Teacher Autonomy and Supervisor Authority: Power Dynamics in Language Teacher Supervision in Iran

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of English, Islamic Azad University, Azadshahr Branch

2 Shiraz University


The power imbalance inherent in supervision can seriously challenge language teachers’ autonomy leading to resistance, anxiety, frustration and even anger. This study explored the possible uses or abuses of power when teacher supervisors exercise their authority to fulfill their responsibilities. The study drew on Foucault’s (1991) conception of power, and Vygotsky’s (1978) social constructivism. Using mixed-methods design, the researchers interviewed both EFL teachers, and supervisors, and examined some post-observation feedback conferences. A questionnaire was also administered to survey teachers’ and supervisors’ conception of power dynamics in the language teacher supervision profession. Factor analysis of the data resulted in the extraction of two factors including “directiveness” and “uniformity promotion”. Independent samples t-test did not indicate a significant difference between the teachers’ and supervisors’ perceptions of power. Analysis of the interviews and post-observation feedback conferences confirmed the findings indicating that supervisors mostly used classic prescriptive approaches to supervision in which teachers have little power. Supervisors mostly resorted to their position power and reward power seldom using their expert power which seems to have led to resistance on the part of the teachers. Finally, the paper provides a framework emerging from the qualitative data that presents some strategies to effectively manage the power imbalance in language teacher supervision profession.