Thesis defence in the University of Oulu

Doctoral Candidate

Masters' of Arts in Education Audrey Paradis

Faculty and research unit

University of Oulu Graduate School, Faculty of Education, Teachers, Teaching and Educational Communities

Field of study


Date and time of the thesis defence

11.10.2019 12:00

Place of the thesis defence

University of Oulu, Linnanmaa, L10

Topic of the dissertation

Towards a relational conceptualisation of teacher autonomy - Narrative research on the autonomy perceptions of upper-secondary school teachers in different contexts


Professor Auli Toom, University of Helsinki


Professor Raimo Kaasila, University of Oulu

A new perception of teacher autonomy could empower teachers

This research considers Canadian and Finnish teachers’ perceptions of autonomy because of its importance to teachers’ feelings of competency, empowerment and professionalism. The findings suggest that context influences how teachers perceive their autonomy. They also reveal that trust plays a decisive role in whether teachers feel autonomous or not, that trust plays a central to the relationships teachers have at work, and that autonomy exists in relations. Consequently, this research claims that the spectrum of autonomy for teachers should be expanded beyond its current individuality, to include a broader, more relational understanding of autonomy. A core argument of this research is therefore that teacher autonomy needs to be reconceptualised as relying on contextual factors and relationships. The overall importance of and desire for autonomy may be symptomatic of teachers’ reactions to obtain more, or to keep the autonomy they have. In the narrative study, data was collected by interviews with 15 upper-secondary school mathematics teachers from Canada and 12 from Finland. The contents of the teachers’ narratives were analysed in their whole and by comparing them on the basis of the main themes. By providing a more comprehensive conceptualisation of teacher autonomy—i.e., one which is more context-sensitive and which focuses on teachers’ concerns—the findings of this research supports more empowering ways for teachers to exert a proactive influence on their own autonomy. Teachers who feel satisfied, supported, empowered and autonomous are more committed and motivated, which in turn advances better, more adaptive, and more adequate teacher education.


Last updated: 1.10.2019