Here we look at power based relationships, and the ways in which a teacher can elicit positive (or negative) behavioral patterns. This is crucial as students look to the teacher as a model for how to use the language. Group formations and how they inﬂuence motivation are also studied, as well as creating a cohesive classroom environment to encourage learner autonomy.
Learner autonomy is ultimately the end goal of any teacher as they discover how to use the language on their own in the real world environment as well as future jobs or travels.
Power relationships are typically deﬁned as an individual’s potential to effect another persons’ or group of peoples’ behavior. Obviously, communication is a key component of the style and nature of your power balance in the classroom.
Developing a good student-teacher relationship is essential for achieving mutual trust and confidence within learning the language.
There are three recognized categories of power based relationships: coercive, reward based and referent based. Coercive power is an authoritarian style of power and involves using punishment as a form of behavior modiﬁcation. It is not seen as a desirable power trait, especially in an ESL classroom when learning should be fun and all inclusive.
Reward based power is where the teacher elicits positive behavioral patterns via a mixture of intrinsic or extrinsic reward. This can be as simple as dishing out high 5’s, providing praise and encouragement, handing out stickers, candy, or even something as simple as allowing free time in the classroom after an activity. This form of power diminishes after time, and students will eventually come to expect a reward every single time positive behavior is accomplished. This can lead to problematic situations and conﬂicts of learning standards.
Referent power is the mutual respect and adoration between student and teacher – where they both strive to achieve loyalty, respect, admiration and friendship. This is the best type of power based relationship as it enables your students to become autonomous learners.
Assessment Category: Learner & Teacher Motivation