The influence of the ethics of care on leadership in developing a teaching and learning community in a township school
This study aims to call for the ethics of care approach to school leadership to bring about a change of socio-historically and morally challenging South African disadvantaged schools – identified as township schools. Despite of considerable discourses on leadership styles and development for school reform amongst academics and educational government policy makers, the reality of schooling remains problematic. In this context, the literature study on Gilligan’s ethics of care theory led to critique the practice and to reconfirm the agentic role of moral and relational leadership approach in schools. As a theoretical framework, the following key concepts of the ethics of care were identified: human vulnerability and interdependence; a relational caring approach; thick democratic norms against patriarchal paradigm; commitment to accountability as a critical agency for reform. Eventually, they were utilized for the analysis for the subsequent empirical research. A qualitative single case study of a male principal from the interpretivist paradigm was utilized to explore the relationship between the principal’s leadership practice and the ethics of care approach in a purposefully designated township school. To gain thick and in-depth understanding and verification, data were obtained from individual semi-structured interviews, the principal’s autobiographical narrative, an observation of a regular morning briefing session, and document reviews. For data analysis, verbatim transcriptions data of the interviews were mainly used in the form of content analysis, whereafter analysis of autobiographical narrative data and the other data reviews were conducted to verify the interview transcripts data. The main findings of the research present with the following themes: ⚫ Capturing the ethics of care as normative framework for a hopeful school community It was concluded that discourses of the reorientation towards relational caring schools and community-oriented approach and cultivating responsible citizenship critically brought the ethics of care theory to addressing hopeful schooling. As well, it is viewed that the ethics of care theory provides a normative theoretical framework in reflecting and evaluating current educational leadership practices as well as schooling in terms of its ontological implication. ⚫ Township school leadership and curriculum management accountability Both literature and empirical study concluded that in the South African township school context leadership agents should apply their critical accountability to fostering a culture of teaching and learning community. Fundamentally and strategically, vulnerable township schools call for the enhancement of curriculum management and development carried out by the principals (and the SMT) as a vital task. It implies the necessity of relevant leadership development so that school leaders can carry out the job effectively. ⚫ The principal’s embodiment of the ethics of care and democratic leadership The single case study on a principal’s leadership revealed that SMT members perceived the principal as an accountable leader manager role-model for a change of township school. Likewise, it was found that the principal’s embodiment of the ethics of care was characterized by ethical as well as natural caring/support where the emphasis was on two-way communication, caring responsibility and disciplining for teacher empowerment. In spite of the critique on invisible cultural obstacles such as generation gaps, the danger of paternalism in the ethics of care, as a variation of patriarchy, it was concluded that the principal’s leadership practice oriented towards a horizontal democratic leadership from hierarchal one. ⚫ Instilling the ethics of care attributes in leadership knowledge and practice Conclusively, it was argued that thick democracy in the ethics of care which is characterized by not only an ordinary ethics and practice, but also the need for a different voice to be heard in our leadership practice, especially in developing a teaching and learning community in a township school. As strategic suggestions in view of the ethics of care, empirically, mitigating power asymmetry by humility and open communication, and mobilizing community support for schools were addressed. Finally, recommendations were made to the Department of Basic Education, Department of Higher Education, and teacher training institutions, and school principals in relation to the introduction of the ethics of care approach in leadership development training programs.
- Education