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Changing Contexts: An Extremely Challenging Task


This article is Part 5 of an 11 part series of reflections on Patrick Duignan's book, "Educational Leadership".


Courageous, ethical and authentic leadership action is needed to challenge current trends (Duignan, 2012, p.15)


If we accept that the Melbourne Declaration of Educational Standards for Young Australians (2008) helps teachers to define their moral purpose, at least in part, we must ask ourselves not only what a successful learner looks like and how do students become confident and creative, but also how do we raise active and informed twenty-first century citizens in a world where social processes and institutions encourage new forms of individualism and increasingly more selfish modes of living? (Giddens 1998).


Duignan suggests that this challenge raises a particular responsibility to ensure that students in our care receive the type of education and learning experiences that help transform their lives. This then enables students to break the bonds imposed by these forces for intense individualism, and better prepare them to contribute as responsible citizens to the common good (Sommerville, 2000 in Duignan, 2012). To achieve this, our schools will need to prepare students to choose morally, ethically and wisely.


One challenge for leaders is to recognise inauthentic learning practices based on factual recall which do not prepare students to live meaningful, compassionate and fulfilling lives (Starratt, 2004). Instead, we need to replace them with learning environments that engage and challenge students morally, ethically and socially, as well as educationally and academically (Duignan, 2012, p. 8). Starratt (2004) argues that the deliberate ‘cultivation of virtues' generates authentic approaches to leadership and learning.


Another challenge is created by the wide spread practice of schools embracing corporate management practices, which are based on efficiency, standards, targets, productivity and accountability. Where these characteristics have tended to displace professional dimensions of service, collegiality, compassion and a sense of justice and equity, leaders may struggle to mobilise a shared sense of moral purpose for quality learning and a culture of ownership, commitment, hope and courage (Duignan, 2012, pp. 9–11).


A third challenge is posed by the ubiquitous role played by technology in the lives of today’s students who have been named ‘screenagers’ by some. Screens are seen by students as essential personal, social, and cultural ways of living a full life, but they give rise to sense of community that is boundaryless with open social networks (Duignan, 2012, p. 30). Schools on the one hand need to embrace this technology as part of the pedagogy of learning but also help students to develop an understanding of real community, commitment and accountability within a community.


Publication Bibliography

Duignan, P (Unpublished). Leadership Presence and Influence Relationships: building collective efficacy and professional responsibility for quality learning and teaching in schools.

Duignan, P. (2012). Educational Leadership (2nd ed). Melbourne, NSW: Cambridge University Press.


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