Professional standards for teachers and school leaders

Michalinos Zembylas (Open University of Cyprus, Latsia, Cyprus)

Journal of Professional Capital and Community

ISSN: 2056-9548

Publication date: 9 July 2018



The purpose of this paper is to contribute to recent work that interrogates the affective conditions in standardizing processes taking place in schools by asking: what are the relations between affect and biopower, when standardizing processes take place in schools, and how can we better understand the constitution of affective spaces and atmospheres that enable some transformative potentials while preventing others?


The main argument is that professional standards for teachers and school leaders create ambivalent (i.e. both positive and negative) affective spaces and atmospheres in schools that require one to look for the ways in which biopower works affectively through specific technologies. This ambivalence produces not only governable and self-managed teachers and school leaders who simply implement professional standards, but also affective spaces and atmospheres that might subvert the normalizing effects (and affects) of standards.


While attention has been directed to the involvement of affectivity in standardizing processes, what has been theorized less in the field of professional capital is the entanglement of affect and biopower in the spread of professional standards. Engaging with recent work surrounding the affective turn in the social sciences and humanities, the encounter between affect and biopower opens methodological, ethical and political possibilities to examine the affective impact of standards on the professional capital of teachers and school leaders. The analysis displaces emotions from their dominant positionality in discourses about professional standards, reinvigorating theoretical explorations of the affective spaces and atmospheres that co-constitute subjectivities, organizations, governance and social practices in standardizing processes.


The spatiotemporal and organizational arrangements of schools while undergoing standardizing processes constitute crucial constellations for ethical and political reproduction of affective relations. Thus, the destabilizing and inventive potentials of affects, spaces and atmospheres – to name a few conceptual resources – are extremely important in exposing the normalizing as well as resisting aspects of standardizing processes.



Michalinos Zembylas (2018) "Professional standards for teachers and school leaders", Journal of Professional Capital and Community, Vol. 3 No. 3, pp. 142-156

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