Blame avoidance and facework in teachers` collaborative decision-making

A. Cohen-Zamir, D. Vedder-Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have paid little attention to teachers` self or collegial considerations when making decisions about their students, precisely their tendency to avoid being blamed for students` failure. When a teacher is blamed for a student’s difficulties, her/his public image (‘face’) is threatened, and s/he and her/his colleagues can be expected to engage in ‘facework.’ This study examined blame attribution and facework in teachers’ discussions of struggling students and how they shaped teacher collaborative decision-making. Through discourse analysis of 187 audio-recorded discussions in placement meetings in an Israeli secondary school, the study highlights teachers` tendency to attribute blame for students` failure to others (175 blame events), mainly their students (53% of the cases). Micro-ethnographic discourse analysis found that when teachers blamed each other (17%), individual and collective face-management played a central role in their decision-making processes and outcomes. We explored the social dynamics in these discussions, using one discussion to illustrate the management of blame, related face-threat and facework, and implications for decisions. The study indicates the need for attention to blame avoidance and face issues in teacher training and PD programs and guidelines on how to manage them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-101
Number of pages17
JournalTeachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2024


  • Teacher discourse
  • blaming
  • collaborative decisions
  • facework
  • teacher decision-making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Blame avoidance and facework in teachers` collaborative decision-making'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this