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Ethical and Moral Decision Making: Praxis and Hermeneutics for School Leaders

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Joan Quinn Minnis
Abstract:
There has been a renewed interest in the inclusion of ethics as part of educators. training and interest in understanding the moral and ethical dimensions of educational practice. This research was designed to study the types of dilemmas school level leaders face, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. In documenting the lived experiences of former school level leaders, the grounded theory approach to qualitative inquiry and the critical incident technique (CIT) were employed. Data collected from interview sessions, dialogs, journals and reflections were used to analyze the types of dilemmas school level leaders faced, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. This study confirmed the prevalence of ethical dilemmas for school level leadership. The critical incidents shared by the participants revealed that school leaders were guided by district policies and experienced dissonance or tension between their guiding ethical beliefs and policies or expectations of the district. The data determined that school level leaders sought to act in the best interests of students. Participants acknowledged that the core of their ethical and moral fiber was developed early in their youth and was reinforced by pivotal life experiences. This acknowledgement suggested that pivotal life experiences could influence an individual's ethical and moral fiber. The findings also indicated that professional development in ethics could be effective for school level leaders. Additionally, the data revealed a dichotomy around whether ethics could be taught. The findings were inconclusive in determining how race and/or gender played a significant role in the dilemmas that school level leaders face or the resolution of the dilemmas. Further research and study of this issue may be warranted in light of the changing demographics of our schools, communities, and school level leaders. Critical reflection proved to be a process that could benefit practicing and aspiring school level leaders. Exploring how this process could be implemented in school leader preparation and professional development programs is a phenomenon worthy of further research.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

LIST OF TABLES iv

ABSTRACT v

CHAPTER 1: Introduction Theoretical Framework 1 Guiding Questions 8 Statement of the Problem 11 Research Questions 12 Research Design 13 Key Definitions 14 Organization of Study 18

CHAPTER 2: Literature Review 20 Introduction 20 Overview 21 Review of the Literature: Right versus Right 23 The Study of Ethical Decision Making 39 Implications for Further Research 50

CHAPTER 3: Methodology 57 Introduction 57 Research Design 59 Interviews 61 Informed Consent, Sampling and Protocols 62 Limitations 66 Validity 68 Role and Views of the Researcher 69 Researcher‟s Reflective Story and Critical Incidents 72 Significance of the Study 84

CHAPTER 4: Findings and Results 86 Introduction 86 Overview 86 Methodology 87 Participant Selection and Protocols 88 Interview Sessions with Participants 89 Data Analysis 94

ii Findings 96 Prevalence of Ethical Dilemmas 96 Age of Incidents 103 Compliance with Policy 104 Seeking Guidance 107 Support from District 110 Dissonance About Personal Beliefs 113 Learning to Be Ethical 117 Influence of Gender and Race 120 What Has Been Learned from the Dilemmas 124 Ethics Can Be Taught - Maybe 127 Emergent Themes 129 Spirituality 130 Moral Purpose 131 Best Interests of Students 133 Pivotal Life Experiences 135 Dissonance 136 Summary 137

CHAPTER 5: Discussion 139 Introduction 139 Overview of the Study 139 Discussion 143 Selection 151 Developing Ethics and Expectations for Ethical Behavior 152 Modeling Ethics 152 Emergent Themes for Grounded Theory 156 Spirituality 156 Moral Purpose 158 Best Interests of Students 159 Pivotal Life Events 160 Dissonance 162 Race and Gender 165 Summary 168

CHAPTER 6: Conclusions and Implications 172 Epilogue 176

REFERENCES 179

APPENDICES 189 Appendix A: The District School 190 Appendix B: Informed Consent 193 Appendix C: Interview Protocol 198 Appendix D: Notification to Participants 200

iii Appendix E: PI Notes 201 Appendix F: Modified Elements of the Cranston Model 202

ABOUT THE AUTHOR END PAGE

iv

LIST OF TABLES

Table 1: Demographics of the Participants 64

Table 2: Number of Critical Incidents by Participant 98

Table 3: Summary of Critical Incidents and Emergent Themes 99

Table 4: Themes of Critical Incidents Shared by Participants 103

Table 5: Range of Dates of Critical Incidents in Five-Year Increments 104

Table 6: Individuals Sought for Guidance by Participants and Their Relationship to Participant 108

Table 7: Number of Incidents and Number of Incidents Impacted Due to Gender and/or Race 121

Table 8: Findings in this Study Correlated with Literature and Research Cited in the Study 143

v

ABSTRACT There has been a renewed interest in the inclusion of ethics as part of educators‟ training and interest in understanding the moral and ethical dimensions of educational practice. This research was designed to study the types of dilemmas school level leaders face, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. In documenting the lived experiences of former school level leaders, the grounded theory approach to qualitative inquiry and the critical incident technique (CIT) were employed. Data collected from interview sessions, dialogs, journals and reflections were used to analyze the types of dilemmas school level leaders faced, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. This study confirmed the prevalence of ethical dilemmas for school level leadership. The critical incidents shared by the participants revealed that school leaders were guided by district policies and experienced dissonance or tension between their guiding ethical beliefs and policies or expectations of the district. The data determined that school level leaders sought to act in the best interests of students. Participants acknowledged that the core of their ethical and moral fiber was developed early in their youth and was reinforced by pivotal life experiences. This acknowledgement suggested that pivotal life experiences could influence an individual‟s ethical and moral fiber. The findings also indicated that professional development in ethics could be effective for

vi school level leaders. Additionally, the data revealed a dichotomy around whether ethics could be taught. The findings were inconclusive in determining how race and/or gender played a significant role in the dilemmas that school level leaders face or the resolution of the dilemmas. Further research and study of this issue may be warranted in light of the changing demographics of our schools, communities, and school level leaders. Critical reflection proved to be a process that could benefit practicing and aspiring school level leaders. Exploring how this process could be implemented in school leader preparation and professional development programs is a phenomenon worthy of further research.

1

CHAPTER 1 Introduction This chapter outlines the intent of this researcher‟s dissertation study. Included in this chapter is the introduction, theoretical framework, a statement of the problem including literature about the problem, the purpose of the study, the guiding research questions, and the proposed methodology and research design. This study evolved from one of the four questions that framed the course of study for the Pinellas doctoral cohort: How can support for the development of ethical leadership be extended to school leaders? This question also served as the guidepost for this researcher‟s study and review of the literature relating to ethics, ethical dilemmas, and the complexity of decisions school level leaders make. Theoretical Framework “Ethical issues, problems, and dilemmas are present in every compartment of our lives” (Goree, Pyle, Baker, & Hopkins, 2006, p.13); furthermore, the structure of our society has shifted from an era of simpler times to one that is often driven and dictated by policy, court decisions, and legal mandates. Our schools have not escaped this societal shift that has escalated to the point where school leaders are faced with a myriad of dilemmas. There are dichotomies among the ethical implications of these dilemmas, the societal shift, legal requirements, and educational codes of ethics. As Torres (2004) observes, “it is evident that laws and policies trump acts of caring when social and moral dilemmas arise” (p. 253). As Cranston, Enrich, & Kimber (2003) stated emphatically

2 Because school leaders are caught at the interface between the system and the school and are accountable to both bodies, they are likely to find themselves juggling a „multitude of competing obligations and interests‟…this complex and more autonomous operational milieu requires school leaders to confront and resolve conflicting interests as they endeavour [sic] to balance a variety of values and expectations in their decision making. Not surprisingly, the result is often ethical dilemmas for the school leader, arising for example, where conflict and tension may arise as the leader struggles to decide between alternative decisions, one reflecting the immediate operational context of the school and the other a more systemically oriented choice reflecting a political imperative (p. 136). The changing role of school leadership has increased the expectation for school administrators to be expert managers and skillful instructional leaders, able to balance the critical tensions between competing values in decision-making (Holland, 2004, p. 3). Educators are held to higher standards regarding moral and ethical behavior due to their daily interaction with children (Senge, 2000). The decision in Adams v. State of Florida Professional Practices Council declared, “By virtue of their leadership and capacity, teachers are traditionally held to a high moral standard in a community. ” Bull and McCarthy (1991) support this declaration when they state: As employees of public schools, administrators and teachers have responsibilities with regard to public values that go beyond what is expected of other citizens. As public employees, they are entrusted to enforce public values and to an extent not necessary for private citizens, to observe those values in their work (p. 624).

3 The myriad of dilemmas that school leaders face frequently can be described as “situational ethics” (Goree, Pyle, Baker, & Hopkins 2006; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001). National, regional, and local situations and circumstances such as the effects of hurricane Katrina, high stakes testing with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) compliance requirements, school restructuring, federal and state mandates, zero tolerance procedures, increased use of technology, and teacher and administrative shortages add to the driving forces impacting the changes to schools (Starratt, 2004, p. 1). Often, dissonance arises between the ethical implications of the myriad of changes and the ethical principles defined by educational codes of ethics. As states continue to adopt various assessment instruments, identify benchmarks, and embrace strategies to ensure proper compliance by educational professionals in schools, issues of social justice, politics, and capacity arise. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act (2002), Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) mandates, and required state assessments (that are correlates to Florida‟s FCAT) become morally justified since they are designed “in the best interests” of the academic achievement of all students and “endeavor to raise levels of performance of our under- served populations” (Torres, 2004, pp. 251-254). Thus, the context of schooling at the national, regional, and local levels reflects a plethora of moral and ethical challenges for school leaders. Do these changes justify our continuation of what Tyack and Cuban (1995) referred to as the “grammar of schooling”, Slattery‟s (2006) queries about modernizing curriculum (p. 49), or as Starratt (1991) ardently stated our inability to move from a kind of naiveté about the “ways things are” to an awareness of the ethical challenge of making social changes more responsive to

4 the human and social rights of all citizens, to enable those affected by social arrangements to have a voice in evaluating their results and in altering them in the interests of the common good and of fuller participation and justice for individuals? (pp. 189-190). The political and social changes in our society have had a very direct impact on schools, teaching and learning, the training of educators, and expectations of school leaders. Somewhere along the way, our moral compass was lost and the 1990‟s became a decade of neglect in terms of leadership (Fullan, 2003). Note the corporate scandals at Enron and WorldCom, the controversial treatment of prisoners at Abu Graib, sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, Martha Stewart‟s conviction for lying about personal stock sales, the very public vetting of former President Clinton‟s personal conduct in the White House, and most recently, the Madoff scandal (Pardini, 2004; Slattery, 2006). Ethical lapses in business [organizations], when they occur, are not always the result of willful intent by workers to lie, cheat, or steal, but may be manifestations of incentives unintentionally created by the formal structure of the organization which often encourages such behaviors (James, 2000, p. 45). Decision-making has been called “the sine qua non of administration” and “decision making pervades all other administrative functions as well” (English & Bolton, 2008, p. 96). English and Bolton (2008) also observed that Humans are therefore almost always confronting moral issues. However, their freedom to make such choices is somehow positioned between their values and those placed on them by the organizations in which they are employed…Decision makers do not always make the best decisions for the organization, but they

5 almost always attempt to make the best decisions for themselves…Either way, the decision maker and the organization are connected in a kind of dynamic fluid tandem, whether positive or negative – positive, if the decision maker and the organization ultimately benefit; negative, if either one is reduced in effectiveness, short or long term (p. 101). Several examples illustrate situations where values were placed on leaders and citizens by organizations or government, protecting the well-being of all through laws and policies: Although President Carter, for example, believed abortion is always a tragedy, as president he was sworn to uphold the Constitution and to respect the Supreme Court‟s decision in Roe v. Wade (1973). He accepted the Court‟s decision that a woman has a right to choose but also did everything in his power to reduce the number of abortions by instituting policies that prevented unwanted pregnancies, promoted adoption and encouraged women to choose life for their unborn children (Carter, 2005). The Jessica Lunsford Act is the result of a heinous crime committed by John Couey but he was guaranteed a fair trial and was deemed “innocent until proven guilty”. In addition, James von Brunn, the gunman who opened fire at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., killing one, was severely wounded when officers opened fire. Both he and the guard he shot was rushed to same hospital and received same medical care (St. Pete Times, 2009). Under Florida‟s zero tolerance law, a student who may be at a school function and is in a specific area or room where there is a gun or weapon, may be considered to be in possession of the gun or weapon and could be recommended for expulsion – a decision that must be made and upheld by the school level leader. As Cranston, Ehrich, and Kimber (2003) have found

6 There is an expectation that those who hold leadership positions will act justly, rightly, and promote good rather than evil. This entails leaders demonstrating both moral and professional accountability to those they serve…Moral accountability is concerned with wanting the best for learners (whether they are students or staff) while professional accountability is concerned with upholding the standards of ethics of one‟s profession. Both accountabilities reinforce the notion that education leadership fundamentally has a moral purpose…the focus on management arising from economic rationalism is inconsistent with the professional and personal values of school leaders and can contradict important ethics of care and justice. When contractual accountability, that is accountability to the government or system, is a strong and competing force against other accountabilities (such as moral and professional accountabilities), there is much potential for ethical dilemmas. In this situation, a skillful administrator needs to optimize his or her most valued beliefs, responsibilities, and obligations in ways that minimise [sic] consequences…An ethical dilemma, then, arises from a situation that necessitates a choice between competing sets of principles (pp. 136- 137). There has been renewed interest in the inclusion of ethics as part of educators‟ training (Beck & Murphy, 1993; Starratt, 1994) and more researchers have become interested in understanding the moral and ethical dimensions of educational practice (Langlois, 2004; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001; Strike, Holler, & Soltis, 1998). Langlois (2004) also pointed out, “few empirical studies on ethical dimensions have been conducted on school administration” (Langlois, 2004, p. 9). Starratt (2004) suggests that

7 leadership preparation programs at colleges and universities may need to challenge, continually, prospective educational leaders about their ethical principles and moral values. The research and studies conducted by Covrig (2001), Dempster, Freakley, and Parry (1998) (2002), and Pardini (2004) add support to Starratt‟s suggestion for greater emphasis of ethics in leadership preparation. The Farquhar study (1978) (1981) that was replicated by Beck and Murphy (1993) is a case in point. It has been 26 years since Beck and Murphy‟s replication of this study and their prediction of an increasing interest in the study of ethics in leadership preparation: …that interest in this topic will continue to swell… and that, if this study were to be replicated twenty-five years hence, researchers would uncover widespread beliefs that administrators must be equipped to think and act ethically and to develop structures and policies which support consciously chosen, morally sound values and outcomes (p. 31). Cranston, Enrich, and Kimber (2003) found that theoretical approaches such as consequentialism, non consequentialism, virtue ethics, and institutional ethics may offer useful framework to better understand ethics and its complexities. They stated, categorically, “in practice, ethical dilemmas faced by educational leaders, for example, are likely to be highly complex and not simply framed by one particular theoretical approach or the other” (p. 139). Their findings support the need for comprehensive ethics in leadership preparation programs. Holland (2004) posited that the “changing role of school leaders – the expectation to be both expert manager and skillful leaders – puts undue demands on them that often

8 lead to conflicts between managerial values and instructional leadership.” Nevertheless, Fields, Reck, and Egley (2006) lamented that the “demand for highly qualified, well- trained educational leaders has never been higher than it is today”. Adding that In an era of high stakes accountability, teacher shortages, enormous external pressures, and increasingly complex role expectations, educational leaders must possess a variety of knowledge and skills to support, successfully, student learning (p. vii). Guiding Questions One of the four questions that framed the course content and research for this researcher‟s doctoral cohort is How can support for the development of ethical leadership be extended to school leaders? This query segues to additional questions: What are the emergent themes that support a need for continued professional development for building principals (school leaders) regarding ethical and moral leadership and decision-making? How can school leaders balance the demands placed on them as supervisors and instructional leaders to enact both managerial and professional values? Although it is not the intent of this study to answer these questions specifically, they have guided this researcher in selecting relevant research, studies, and literature embedded within. Many researchers have called for additional research on the morality and ethics of leaders. The following are pertinent and guiding questions posed by the researchers who are cited in this study: (1) What are the contemporary challenges for leaders in frontline human service organizations? (2) How are leaders responding to these challenges? (3) What are the ethical dilemmas and underlying values involved in making these responses? (4) How are these challenges impacting contemporary leadership practice? (5)

9 What are implications of these findings for the preparation and professional development of leaders? (Duignan, 2006). (6) Why is ethical leadership in the best interests of students? (Stefkovich & Begley, 2007). (7) What ethical issues are confronted by school principals as they perform their responsibilities? (8) What is the nature of the immediate setting within which these ethical issues arise? (9) How and why do school principals make ethical decisions? (Dempster, Freakley, & Parry, 2002). (10) What is the meaning of the construct “moral leadership”? (Greenfield, 2004). (11) Can ethics be taught? (Goree, Pyle, Baker, & Hopkins, 2006; Pardini, 2004). (12) How do administrators go about the task of conceptualizing an ethical school? (Starratt, 1991). (13) What training in ethics is most effective in promoting ethical behavior? (14) How do company managers determine, ex ante, which decision-making responsibilities workers should possess and what are the ethical consequences of these processes? (James, 2000). Additionally, questions posed by Frick and Gutierrez (2008) to participants in their study align to the central theme of this researcher‟s proposed study. The findings of the Frick and Gutierrez (2008) study suggested, “…practitioners can articulate a unique moral practice for educational leadership”. The results of their study also emphasized the “importance of morals, values, and ethical bases for educational leadership decision making as well as the need to refine the professional ethic for educational leadership” (p. 32). Their protocol included the following list of questions: “In what ways do you consider your work as a school leader to be moral and ethical in nature? Can you recall and tell me about an instance in your professional experience that obliged you to reflect on a situation and make a decision that involved important moral and ethical consequences? Are moral considerations and judgments unique to this profession? (p.

10 42). Do principals [school leaders] have a sense of being “duty bound” to rules, policies, institutional procedures and professional expectations while conversely recognizing that these structures and role expectations are, at times and in certain situations, not good or morally right? Is there a “clash between what the organization or professional deems as appropriate or ethical and what an administrator believes is right and good on a personal level?” (p. 55). Cranston, Ehrich, and Kimber (2003) have developed a “model for conceptualising [sic] ethical dilemmas” and modified elements of their model are shown in Appendix E. The original model evolved from their premise that ethical dilemmas and the decision-making processes aligned to resolutions are complex undertakings. These authors also “acknowledge that decisions can have implications and effects on the individual, the organisation [sic] and the community either directly or indirectly” and their attempts to understand this relationship also influenced their development of the model. In essence, this model identifies and describes the range of competing forces that may provide perspectives on the problem or situation or as in this study, the dilemma or critical incident (pp. 139-41). The model is a “graphic organizer” of dissonance in decision-making school level leaders face. The elements of this model offered an additional conceptual framework that informed this proposed study. How school level leaders think and feel and how they develop their moral and ethical praxis are frameworks worthy of further research and study. As Lashway (1996) stated, “Moral leadership begins with moral leaders…ethical behavior is not something that can be held in reserve for momentous issues…it must be a constant companion” (p. 2). Dempster, Freakley, and Parry (1998) alluded to the need to “capture some of the

11 dynamics of leadership choices and dilemmas that are “catalysts for examining leadership processes” (p. 96) or in essence, catalysts for examining how administrators think and feel when faced with ethical and moral dilemmas. These questions also formed the conceptual framework for this proposed study. Statement of the Problem The intent of this research was to provide insights into the complex roles of school level leaders, the dissonance between competing values regarding what is in the “best interests of students” balanced with professional and personal ethics, policy implementation, and organizational imperatives. The complex role of school level leaders is exacerbated by instances of dissonance in decision making with competing elements, such as what is in the best interests of students, organizational and/or professional policies, and personal codes (Cranston, Enrich & Kimber, 2003; English & Bolton, 2008; Frick, 2009; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001, 2005). This recurring dissonance forms the core of the ethical dilemmas that school level leaders face. Yet it would be a mistake to view all administrators as monolithic (Freire, 1970) although their professional training may be. The ethic and moral fibers of administrators are as diverse as the composite of the schools and communities they serve. The quality of decisions made by school level leaders may express more of their emotional quotient than their intellectual quotient. There should be a balance between “conscience and compliance…theory and practice…praxis and hermeneutics” (Kincheloe, 2008, p. 120). Leaders should demonstrate both moral and professional accountability – wanting the best for learners while upholding the standards of the ethics of their profession…necessitating a choice between competing sets of principles (Cranston et al., 2003).

12 This study was designed to examine the types of ethical dilemmas school level leaders faced, the characteristics of typical ethical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation and professional development. This study focused on ethical dilemmas identified as especially confounding and difficult for school level leaders. These dilemmas included decisions and situations, shared through the recounting of critical incidents in which the actions and decisions of school level leaders have garnered attention and responses from varying representatives. In other words, the researcher assumed that school level leaders faced numerous ethical dilemmas and sought to identify and examine the most difficult and troubling. An ancillary purpose of this study was to explore implications for preparation and ongoing professional development of school level leaders that build expertise in handling ethical decision-making scenarios. Many educational philosophers and researchers have argued the importance of including ethical study and reflection in educational preparation programs (Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001; Strike & Holler, 1998). Additionally, the ethical practice of educational administration demands a multidimensional construct that offers practicing administrators a way to think about their work and work place (Starratt, 1991; Brooks & Normore, 2005). An intended outcome of this study is reflected in these two statements in addition to Brooks and Normore‟s (2002) concluding comments: Engaging in reflective practice and problems based learning activities designed to challenge their growing understanding…and supporting each individual‟s creation of a coherent ethical system…may prepare school leaders for the “moral imperative” of leading our schools well into the 21 st century” (p. 7). Research Questions

13 The four guiding research questions for this study were: 1. What types of ethical dilemmas do school level leaders face that require assistance or intervention? 2. What actions, decisions, or interventions assist school level leaders with facing these types of dilemmas? 3. What are the implications of the research findings for preparation and professional development of school level leaders? 4. What has been learned by administrators after leaving school level leadership? Research Design In this qualitative study, data collected from interview sessions using the critical incident technique (CIT), dialogs, and journals were used to analyze the types of ethical dilemmas school level leaders faced, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation and professional development. In essence, it would “capture some of the attributes of ethical decision making” (Dempster, Freakley, & Parry, 2002, p. 429) and their implications for practice. In documenting the lived experiences of school level leaders, this investigator followed the grounded theory approach to qualitative inquiry using the critical incident technique (CIT). The CIT is a structured yet flexible data-collection method for producing a thematic or categorical representation of a given behavior or its components. This technique can be construed as a qualitative approach used to obtain an in-depth analytical description of an intact cultural scene (Redmann, Lambrecht, & Stitt-Golden, 2000, pp. 137-138).

14 Constructivist grounded theory lies squarely within the interpretive approach to qualitative research with flexible guidelines. Its focus is on theory development that depends on the researcher's view, learning about the experience within embedded, hidden networks, situations, and relationships, and making visible hierarchies of power, communication, and opportunity. A major challenge associated with constructivist grounded theory is the researcher‟s ability to “set aside, as much as possible, theoretical ideas”. By doing so, “analytic and substantive theory” can emerge recognizing that the primary outcome of this study is a “theory with specific components: a central phenomenon, casual conditions, strategies, conditions, and context, and consequences” (Creswell, 2007, pp. 65-68). In this study, this researcher has provided comments on her past experiences, biases, prejudices, and orientations that may have shaped the interpretation and approach to the study. The researcher has also disclosed in her story and critical reflections potential bias and her stance in relation to the phenomenon. Initially, these biases had the potential of posing difficulty for the researcher during the interviewing sessions with the participants. Key Definitions For the purpose of this research, the following are the definitions of key and reoccurring conceptual terms referred to throughout this study. The words ethics and morals are used interchangeably but for consistency, principals and school based administrators are referred to generally as school level leaders except when specificity was required for clarity:

15 Critical race: a theoretical lens used in qualitative research that focuses attention on race and how racism is deeply embedded within the framework of American society (Creswell, 2007). Dilemma: a difficult and challenging situation that „leaves only a choice between equally unwelcome possibilities‟ (Duignan, 2006). Ethics: originating from the Greek word ethos; what is morally right or wrong, good or bad; how people ought to act in response to value conflict and dilemmas (Beckner, 2004; Cranston, 2005; Duignan, 2006; Goree. et al., 2006; Langlois, 2004; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001; Starratt, 2004). Ethical dilemma: decisions that center upon choosing “right versus right” (Cranston et al., 2006; Lashway, 1996). Ethic of critique: aimed at awakening educators to inequities in society and in particular, in the schools (Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001). Grammar of schooling: a cultural phenomenon; limited changes in school structure: classrooms, subjects taught, grading, etc. (Tyack & Cuban, 1995). Justice: the “state of affairs in which everyone has regard to his own concerns”; not the right of the stronger, but effective harmony of the whole (Beckner, 2004). Legalism: codes and a supplementary collection of rules that govern behaviors (Beckner, 2004; Goree et al., 2006). Moral purpose: acting with the intention of making a difference in the lives of employees, customers, and society as a whole (Fullan, 2001).

16 Morals: behaviors judged consistent with good ethical thinking and decision making; applying ethical beliefs and commitments (Goree et al., 2006; Langlois, 2004; Starratt, 2004). Paradigm or worldview: a basic set of beliefs that guide action (Creswell, 2007). Praxis: action, reflection; involves a process of action-reflection-action that is central to the development of consciousness of power and how it operates (Freire, 1970; Kincheloe, 2008). Religious or theological ethics: determining right or wrong based on the teachings of a religion (Goree et al., 2006). Social constructivism: addressing the “process” of interaction among individuals; focus on specific context in which people live and work (Creswell, 2007). Situational ethics: when rules can be broken depending on the consequences of a certain act; determining what is right or good solely based on momentary context (Goree et al., 2006; Shapiro & Stefkovich, 2001). Spirituality: feelings of peace, care, and commitment; getting in touch with one‟s own soul; the attainment of a certain mode of being and the transformations (Foucault, 1994; Duigan, 2006; Marshall & Oliva, 2006). Thoughtful noncompliance: educational decisions based on thorough assessments and available resources; focusing on need rather than compliance (Stein, 2004). Values: moral qualities such as beliefs, qualities, traditions, or standards that influence actions and are considered important (Boleman & Deal, 2003; Bussey, 2004; Goree et al., 2006). Virtue: character traits that make up a moral life (Goree et al., 2006).

Full document contains 213 pages
Abstract: There has been a renewed interest in the inclusion of ethics as part of educators. training and interest in understanding the moral and ethical dimensions of educational practice. This research was designed to study the types of dilemmas school level leaders face, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. In documenting the lived experiences of former school level leaders, the grounded theory approach to qualitative inquiry and the critical incident technique (CIT) were employed. Data collected from interview sessions, dialogs, journals and reflections were used to analyze the types of dilemmas school level leaders faced, the characteristics of typical dilemmas, and the implications for leader preparation, professional development, and practice. This study confirmed the prevalence of ethical dilemmas for school level leadership. The critical incidents shared by the participants revealed that school leaders were guided by district policies and experienced dissonance or tension between their guiding ethical beliefs and policies or expectations of the district. The data determined that school level leaders sought to act in the best interests of students. Participants acknowledged that the core of their ethical and moral fiber was developed early in their youth and was reinforced by pivotal life experiences. This acknowledgement suggested that pivotal life experiences could influence an individual's ethical and moral fiber. The findings also indicated that professional development in ethics could be effective for school level leaders. Additionally, the data revealed a dichotomy around whether ethics could be taught. The findings were inconclusive in determining how race and/or gender played a significant role in the dilemmas that school level leaders face or the resolution of the dilemmas. Further research and study of this issue may be warranted in light of the changing demographics of our schools, communities, and school level leaders. Critical reflection proved to be a process that could benefit practicing and aspiring school level leaders. Exploring how this process could be implemented in school leader preparation and professional development programs is a phenomenon worthy of further research.