the effects of their writing upon those who read or hear their stories; the second aspect involves the expression of one’s voice as an author. Further, the dual nature of authority is revealed in Bernstein’s notion of pedagogic discourse. Thus, the analysis has demonstrated how the instructional discourse with its function of developing competencies, in this case, nurturing children’s emerging skills as writers and the expression of their voices, is embedded in the regulative discourse which functions to maintain social order, manner, and conduct by telling children to write so as not to offend others or influence them in negative ways. As a whole, this dialogue captures the profound dilemmas of a teacher committed to a dialogical approach to teaching. It would be much simpler for the teacher to say something like: ‘‘Robbie, I forbid you to use the word ‘beer’ in a story again. It’s a bad word, and it doesn’t belong in a third grader’s essay.’’ It is a tribute to her teaching that she chooses a response which conveys her concern while allowing Robbie and the other children to follow the argument through by themselves. Yet it could also be said of this passage that the teacher is getting her point across just as effectively as if she had made the blunter statement. Indeed, it is because she believes this way is more effective that

she employs ‘‘soft power’’ (Barber, 1995) rather than a heavy-handed approach. In other words, while she is not being authoritarian, she is still using her authority as teacherFin both senses Fto convey a particular moral message. The moral significance of this kind of dialogue is considerable. Not only is individual voice valued; there is also a premium placed on social interaction and the negotiation of everything from classroom processes to personal meanings. Furthermore, such values as responsibility are promoted: when students (or anyone else, for that matter) know that their voice is valued and listened to and will be taken into consideration, they automatically feel an enhanced sense of their own responsibility to participate effectively and to make sure their contribution is accurately phrased and interpreted. Put simply, they care about what they say in class, because they know it matters. It is in examples such as this that the moral dimension of empowerment through dialogue can be seen most clearly. This dialogue offers a small but telling example of the complex ways in which the dual nature of teacher authority is played out in classrooms. There is no single right or wrong way to handle situations such as the one described here; we only wish to argue that they can be best conceptualized in terms of the tensions of morality and power that are unavoidably inherent in the exercise of authority. These tensions can never be resolved; they present constant difficult choices to the teacher, and each time they arise they must be dealt with afresh in complex and ambiguous moral contexts in which decisions are rarely easy or straightforward. However, as with many other aspects of teaching, the effort to understand the tensions of authority is important in itself. As educators from Freire (1972) to Hoskin (1990) have pointed out, authority is a constant in teaching; the authority of the teacher, and the relations of power and morality that underlie it, should then be a source of continual reflection. This is especially important because, as we have seen, context plays a vital role, and the complex, changing nature of each particular classroom and each group of learners means that the relationship between power and morality, and thus the

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particular forms that authority takes on, must constantly be reevaluated and reconceptualized. The present paper offers a way of embarking on this process.

Acknowledgements An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Montreal, Canada, April 1999.

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