An improbable leadership: structural limits of educational communication. The case of some Italian primary schools

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticle


This paper discusses the results of field research focused on educational communication in the classroom. The research involved 11 primary schools in Italy. Nearly 100 hours of videotaped educational interactions were produced. The empirical analysis of the communication processes allowed us to analyse the main structures of educational communication. Mainstream researches on education analyse this subject in terms of the relationship between an educator and his or her pupils. Educators’ behaviour and practices are discussed and produce normative insights on the way an educator should perform to transmit knowledge, basic values and social norms. We are concerned about the meaning of ‘relationship’, that most works on education seem to be taken for granted as a trivial communicative input–output process where, upon a definite educator’s input and through a specific function, pupils discharge some definite output. But educational communication cannot control its consequences; as its meanings are constructed by pupils, its outcomes are unpredictable. The data highlight the relevance of preparing educators for the complexity of the interconnections between educational relationships and communication; it would implicate the empowerment of education’s reflexivity potential, giving to educators opportunities to recognize and exploit the potentialities of the situations that may emerge in educational settings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-388
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Education
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jan 2010



  • educational leadership
  • teacher-pupil interaction
  • primary school
  • questions
  • italy

Cite this