Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Supervisor

Associate Professor Leonard King

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Richard Fuller

Third Supervisor

Associate Professor Glenda Campbell-Evans


Empowering students to take control to lead functional and fulfilling lives should help them meet their needs for power and belonging, and enable them to realise their social goals. Such an outcome should positively affect students' achievement motivation. However, there is little understanding and research on the construct of student empowerment particularly in the primary school context from the teacher and student perspective. Teachers have a power-over relationship with students and arc in a position to decide how they exercise that power. Teachers who choose to enable student empowerment can share power with students to establish positive forces of power, namely power-with and power-to. This exploratory research examined the nature of student empowerment and how it can be enabled. A descriptive study using ethnographic techniques was conducted in a primary school classroom. Findings suggest that there are two dimensions of student empowerment: intrapersonal and interpersonal empowerment, which supports existing literature. Moreover, they build on the literature by indicating that intrapersonal empowerment is the ability and capability of students to pursue appropriate and complementary social and achievement goals through the establishment of agendas. Interpersonal empowerment is the pursuit of goals by students that are not in conflict with peers or the teacher. It is a sense of collective autonomy with peers and the teacher. This research indicates that student empowerment is a fluid and fragile phenomenon, but also one that the teacher can contribute to. The findings of the study suggest that teachers can enable students to become empowered by sharing power with students. Teachers can share power with students by facilitating the pursuit of students' agendas to help them coordinate their pursuit of appropriate social and achievement goals. That is, teachers can adopt beliefs and establish structures, processes and an environment conducive to student empowerment. These findings have led to the development of a framework, which describes the variables enabling student empowerment and their interrelationship. Finally, this study indicates the importance of student empowerment to enabling students to realise their social and achievement goals and meet their needs for power and belonging, thus enhancing motivation and achievement,

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