Striving for Moral Purpose

Authored by: Charles Burford , Michael Bezzina

Handbook of Ethical Educational Leadership

Print publication date:  May  2014
Online publication date:  May  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415853903
eBook ISBN: 9780203747582
Adobe ISBN: 9781135011932


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In 2004 a group of Australian educators embarked on an international expedition to Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom in search of answers to questions about the impact, if any, of leaders on learning in schools and the characteristics of such leadership. The literature was enthusiastic but inconclusive (Hattie, 1999; Leithwood & Reihl, 2003; Marzano, 2003), despite a growing political and popular interest in student outcomes, standards, and the place of leaders in the learning process. The group was deeply influenced by meetings with Professor Jerry Starratt of Boston University, who challenged the group to look to the nature of authentic learning and the leadership processes that seemed to best influence such learning. This challenge led to an ongoing collaboration between Starratt and the authors in a search for a conceptual model of leadership for learning premised on a shared understanding of what constituted authentic learning. The issue that confronted the authors was the debate over learning outcomes and what constituted authentic learning. This question of what outcomes are worth pursuing, and why, is seldom raised by educators as they pursue policy on standard testing regimes, national curriculum, or reform agenda (Bezzina, Starratt, & Burford, 2009). The failure to expose the fundamental values or moral purpose of the educational enterprise, with the same kind of scrutiny as the means by which it is realized, has created an important gap in the discourse. Starratt says of this gap:

Educators miss this connection because they are accustomed to view the learning agenda of the school as an end in itself, rather than as a means for the moral and intellectual filling out of learners as human beings.

(2007, p. 266)

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