Re-conceptualizing authority relations in education: a micro-situational approach

Anne Pirrie*, Irene Rafanell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
162 Downloads (Pure)


This article explores the conception of authority relations in the classroom that are implicit in some examples of related policy documentation in Scotland and England. We argue that the importance of the constitutive role of the micro-dynamics of face-to-face interaction in classroom settings is neglected in documentation of this type. We explore this claim with reference to examples of policy in two jurisdictions of the UK, namely The Donaldson Review and The Standards for Registration in Scotland; and policy-related guidance from England on improving discipline in schools and pupils’ behaviour. We also consider how authority relations are conceptualised in a recent article that has made a significant contribution to the literature in the field (Macleod et al, 2012). Finally, we present a theoretical account that counterbalances prevailing approaches to authority relations in the classroom. We suggest that authority is continuously negotiated, challenged, accepted, defined, and ultimately constituted in and through the dynamics of interaction between and amongst pupils (and between pupils and teachers).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number1
Early online date28 Jun 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Jun 2017


  • Affective sanctioning
  • Authority relations
  • Behaviour
  • Discipline
  • Interactionism


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