Teachers and their work are crucial in today's society, where education is deemed highly important. For teachers to be given the best opportunity to carry out their job, it is important to understand their working conditions. A number of reforms have been introduced in the upper secondary school in Sweden, reforms that affect not only the pupils but also the teachers. This implies changed working conditions for the teachers. The teaching profession certainly can be categorised as a people-profession. In addition to dealing with their clients -the pupils - teachers also interact professionally with a number of actors in the organisation where they work, for example their fellow colleagues and the headmasters. In addition, they have to relate to both national and local policies, such as the national curricula. Two of the key issues in teachers' work, as with any profession, are those of autonomy and discretionary power. This is a study dealing with teachers' working conditions, focusing on the concept of discretion. It examines the ongoing negotiation process of shaping, and re-shaping professional work. The objects of study are upper secondary teachers, a group of professionals, and their perceived discretion in their school contexts. The aim of the study is to explore and problematise upper secondary teachers' discretion. The context in which this study takes place can be described in terms of a changing school system, with governance as well as organisational changes being introduced. Many reforms during the last couple of decades have their origin in the new public management discourse where effectiveness, efficiency and economy are key words. The public sector needs to become more efficient, it has been claimed, and the question is what that means for the professionals, in this case the teachers. These conditions are applicable to other Western societies, and thus this study can be said to have relevance not only in a Swedish context. In this study the perpetual issue of the tension or dynamics between profession and organisation is examined; teachers' discretionary power will be problematised, using teachers' voices as the point of entry. The study is based on interviews with upper secondary teachers in an upper secondary school. The results point at the tension between profession and organisation. In the interviews on which this study is based, four main relationships emerged as crucial when it comes to the creation of discretionary power. These relationships are with policies, headmasters, colleagues and pupils. This relationship-based approach helps to unveil a dimension of teachers' work and an arena of where and how discretion is created - a social dimension. In these relationships we can see different proportions of power, control, demand, social support, governance and trust. These concepts are enabling and constraining in various ways. In addition, the concept of role identity is central in understanding how the teachers perceive their level of discretion. The social-psychological concepts of power, control, governance, demand, social support and trust help to illuminate the social process in which discretion is created.
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2007. , 217 p.