Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Relationship between Gender of Consultant and Social Power Perceptions within School Consultation

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

The Relationship between Gender of Consultant and Social Power Perceptions within School Consultation

Article excerpt

Abstract. This study's focus was on school psychologists' perceived effectiveness of 11 social power bases (Raven, 1993) that may be drawn upon when consulting with initially resistant teachers. Specifically, the relationship between consultant gender and perceptions of power base effectiveness was examined. The Interpersonal Power Inventory-Form CT (Erchul, Raven, & Ray, 2001) was mailed to a national sample of school psychologists. Results indicated female school psychologists rated both "soft" bases (i.e., information, expert, legitimate dependency, personal reward, referent) and "hard" bases (i.e., impersonal reward, impersonal coercion, personal coercion, legitimate position, legitimate reciprocity, legitimate equity) as more effective than did male school psychologists. Effect size analysis, however, revealed that only soft power bases distinguished the groups. Findings are discussed in light of gender differences in communication and leadership styles.


The bases of social power (French & Raven, 1959), as key to successful influence during teacher consultation, has a rich, albeit controversial, history within school psychology. Although some have noted the heuristic and practical value of social power (e.g., Erchul & Raven, 1997; Lambert, 1973; Martin, 1978), others have downplayed its importance (e.g., Gutkin, 1999b; Henning-Stout, 1993). Along these lines, a central theme of the recent collaboration debate (Erchul, 1999; Gutkin, 1999a, 1999b; Schulte & Osborne, 2003) is the extent to which social power and influence are regarded as meaningful constructs to explain processes and outcomes of school consultation.

At the outset, we wish to articulate why social power and influence are relevant to the study of school consultation. First and foremost, social power underlies influence, and consultation increasingly is acknowledged as an interpersonal influence process (Hughes, 1992; O'Keefe & Medway, 1997). Second, power and influence are intrinsic to all human relationships (e.g., Leary, 1957), so their relevance to consultation is without doubt. Third, school psychologists are characterized as having the potential to influence others despite lacking formal legitimate power (sometimes referred to as "position power"), a power base commonly attributed to educational administrators and school board members (Fagan & Wise, 2000). Fourth, the successful delivery of indirect services by school psychologists hinges on the application of power and influence (Conoley & Gutkin, 1986). Finally, knowledge of power and influence is relevant to understanding issues of treatment integrity/fidelity (Noell et al., 2000) and resistance in consultation (Wickstrom & Witt, 1993).

To proceed, it is essential to define what these two terms mean. Social influence is defined as a change in the beliefs, attitudes, and/or behavior of one person (the target of influence) that can be attributed to another person (the influencing agent). Social power is the potential ability of an influencing agent to induce such change in a target using the resources that are available (French & Raven, 1959). The bases of power model has undergone numerous conceptual changes, one of the most critical of which was advanced by Raven (1993). By way of summary, Table 1 describes the 14 individual bases or power sources that comprise Raven's current power/interaction model of interpersonal influence.

Subsequent research has shown that the power sources are not independent. Koslowsky, Schwarzwald, and Ashuri (2001), for example, found a two-factor solution that portrayed power bases as hard/harsh/strong or soft/weak. Hard or harsh or strong bases conform to popular stereotypes of power as being coercive, overt, and heavy-handed. Hard bases include personal coercion, impersonal coercion, legitimate position, legitimate reciprocity, legitimate equity, and impersonal reward power. …

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