10 SES 04 A, Authority, Discipline and Teacher as a Moral Agent
Over the past 25 years there has been a renewed attention to the moral significance of the professional teachers' practices. A new field of educational research has appeared with both theoretical studies and empirical fieldwork investigating the moral dimensions of teaching and teachers’ classroompractices.The initial research has exposed that the teacher's personal and professional beliefs and values of a moral character influence the way she teaches thereby influencing classroom interactions and the students' learning and wellbeing. Consequently moral agency is an essential part of the professional teachers’ practice, but the teachers are themselves often unaware of the moral meanings of their actions or are unable to articulate them (Tom, 1984; Jackson et al., 1993; Strike & Soltis, 1985; Fenstermacher, 1990). In a second stage, the research has focused attention on the kinds of moral dilemmas that teachers experience. It has been investigated, internationally and in a specific Nordic school-context, how teachers typically respond to moral dilemmas, and what kinds of moral understanding and knowledge are involved in their moral agency, i.e. their ability to reflect and act in relation to the dilemmas (Colnerud, 1997; Husu & Tirri, 2001; Campbell, 2008).
In this paper I am presenting the results from a study investigating how the professional teachers' moral agency can be developed thereby helping them to deal with moral dilemmas and strengthening their professionalism.
The study investigates in a Danish schoolcontext the following two questions:
A. Is it possible to improve the teachers’ moral agency, and if so, how can it be done as a form of moral understanding and knowledge that constitute an essential part of the teachers’ professionalism and professional autonomy?
B. What are the outlines of a theoretical framework for describing aspects of this moral agency?
My focus of attention in the presentation will be on the empirical part of the study.
The study investigates the teachers' moral agency in the wider context of teacher professionalism with a focus on the teacher's professional autonomy, agency and development. According to Priestley, Biesta and Robinson (2015) this professional autonomy (teacher agency) must be conceived situated and distributed as sustained by the teachers' reflective interactions with the sociocultural and institutional conditions of their practice. According to Goodson & Hargreaves (1996) an important element of this valuedriven, principled professionalism is the teachers' moral understanding. Kelchtermans (2009) argues that the professional teacher's moral commitment makes her vulnerable in her professional actions with experiences of moral distress and satisfaction being essential to her selfunderstanding and practice (Santoro, 2015).
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