Moral leadership and authentic learning

It seems to us that what these big-screen teaching heroes had in common was a preparedness to ask the most fundamental of questions: “What must I do if 1 am to make a genuine difference to the lives of my students?”

Like them, we need to connect the learners’ search for meaning and purpose in their lives to a variety of personal experiences in the academic curriculum. We need to enable learners to continuously transform their understanding of themselves and their worlds and to use this to face the challenges and possibilities of their lives and their future. This type of learning is authentic, and it is truly transformative.

The open challenge to educators, therefore, is to infuse academic learning with a dimension of personal meaning, and thereby in doing so enrich the whole learning process. Learning which is not authentic to the needs of the students’ life world is not only inappropriate but unethical, and goes to the very heart of what we do as educators. The pedagogic leader’s role is to act courageously. If we take our work as educators seriously, and seek to be ethical in its practice, we must also be constantly in search of ways to make learning authentic.

What does authentic learning look like? Among other things, it promotes:

  • • Development of personal meaning.
  • • Awareness of the connection between the learner and the subject.
  • • Respect for the integrity of what is being studied.
  • • Appreciation of implications for the trajectory of the learner’s life.
  • • Application of a rich understanding of the subject/object of study in practice; and ultimately
  • • Transformation into a more fully human individual (Duignan & Bezzina, 2004).

This type of learning is not just about taking new knowledge and skills for oneself but is more about giving of one’s unique humanity to others and to the community. It is deeply relational. Authentic learning is itself a fundamentally moral activity because it engages students in a deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of their lives and in determining how they can best contribute to the greater good of the community and society. In the everyday busy-ness of schools, it may be easy to forget, but all of us engaged in the privileged work of teaching are engaged in a profoundly ethical activity.

Naming authentic learning as the goal of our work assumes values and ethics which often go un-named and undiscussed. The challenge for educational leaders is to find ways to make these explicit - to give them expression and to promote ownership. This is not always easy.

Moral purpose and shared leadership - a potent brew indeed!


Andrews, D.. & Lewis. M. (2004). Building sustainable futures: Emerging understandings of the significant contribution of the professional learning community. Improving Schools, 7(3), 129-150.

Bennis. W. & Nanus, B. (1985). Leaders: The strategies for taking charge. New York: Harper & Row.

Bennis. W. & Townsend, R. (1995). Reinventing leadership. London: Piatkus Publications.

Cavanagh, R., & MacNeill, N. (2002). School visioning: Developing a culture for shared creativity. The Practising Administrator, 24(3), 15-18.

Chance, E. W. (1991). Restructuring, the principal, and an educational vision: Key to success. ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED340 103.

Collins, J. (2001). Good to great: Why some companies make the leap ... and others don't. London: Random House Business Books.

Conley, D. T, Dunlop, D. M., & Goldman. P. (1992). The ‘vision thing’ and school restructuring. Eugene, OR: Oregon School Study Council, The University of Oregon. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: HarperPerennial.

Cuttance, R, Angus. M., Crowther, F., & Hill. P. (2001). School innovation: Pathway to the knowledge society, (pp. xiii-xxix). Canberra: DETYA.

Duignan, P. (2003, September). Formation of capable, influential and authentic leaders for times of uncertainty. Paper given at the Australian Primary Principals’ Association National Conference, Adelaide. des-values-and-ethics/Formation-of-capable-influential-and-authentic-leaders-for- times-of-uncertainty

Duignan, R. & Bezzina. M. (2004). Leadership and Learning: Influencing what really matters. Paper presented at the Teacher Education Council Conference, Strathfield, ACU National.

Elmore, R.F. (2002). Bridging the gap between standards and achievement: The imperative for professional development in education. Washington. DC: The Albert Shanker Institute. Frick, J.E.. & Frick, W.C. (2010). An ethic of connectedness: Enacting moral school leadership through people and programs. Education, Citizenship and Social justice, 5(2), 117-130.

Fullan, M. (2001). Leading in a culture of change. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hersey P., & Blanchard, K. (1982). Management of organizational behavior: Utilizing human resources. Englewood Cliff. NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Hobbes, T. (1968). Leviathan. Ringwood, Australia: Penguin Books.

House, R.J., & Mitchell, T.R. (1974). Path goal theory of leadership. Journal of Contemporary Business, 3, 81-97.

Hursh, D. (2008). High stakes testing and the decline of teaching and learning: The real crisis in education. Lanhamm MD: Rovvman & Littlefield.

King. M.B., & Nevvmann, F.M. (2000). Will teacher learning advance school goals? Phi Delta Kappan, 81(8), 576-580.

Lashway, L. (1997). Creating a learning organization. ERIC Digest, Number 121. Eugene OR. ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. ED420897.

MacBeath, J., & Mortimore, R (2001). Improving school effectiveness. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

MacNeill, C.N. (2013). An examination of Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of flow in Western Australian school leaders’ work and learning (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Curtin University, Bentley, Western Australia.

Moos, L. (1999). New dilemmas in school leadership. Leading & Managing, 5(1), 41-59.

PERL (2014). Growing a shared vision: A toolkit for schools. Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living.

Senge, P.M. (1995). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization. New York: Doubleday.

Silcox, S.B. (2003). An investigation of the roles of school principals in leading school renewal in a Western Australian school district (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Curtin University, Western Australia.

Sizer, T.R.. & Sizer, N.F. (1999) The students are watching: Schools and the moral contract. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.

Topsfield. J. (2012, 9 July). Schools hit by principal shortage. The Age (Melbourne).

Whittaker, C. (1990, September). Accountability in the Public Sector: A brief and personal overview of the Australian perspective. Paper presented to the Nation Think Tank on Library and Information Statistics, Kings Ambassador Hotel, Perth.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >