It has been an essential question since decades, “What do we expect from educational institutions to do for our society?” The answer to this question varies in different schools of thought and also differs in societies; Even within a country, the problem is answered differently by different people. To me, the distributed and divided earth into small units as buildings and rooms, makes us think in a fixed and focused manner, but in times of globalization and digital communication, we, now, need to unite or at least link the human mind with the outer world. Our children, studying within the boundary walls need to be closely related to the universe existing outside. These children are growing and soon going to be out there living lives independently. We, as educators, try our best to develop and strengthen such personality characteristics which may help our children to become “responsible” and “useful” citizens. Here we face a more profound question – the “responsibility” and “usefulness” to what extent and of what level? It is a question that remains unanswered, but in the “global village” the role of educators is multilayered for sure. The divided earth in this era of communication technology has developed close links and every individual matter, not only to one city or country but to the whole universe.
As time is passing, the human race is facing various forms of social crisis. Moral and ethical values were once related closely with the religious and educational institutions. In the modern era in many societies where religion once had a substantial impact on all spheres of life, schools have mostly been separated from religious education. In some extremes, the two kinds of knowledge are being perceived as the responsibility of two different types of institutions. The societies in the developed world are inclined more towards freedom of thought, choice and expression instead of influencing thoughts of the upcoming generations; Yet in countries like Pakistan the notion of “teachers as role models” prevails and the job of “moral development” in our society is still placed at educational institutions, mosques and homes.
According to Weissbourd (2003):
Adults do not merely transmit moral qualities and beliefs to children. These qualities and ideas emerge and continually evolve in the vast array of relationships that every child has with both adults and peers starting nearly at birth, and in children’s felt knowledge of what is harmful, accurate, or right. In these relationships, children continually sort out, for example, what they owe others, what they should stand for, what traditions are worth keeping, whether to follow the rules, how to contribute to their family, classroom, and community—in other words, how to be a decent human being (“Educational Leadership”, 2003)
So even if the division of religious education in schools or other institutions is accepted, we cannot ignore the fact that moral development among schools is mainly in the hands of teachers. “Many teachers communicate high moral expectations and provide steady listening and opportunities for accomplishment that reduce students’ shame and distrust” (Weissbourd, 2003). But this is only possible when teachers themselves take the responsibility of becoming moral leaders. The teachers need to learn from their “own moral errors” and recurrently build up their aptitude to fulfil their role and responsibility in and outside the classroom (Weissbourd, 2003).
Context of the Study
In Pakistani society, as I have observed a division of moral and social development results in developing a divided generation into two extremes of social attitudes. There is no shortage of leadership, but in one case, the leadership comes from a real-world perspective, and in the other case, it comes from a healthy religious perspective. The two aspects instead of complementing each other are taking a position of conflict in society. I, as an educator, feel a strong need to bridge the gap between social and moral values. Pakistani community at the moment is going through various kinds of crises; Public Moral Leadership is a dream that people of Pakistan cannot see being realized in these times. It is a model where every person holding a public office or position needs to practice high moral and ethical values as well as to work for social and human welfare. In Pakistan where we are facing all sorts of challenges named – intolerance, extremism, nationalism, provincialism, nepotism, gender and ethnic discrimination, and sectarian violence and persecution; people today are looking towards the educational institutions with a hope to bring positive change in social behaviours.
With all these thoughts at the back of my mind, I initiated a small study with an assumption that to develop civic responsibility and moral leadership among coming generations, we first need to begin with constructing the knowledge of “Public Moral Leadership” among teachers. In Pakistan, formal teacher education programs are offered at universities where students are enrolled in two years associate degree to four-year undergraduate B.Ed program. But a large number of student-teachers are enrolled in non-formal distance education programs at Allama Iqbal open university. Teacher preparation programs in Pakistan do not offer any courses on leadership. I had attended a program called “Pakistani Educational Leadership Institute” at Plymouth State University in 2007, which was my own first realization of the phenomenon- “teachers as leaders”. This influenced my thoughts, and I ended up being critical about my own system of education and especially how teachers are being prepared. During my PhD studies at Michigan State University, I conducted a detailed and in-depth interpretive analysis of the teacher education reform in Pakistan. In 2015 I became a part of the team which was working on developing courses for Allama Iqbal Open University for a four-year undergrad teacher education program. We reviewed the old curriculum as well as identified new themes for the teacher education program as per the needs of the classrooms in the coming years. Discussing and researching the classrooms of tomorrow one of the issues that emerged from the literature review and discussion was how to develop Moral Leadership among coming generations. It struck me that if in the broader perspective of the country’s political scenario, we are aspiring for “Public Moral Leadership” and our schools are expected to do that for us, then we must first equip our teachers with the required leadership skills and enable them to understand what sort of Moral Leadership we need in this part of the global village.
The concerns that I have mentioned above led me to think of having “leadership among teachers” as one of the major themes in our new program. After the literature review for Educational and Instructional Leadership on one hand and Public Moral Leadership on the other, I could not find much literature on leadership among teachers though I did find literature upon teachers as change agents, teachers taking responsibility, moral aspects of teaching, teaching as a moral craft, reflective teaching, teachers’ own dispositions and beliefs as well as moral development of students in schools. Thus, I decided to ask some teachers and teacher educators how they interpret leadership and moral leadership.
Applying a grounded theory approach, this paper does not draw upon the literature; instead, it draws upon the interviews’ data. The interviews were conducted with five teachers and 5 teacher educators out of 100 participants who volunteered to be interviewed at the World Teachers’ Day Seminar on Oct 5, 2017, at AIOU. This little study focused on three primary research questions:
- How teachers perceive themselves as Leaders/Moral Leaders?
- To what extent teacher education programs prepare them for such leadership? and
- What changes are required in the teacher education curriculum to develop such leadership among teachers?
How teachers perceive themselves as Leaders/Moral Leaders?
It was interesting to see how differently each one of them answered the first question about how they perceive themselves as “LEADERS/MORAL LEADERS”. 6 out of 10 teachers mentioned they do not know it is meant by Moral Leaders. While four of them said as if mentioned that they are performing a moral duty and they definitely play a leadership role for their students. Generally, all of them perceived teaching as leading, but only two females mentioned that they feel they have leadership capabilities as they have been active in school administration and curriculum coordination work. Hence they were trying to relate leadership from something else than teaching in a classroom.
All of the teacher educators also perceived themselves as leaders of teachers because they teach them how to teach. Only four of them used the term Moral leaders for themselves. Three of the female teacher educators mentioned that teaching cannot be separated from Moral leadership. Two of the male teacher educators interestingly narrated that they perceive themselves as moral leaders, but the majority of teachers and teacher educators in this time cannot be called moral leaders.
Some of the responses were as:
Improving the social, moral behaviour of students is always the responsibility of teachers and teacher as a role model can enhance their practice
Define your morality and of your organization and then do as per written in terms of the code of conducts.
In any society and at any time, teachers are always considered as spiritual parents. The spirit I think so is very much related to moral.
As a role model s/he can motivate the students and reinforce positive social and moral behaviour.
Behaviour therapy programs can be considered where ever needed in exceptional cases.
Teachers are agents of change, and if they act as models they can have models in return
To what extent teacher education programs prepare them for such leadership?
The answers to the second question were even more interesting than the first one. All the teachers from formal teacher education institutions acknowledged the role of their teacher education program in developing the leadership qualities among them and all the teachers from AIOU mentioned that they developed these qualities by the experience of teaching. The activities identified by the teachers from formal institutions were actually the co-curricular activities that they did during their teacher education program. They had not mentioned anything from within the curriculum of teacher education that enhanced their leadership skills. Another exciting part is that only one female teacher said one of her professors as being the role model for her to become a leader. Teacher educators gave ambiguously short responses like just stating “leadership is infused in all courses” or “moral leadership is not to be taught but can only be developed through experience” or “we try our best to discuss the topic of the moral and ethical development of students “…etc. Only one female teacher educator mentioned, “Assessment procedures also do not consider assessing the leadership qualities in students”.
What changes are required in the teacher education curriculum to develop such leadership among teachers?
This was the hardest question maybe because a majority of the teachers could not precisely identify where they want a change, and they just gave general recommendations like “leadership issues should be discussed”, “teacher educators should encourage students to take the lead in classroom”, teacher education classrooms should be more interactive” …and etc. Four of the teacher educators found it hard to respond it in a short survey as they said for this purpose whole curriculum should be analyzed in detail. A few of them reacted shortly as:
Ethical perspectives of any subject should be part of the curriculum.
Affective domain objectives should be well defined and clearly stated case studies or autobiographies of teachers as leaders, representing ethical perspectives should be part of the curriculum.
The curriculum should be more practice-oriented and teachers should be guided to play a leadership role in their classrooms
Results so far and further recommendations
As I expected, the teachers and teacher educators do not yet have clearly constructed ideas of leadership, and they relate to it with different aspects of school administration. While the teachers perceive themselves as a small instrument within a big system and do not believe that they are in a responsible position, hence it is hard for them to think that they will be able to help students develop the kind of “responsibility and citizenship” and “Public Moral Leadership” seems to be a farther goal to achieve. The difference between formal and non-formal teacher education program matters a lot regarding the experience of student teachers. Unless they have an exposure to such activities and learning opportunities where they can develop their own leadership skills, they will not be able to provide such learning experiences and opportunities to their students so it is an even more significant challenge for a non-formal university to develop such mechanisms and opportunities that may ensure such experiences for everyone.
Teacher educators and faculties in universities need to be critical about their programs and curriculum being offered so that they can improve and review them for enhancing the learning experiences of student teachers. I know that a gap of decades cannot be filled within a few years, but this is what we have to strive for. There are many places which could provide opportunities to teachers to develop leadership skills integrated with such activities as classroom discussions, out of class activities, home assignments, practice teaching and small projects. None of the institutes uses videos or any other sort of medium to motivate student teachers to think beyond following a set curriculum in their classrooms.
Assessment approach needs to be challenged and changed. It is only focused at the end of semester examination and practical teaching demonstration at the end of the program. We have already suggested in the new scheme to include some project work for teachers where they may take the initiative and work on a mini project from the development of a proposal till reporting. We have suggested that district education offices may be involved in coordinating these projects. Such personal initiatives can enhance a sense of responsibility more than just discussing them implicitly.
About the Author:
Dr. Afshan Huma is working as Assistant Professor and In charge of Department of Educational Planning Policy Studies and LeadershipAllama Iqbal Open University. She has done Ph.D Curriculum Instruction & TE, Michigan State University, USA,
Practitioner’s research Diploma From Institute of Education University of London,Educational Leadership Institute, Plymouth State University USA,
Dr. Huma had done E-campus teaching and management, San Jose State University, USA, E-tutoring and teaching, Sri Lanka Open University
She also has more than thirty international Conference Presentations on her credit.
Weissbourd, R. (2003). Moral Teachers, Moral Students. Educational Leadership.