Students in Conflict
With Teachers' Agendas:
Interactive Contributions to
Classroom Power Relations
This chapter takes a closer look at student participation in constructing classroom power relations. As they pursue their agenda of "having an interesting day," and collaborate in the shared agenda of cooperation in learning, as they build new rooms in otherwise unoccupied areas of the imaginary building that represents power relations in their classrooms, as on occasion they attempt to build a new room in an area occupied, or potentially occupied, by an existing or planned teacher-built structure, students, like teachers, are continually engaged in creating the "What Teachers and Students Can Do Here" structure.
Seeing and interpreting the actions of students has proved to be the most difficult part of this analysis. Equipped with tools from ethnomethodoloy, microethnography, sociolinguistics, and conversational analysis, I have tried to make rigorous yet imaginative interpretations of student actions.
Three barriers create the difficulty I experienced. First, the students are many, while the teachers are few. As an observational problem, recording and analyzing student actions is a much more complex task than recording and analyzing teacher actions. Inevitably, it is less complete.
Second, with the teachers, I am a peer. I could ask a teacher, often within moments, what she had been intending when a particular action took place. I could give teachers copies of transcripts, or show them videos of interaction in their classrooms, and engage in extensive discussion about their intentions and beliefs, correcting and developing my interpretations as I progressed. On-the-spot interviewing of students would be a serious intrusion in any classroom, and impossible in some. Though I know other researchers