Ethical thinking and decision-making in the leadership of professional learning communities

Brit Olaug Bolken Ballangrud & Marit Aas (2022): Ethical thinking and decisionmaking in the leadership of professional learning communities, Educational Research, DOI:

Background: Despite widespread interest in the leadership and establishment of professional learning communities (PLCs), the ethical dimension may be overlooked. This article examines, in a Norwegian context, how principals have to deal with different sorts of ethical dilemmas in leading professional learning communities.

Purpose: The study aimed to investigate the leadership strategies and interventions that principals implemented in professional learning communities and the nature of ethical dilemmas that were apparent in establishing a professional collective culture.

Methods: Participants were from two different schools, both of which had challenging environments. Data were collected through observations and interviews with the principals (including follow-up interviews after a year had passed), middle managers, two groups of teachers and two groups of students in the two schools, and also with a district-level representative. In total, 15 interviews were conducted with 41 informants. Data were analysed qualitatively.

Findings: Analysis suggested that establishing a professional learning community, building on an inclusive ethos, pedagogical collaboration and democratic leadership are all important strategies. Leadership practices were anchored in an ethical perspective that emphasised responsibility not only for personal morality but for the enhancement of civic moral education that leads to self knowledge and community awareness.

Conclusion: This research draws attention to how school leadership, especially in challenging environments, is closely connected to the democratic purpose of the school. Ethical thinking and decisionmaking can be developed in discussions between leaders at school and district level and between leaders and teachers in the learning communities in the school. To lead such discussions, school leaders should increase their knowledge and understanding of ethical decision making, which can help develop their own ethical leadership practice.

Leave a Reply