This article explores perspectives and strands of thought among teachers from five countries about power dynamics in learning environments, perspectives on power of dominant cultures and impacts of power on concepts of citizenship and social justice. Discourses revealed teachers have some understanding of how power impacts teaching and learning, how language empowers/disempowers students and how teachers and students use their power. Teachers' and students' perceptions of power in the learning environment likely shape educational experiences for all stakeholders. Effective empowerment, particularly of students, requires recognition of these and other factors. © The Author(s) 2012.