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Teachers and supervisors negotiating face during critical account requests in post observation feedback

Helen Donaghue


This article shows, through the analysis of “real life” institutional interaction, how experienced teachers and supervisors negotiate face when teachers contest or manage supervisors’ critical account requests during post observation feedback meetings. A linguistic micro-analysis of data extracts is supplemented with ethnographic data drawn from participant perspective interviews and researcher knowledge. The analysis shows how participants subtly and skillfully employ facework to manage the potential face-threat engendered by criticism and disagreement. This facework is mostly successful, but in one case the supervisor orients to face-threat and closes down the topic of discussion. This demonstrates that face is consequential to both unfolding talk and the feedback goal of dialogue and development. Feedback participants, both supervisors and teachers, also engage in moves of face support and face maintenance. The analysis shows face to be an emergent, situated relationship, co-constructed by both participants, and also shows that participants are willing to risk face-threat to achieve institutional goals (supervisors) and defend their actions (teachers). This supports the view that face-threat is rational and common and indicates that criticism, account requests, and disagreements are acceptable norms in post observation feedback.

Corresponding author: Helen Donaghue, Sheffield Hallam University – Sheffield Institute of Education, Arundel Building, Sheffield, S1 1WB, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, E-mail:

Appendix: Transcription conventions

[ indicates the point of overlap onset
(0.3) an interval between utterances (3 tenths of a second in this case)
(.) a very short untimed pause
WORD indicates a stressed word
we:ll : indicates lengthening of the preceding sound
- a single dash indicates an abrupt cut-off
rising intonation, not necessarily a question
falling intonation
◦ ◦ utterances between degree signs are noticeably quieter than surrounding talk
! definite and emphatic intonation
? intonation indicates a question
(xxxx) a stretch of unclear or unintelligible speech
(guess) indicates transcriber doubt about a word
(sighs) additional information
(laughs) indicates laughter
eh, ah, um fillers
mm/mmhm backchanneling indicators

  1. non-standard forms included: cos (because); yeah (yes); ok


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Received: 2018-06-27
Accepted: 2019-08-05
Published Online: 2021-04-22
Published in Print: 2022-02-23

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