Teachers' experiences of power relations as psychological violence
Human-van der Westhuizen, Alecia
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The purpose of this study is to examine teachers’ experiences of power relations as psychological violence and the impact it has on their health. This study, using a qualitative approach, thus investigates the association between power relations and the dimensions thereof and how it manifests as psychological violence. In turn, it may have detrimental effects on the health of the teacher and the whole teaching-learning process. Based on the findings, recommendations for this - and future research - are proposed. Open-ended phenomenological interviews were used to collecct the qaulitative data. Eleven participants indicated their willingness to be individually interviewed for the study. The qualitative findings indicated that teachers experience power relations as psychological violence, it is experienced severely and emanates mostly from colleagues in management positions. The most prevalent and severe forms of power relations as psychological violence as experienced by teachers include being subjected to power abuse from principals; being subjected to autocratic management styles and management’s power abuse through the abdication of responsibility. The most severe physical health consequenses as experienced by teachers include feeling tired and experiencing physical ill health. It further emerged that the most severe phychological health consequenses were experienced in the form of feelings of helplessness and feeling emotional or wanting to cry. Teachers’ lack of work productivity and motivation were the most severe behavioural consequense because of the experience of power abuse as psychological violence. Teachers’ personal and family relations and teachers withdrawing socially were the most evident social consequense due to negative experiences. The findings from the study indicated that teachers experience power relations as psychological violence in various forms and that it is highly prevalent. The research results have shown that teachers identified many dimensions of power relations, such as management styles, the perception or experience of someone’s power or “weak point”, possessing no power or status, female teachers being treated in a subordinate manner and racial or cultural differences of others as a contributer to abuse power in relationships at school. This study contributes towards the power relations and psychological violence literature in general and in particular, teachers’ experiences in South Africa. In the light of the findings the study recommends that teacher support programmes should be put in place in order to address the experience of power relations as psychological violence. It further recommends that teachers and students studying to become teachers should be provided with information about power relations as psychological violence to create awareness.
- Education 
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