Early childhood teachers in contexts of power : empowerment and a voice

Document Type


Publication details

Overton, J 2009, 'Early childhood teachers in contexts of power: empowerment and a voice', Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, vol. 34, no. 2, pp. 1-10.

Jenny Overton also publishes in the name of Jenny Johnston.

Peer Reviewed



This article reports on findings from a qualitative research project that highlighted a lack of empowerment experienced by, with and for eight early childhood teachers working in Tasmanian schools. The study investigated how change affects teachers, and focused on the theme of power as experienced by these teachers. The study noted three dimensions of power relationships in teachers' work lives: power imposed upon teachers (i.e. top-down, bureaucratic power); empowerment for themselves and others (reactionary mechanisms across or between teachers in search of empowerment); and disempowerment (behaviours, events and actions that actively eroded teachers' sense of empowerment). This article outlines the ways in which these teachers were constrained, yet sought to self-enable, in their work contexts. Disempowerment was felt through devaluing and lack of appreciation, lack of provision of resources and funding, and through the lack of direct or indirect forms of support from the system, the principal and senior staff. Empowerment was obtained through voluntary transfers, involvement in professional associations, length of teaching experience or inexperience, own learning and/or professional development, encouraging self and others, and through decision-making processes. Recommendations and implications are included in the discussion.

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