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The “Paradox of Empowerment” in Parent Education: A Reflexive Examination of Parents' Pedagogical Expectations


  • Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Road, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong.

Department of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong (


In an action research project designed to develop a new paradigm for parent education in alignment with the “strengths perspective,” a social constructionist epistemology, and the empowerment discourse, it was found that parents joining two parent groups actually valued and sought expert knowledge. Seeking to empower these parents by adopting a collaborative learning approach—facilitating a reflective discussion of their parenting experience while refraining from meeting their expectation to be taught—we were actually exercising professional power in imposing our ideology of empowerment on the parents. To resolve this “paradox of empowerment,” we came to the see that parent educators cannot avoid meeting parents' pedagogical expectation. They should, however, provide expert knowledge and advice with epistemic reflexivity. Moreover, they need to navigate the micropolitics in the interaction between themselves as “educators” and parents as “learners,” so as to negotiate a power relation that is characterized by collaboration and partnership.