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Value-added leadership 1


This essay takes an emergent perspective to two educational philosophies: essentialism and

existentialism. Learning is considered both an epistemological and ontological process that is

best driven by value-added leadership and moral reasoning. Leadership that promotes freedom,

trust, justice, compassion, connectedness, and peace, for example, demonstrates that besides

having knowledge and skills in order to be productive members of society, it is also important to

develop a good disposition. Aligning curriculum, assessment, and instruction that merges both

core subjects and values better address not only what students should know but what they are to

Value-added leadership 2

Value-added leadership as moral reasoning

Assuming a progressive educational philosophy, students learn best when their cognitive

(i.e., academic), social, and emotional needs are taken into consideration. Although common

phrases such as teaching the whole child and no child left behind are left open to a certain degree

of interpretation, the need for teaching in a more moralistic and equitable way remain an

essential part of the learning process. Likewise, teacher development includes a moral facet that

compliments other facets that include “cognitive”, “conceptual”, “ego”, “levels of

consciousness”, and “teacher concerns” (Glickman, Gordon, Ross-Gordon, 2007, p. 67), which

collectively address a humanistic need to personal and professional development by providing

the social capital necessary to pursue this end. Thus, learning not only takes on an

epistemological perspective but also an ontological one as well; therefore, leadership that takes

into account both what teachers are to learn and what they are to become reaches out to the entire

faculty in a way that is more just and appropriate for building a community of practice.

The essence of judging moral behavior is determining what is good or bad (The Free

Dictionary…, 2009). But what is good or bad for one person could be interpreted differently for

another person, especially when people come from different cultures and share different beliefs

within the same social group or context. For example, when given a certain amount of freedom

to exercise a degree of choice in a teaching technique, some teachers may feel motivated to try

new things while others may feel lost if they are used to having authoritative leaders dictate

teaching practices to them. In other words, the value of freedom in one case is seen as something

“good” because it leads to having a choice, but is can also be seen as something “bad” because it

can be interpreted as failing to provide direction to faculty.

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In addition to the moral behavior judgment, establishing values is also a related

concept that contributes to an ontological view of education. Sergiovanni (2005) puts forth the

notion of “value-added leadership” that “calls attention to that which is intrinsically important

and desirable, as in ´What values do we believe should guide our actions?´ ´What values define

us, give us a sense of significance, and provide the norms that anchor our lives in a culture of

meaning?´” (p. x). Leadership as a quest for values directs faculty towards a collective group of

values that a school is to abide by. As teachers reflect and share on their own values, certain

moral behaviors then become expected. Thus, the spaces and structures for formalizing values

develop in a top-down fashion, but the values themselves are reached through consensus on the

part of each of the teachers. Gordon (2001) suggests the following moral principles that drive

“the good school”: “compassion, wholeness, connectedness, inclusion, justice, peace, freedom,

trust, empowerment, and community” (as cited in Glickman, Gordon, and Ross-Gordon, 2007,

pp. 452-455). As these are more than likely to be some examples of what teachers reach as a

consensus; the next stage is to convert these principles into collective commitments or actions

that are expected to demonstrate said moral principles.

Leadership becomes crucial when moral principles merge with core subjects (i.e.,

reading, writing, and arithmetic), and teachers and administrators have different views on

prioritizing. From a philosophical standpoint, an essentialist versus existentialist approach to

education can cause a level of conflict unless there is clear direction and expectations are made

clear. Moreover, with the push for standardized testing established by the No Child Left Behind

Law, many schools are forced to a more epistemological view of learning that ignores the value

set required for students to be productive and responsible citizens. Value-added leadership finds

ways to merge “soft skills” with the “hard skills” throughout curriculum, assessment, and
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instruction, and does so both at the faculty level as well as the student level. This merging of

moral principles with core subjects undoubtedly requires change.

In order to better promote change within a school, it is best to have an understanding of

chaos theory and the notion of complexity. Siemens (October, 12, 2008) states that although

chaos theory comes from a mathematics and advanced physics, the theory can broadly be applied

to two areas within the social sciences: “1) the concept of sensitivity of initial conditions, and 2)

recognizing that learning similarly consists of unpredictability that occurs within certain

structures of form (deterministic unpredictability)”. In other words, chaos theory states there is a

specific reason, justification, or rationale behind what appears to be random. Similarly, the

notion of complexity is best described by an example. Imagine viewing a seashore from high up.

At a distance, the seashore seems fixed, but upon closer examination, one realizes that there are

many factors that influence or form the seashore: tides, man-made formations, weather patterns,

etc. In fact, a seashore is in a constant state of flux depending on how all these factors interact at

any given moment. Indeed, it becomes difficult to predict to what degree each factor had on the

final outcome – seashore. A similar phenomenon occurs in education. Of all the factors that

influence one´s learning, it is difficult if not impossible to know with certainty which factor or

factors contributed more to the learning process.

Taking chaos theory and complexity into account, change occurs in a more nonlinear

fashion dependent on the actors of the social group. A more “rhizomatic educational” (Cormier,

2008) approach to change views of each teacher, administrator, or student as an emergent figure,

each having a particular journey as the change process unfolds. Professional development that

focuses on incorporating values in the core subjects, for example, can take a diversified group of

teachers in the same direction but recognizes that each will have different understandings,
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knowledge, pedagogical skills, and disposition as they pursue the objectives of the course,

workshop, or conference. The goal of the instructional leader is to facilitate these journeys in a

respectful way so that each teacher is motivated to reflect on current practice and to share ideas

with others, each having their own starting and ending point.

When undergoing change within a school, leadership undertakes certain stages as well.

Sergiovanni (2005) defines these stages as follows: a) “bartering, b) building, c) binding, and d)

bonding”, and adds that these stages can move from one to another or they can be combined

depending on the situation (p. 173). The goal, however, is to lead to a more binding or bonding

relationship, one that fosters transformational development for the entire faculty. And although a

school may be categorized as being at a particular stage, it may also involve a variety of stages

depending on the faculty and leadership styles that are involved.

To conclude, value-added leadership and moral reasoning address learning from both an

epistemological and ontological perspective. Instead of looking at essentialism and

existentialism as a dichotomy, the new learning paradigm blends both philosophies within the

educational design. By doing so, curriculum, assessment, and instruction are aligned in order to

adhere to core subjects and to promote good moral judgment. Values such as trust, freedom,

justice, and the like build the necessary base for becoming better citizens. With the advent of

technology, the lifespan of content and knowledge is becoming shorter, so students who develop

their moral reasoning skills will emerge as more competitive in the workforce as well as

developing relationships through social networks. As a result, schools become a home to a

democratic process whereby the “gifted” and struggling students share or have the same

opportunities to share the same spaces and thus allowing students and teachers to interact,

develop, and emerge into more educated individuals.

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Cormier, D. (2008). Rhizomatic education: Community and curriculum. Retrieved on February

3, 2009 from http://innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=550&action=article

Glickman, C., Gordon, S., and Ross-Gordon, J. (2007). Supervision and instructional leadership:
A development approach. New York: Pearson.

Sergiovanni, T. (2005). Strengthening the heartbeat: Leading and learning together in schools.
San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Siemens, G. (October 12, 2008). Complexity, chaos, and emergence. Retrieved on February 3,
2009 from http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=anw8wkk6fjc_15cfmrctf8

The free dictionary: Moral. (2009). Retrieved on February 3, 2009 from