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Relationship as Responsibility: a Portrait of Four Middle School Teachers

Jillian J Harpster, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Over the course of the last century, much has been written about the nature of responsibility and its definitional qualities (Flexner, 1915; Forsyth & Danisiewicz, 1985; Neal & Morgan, 2000; Buhai, 2012; Bourke, 2015). Responsibility is often linked to autonomy or freedom, professionalism, and professional judgment. Within the field of education in the 21st century, responsibility is more often used in conversations around teacher accountability as defined or determined by student scores on standardized tests. Teachers’ voices, however, are often excluded from both the scholarship around teacher responsibility and the national conversation around teacher responsibilities as defined by current accountability measures. This study engaged teacher participants in conversations around responsibility over the course of four months, during which the researcher recorded, transcribed, and analyzed each interview. Through the use of portraiture as a methodology, this study of four teacher participants engaged multiple ways of seeing and understanding teacher responsibility. Collectively, the teacher voices presented here revealed that one salient definitional aspect of teacher responsibility is that it is relationally based and acted upon. These teachers’ relationships with and care for colleagues, school leaders, and their students ultimately defined their responsibilities and their prioritization of those responsibilities.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Educational leadership|Education philosophy

Recommended Citation

Harpster, Jillian J, "Relationship as Responsibility: a Portrait of Four Middle School Teachers" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI28031432.