"Right" versus "wrong" and "right" versus "right" : Understanding ethical dilemmas faced by educational leaders

Cranston, Neil, Ehrich, Lisa C., & Kimber, Megan P. (2004) "Right" versus "wrong" and "right" versus "right" : Understanding ethical dilemmas faced by educational leaders. In 2004 AARE (Australian Association for Research in Education) 28th November - 2nd December, 28th November - 2nd December, Melbourne, Australia.


In recent years the conduct of leaders, in an ethical sense, in many professions and types of organisations has captured public attention. In particular, educational leaders are often faced with ethical dilemmas in the daily course of their work as they are required to make complex decisions in the best interests of their students and their schools. This is understandable given the complex challenges and competing forces that beset leadership which is clearly a values-based activity (Walker & Shakotko, 1999). There is little doubt that, given the rapidly changing social, economic and political context in which schools now operate, the moral and ethical dimensions of leadership continue as important topics for exploration. This paper reports the findings of recent research into the ethical dilemmas faced by a number of heads of non-government schools in Australia. These dilemmas centred broadly around making critical decisions, usually about staff and students, where a number of competing forces impacted on the decision itself, with the potential to lead to significant implications for individuals as well as for the school more generally. The paper uses a model developed by the authors, as an analytical framework to assist in better understanding the dynamics of the ethical dilemmas, and the forces at play as the school heads endeavoured to resolve the dilemmas. The model, when applied to the ethical dilemmas identified by the school leaders, provides a useful way for explicating the processes involved in identifying and resolving such dilemmas. The paper suggests that school leaders in all types of settings should be able to use the model as a reflective tool to understand more fully the forces impacting upon, and the dimensions characterising, the ethical decision-making process.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

3,969 since deposited on 07 Apr 2005
392 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 967
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
ISSN: 1324-9339
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 07 Apr 2005 00:00
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 12:24

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page