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Tuesday 2 April

Teacher empowerment: leaving the twilight zone

with Paula Rebolledo

Over the past few years and in different fields, the word “empowerment” has become increasingly used in talks, papers and social media. Education, of course, has not escaped this trend and the concept is frequently mentioned as a desired outcome of any educational activity and teachers, among the lucky ones to benefit from it. However, and interestingly, the notion of empowerment is usually not defined and hardly discussed in depth. Is then empowerment such a common concept these days that needs no clarification? Or, is it that its complexity deters any further analysis? I believe the persistent calls for the empowerment of teachers demand a closer study of the process and a critical appraisal of its occurrence. In this talk, we will examine the concept of empowerment and “teacher empowerment” more specifically. I will draw on general education literature to present the different dimensions of teacher empowerment and what research findings suggest regarding its role in students’ achievement. We will then zoom in on English language teaching and look at how empowered English teachers claim to feel by sharing stories of empowerment and disempowerment. In doing so, I will invite you to reflect on enabling features, hindering factors and paradoxes identified to ultimately think of ways forward if we ‘truly’ wish teacher empowerment to leave the twilight zone.

Paula Rebolledo
Paula Rebolledo has 20 years of teaching experience and has taught at primary, secondary, undergraduate and postgraduate levels and in INSETT programmes. She currently teaches at MA level and works as a researcher and consultant. She is the former coordinator of teacher education at the English Open Doors Programme (EODP) at the Ministry of Education in Chile. Her research interests include teaching young learners, teacher education, professional development and teacher-research. For the past six years, she has been mentoring teacher-research initiatives such as the Champion Teachers programme and the APTIS Action Research Award Scheme, both funded by the British Council, and the Laureate Action Research Scheme funded by Laureate Languages. She co-authored with Richard Smith A Handbook for Exploratory Action Research and co-edited the Champion Teachers Chile and Peru Stories of Exploratory Action Research. She is the co-founder of RICELT, the first Chilean network of researchers in ELT.
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