Saturday, 15 August 2015

How can school values guide ethical decision making and resolve dilemmas ?

Ethical decision making and the resolution of dilemmas can be a challenging process. Having an authentic and systematic approach that links to school values can support everyone involved.

Early in 2015, I spent four invaluable days participating in a Values and Leadership course facilitated by Professor Christopher Branson as part of the Masters in Educational
Leadership. This blog post is made up of excerpts from an assignment where I aligned our St Joseph's school values to a recognised ethical decision making framework. It is possible to carefully and systematically apply the same process to school values in any school. The challenge for us at St Joseph's is to reflect on this framework and begin to action it.

The Shapiro and Stefkovich framework applies the four ethics of justice, critique, care and profession to a dilemma or situation that needs to be resolved (Begley, 2006). Branson (2010), includes a fifth ethic, that of personal moral integrity. It is this fifth ethic that focuses on the good of others rather than on oneself, that resonates strongly with Catholic school values.
I have  aligned the ethics of the Shapiro and Stefkovich framework (Begley, 2006) to our St Joseph's school values. By putting this structured framework into practice, we have access to a systematic and holistic process to apply to any ethical dilemmas. It also provides  a transparent foundation from which to confidently articulate the decisions taken and the reasons why. 
At St Joseph's school, our four values are based around Jesus Christ and the good news of the gospel: respect (for oneself and others),resilience (courage to take risks, accept challenges - Tiko/Pono and stand strong - Kia kaha for what is right and just), reverence (in school, church, home and the community) and good relationships (with ourselves, each other and God). 
In the light of the Shapiro and Stefkovich framework, we could apply the following questions to an ethical dilemma -
 1. Respect (apply the ethics of care): Am I respecting everyone’s rights and best interests when making the decision? Who could feel disrespected by my actions?
 2. Resilience (apply the ethics of justice): Is there a policy, procedure or law that can be used to resolve this dilemma? How should the procedure be implemented? Have we taken into account our school restorative justice practices? 
3. Reverence (apply the ethic of critique) Am I reflecting our special Catholic character in this decision? Am I taking into account class, race, gender, privilege, power, culture, language and social justice? (Branson, 2010). How will the decision affect the whole community (home, school and parish)?
 4. Relationships (ethics of the profession): How does this decision support the best interest of the students? What personal and professional codes of conduct and standards need to be taken into account? What are the community’s views? 

Research by Branson (2004) and Gardner, Avolio, May & Walumbwa (2005), recommends that leaders should be challenged to develop a greater self - knowledge of their own values. Deep self - reflection of one’s personal values leads to an increased awareness of how one’s actual values contribute to ethical decision making (Branson, 2010). 
Understanding the relationships between motives and values and being sensitive to all categories of influence (Begley, 2004) contributes to a holistic and authentic approach to resolving dilemmas (Duignan, 2008). Ensuring that we grow in holistic authenticity as principals and leaders is vital. 
Regular and deep reflection leads to a growing self- awareness. This is reflected in our authentic presence in quality, everyday relationships in which the dignity of the human person is realised (Duignan, 2008).

The next step is to share this framework within our school community and apply it.

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