PODER Power dynamics in education revisited



Comissão Europeia, Erasmus+ (Partnerships for cooperation and exchanges of practices / Cooperation partnership in adult education)






  • Elan Interculturel (França)
  • Artemisszio Alapitvany (Hungria)
  • Collectiu Eco-Actiu (Espanha)
  • Giolli – Societa Cooperativa Sociale – Centro Permanente di Ricerca e Sperimentazione Teatrale sui Metodi Boal e Freire (Itália)
  • Centro de Investigação e Intervenção Educativas da Faculdade de Psicologia e de Ciências da Educação da Universidade do Porto, com Instituto Paulo Freire de Portugal (Portugal)


Equipa portuguesa

  • José Pedro Amorim (IR)
  • Luiza Cortesão
  • Eunice Macedo
  • Joana Cruz
  • Alexandra Carvalho
  • Beatriz Villas-Bôas



30 meses

Data de início 01-01-2022, data de fim 30-06-2024






The needs assessments pointed to several challenges related to power dynamics that adult educators face in their work. Some of these challenges are related to individual hierarchy: educators have been criticised for being too vertical, others for letting all guidance out of their hands, which shows that finding the proper balance to conform to changing expectations is not easy.

Challenges connected to group-based hierarchisation are even more complex: educators unwillingly offend members of minorised groups by failing to counter manifestations of racist attitudes in the classroom, by failing to properly integrate a post-colonialist or anti-racist perspective to their training, or by proposing division between men and women (excluding a non-binary person) etc. On the other hand, they are sometimes criticised for placing too much attention on oppressions. Visibly it is difficult for many of them to keep up with the changing representations and expectations for dealing with exclusion. (Please see needs assessment in annex for examples of concrete incidents)



Our primary objectives focus on adult educators’ competences to overcome challenges related to power and hierarchy. Our concrete aims are to:

  • stimulate a better awareness of the challenges of power and hierarchy in education
  • to raise awareness of the learning pathways needed to overcome the challenges of power and hierarchy in education
  • to develop educators’ awareness about the need to consider issues of structural discriminations
  • to develop educators’ knowledge about different identity-based exclusions, power dynamics, contemporary context and debates
  • to trigger changes in attitude towards members of minorities, implying less rejection and more empathy
  • to provide new techniques to create an open, safe and brave learning space
  • to develop a better capacity to step up against manifestations of oppressions
  • to facilitate the adaptation a maieutic approach to deal with manifestations of racism, discriminations or resistances
  • to offer strategies to integrate a political dimension to the learning experience, considering power relations
  • to increase motivation to integrate a critical intercultural approach in one’s pedagogical mission, motivating learners to act for more equality



  1. As a first activity with the target group, we’ll collect 40 critical incidents from adult educators and learners that highlight how issues related to power dynamics and hierarchy can create tensions and conflicts in education activities. Based on their analysis we’ll derive a helping us to define more precisely the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary in adult education to overcome power-related challenges.
  2. To answer the needs for knowledge about identity-based exclusions we’ll compile a collection of texts about different forms of exclusions (i.e. gender, race, social class, religion, culture), their roots and their contemporary challenges as well as the debates surrounding them.
  3. Members of majority society sometimes react to members of minorities with rejection and disengagement. Such attitudes can have diverse roots: they can be consequences of the need to justify rationally one’s relative privileges, they can derive from long-standing prejudices against those groups that even contribute to the maintenance of the pattern of discrimination and they can also result from attributing intentional or personal reasons for behaviours that are based in situational constraints. To contribute to a change of attitude, we’ll develop a guide to develop empathy based on awareness of structural violence. The guide will be shared with partners during a joint staff training and tested with educators through a one-day pilot session.
  4. We will also work on the skills necessary to address issues of power and hierarchy, which we break down in two steps. A first part consists in providing concrete methods and techniques to create an inclusive climate for students of all groups (creating a safe space for all, ensuring that perspectives of structural oppressions are considered, etc.). To do this we’ll create a toolkit compiling concrete techniques. 12 hours of pilot sessions and two days of joint staff training will help us test and adjust the products close to educators’ needs and preferences.
  5. A second component consists in enabling educators to embody these methods in action. As power dynamics are directly connected to sensations of dignity, rejection, oppression, they constitute a highly sensitive zone, which often makes the acquired conceptual knowledge difficult to apply. It is for this reason that we wish to devise a theatre-based training, where educators get to practice their skills in the safety of the theatre, but already immersed in group dynamics and power dynamics. The training will comprise developing sensibility to power dynamics, capacity to adopt a maieutic attitude to address manifestations of oppressions. Three days long pilot sessions and three days of joint staff training will help us keep the products close to educators’ needs and preferences.
  6. Our last work phase takes us one step further: Educators’ mission towards equality does not need to stop at preventing negative consequences of power relations in the classroom, if they wish, they can do more. Our last objective is to show them how, through creating a guide to integrate a critical intercultural approach into the learning process. We’ll propose a guide built on Freire’s approach, which we’ll co-construct with adult educators to ensure that it is properly adapted to their working culture.