Do We Value "Values" in Education? A Study of Values Alignment in the Ethical Decision-Making of Catholic School Principals. Open Access
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The purpose of this study was to explore personal and organizational values, their influence and alignment, in the ethical decision-making of Catholic school principals. Semi-structured interviews allowed the 12 participants to explore personal and school values, areas of congruence and dissonance, methods for resolving dissonance, the process of values alignment, and the influence of the Catholic school culture. Site observations and analyses of mission statements provided insight as to community values for each of the participating schools.The review of the literature yielded a means by which to connect values of the principal with those of the school community. The individual level examined the formation of the school leader through personal values, professional preparation programs, and ongoing self-reflection. The communal level analyzed the nature of school culture, namely the Catholic school framework, and how community members perceived their organizational climate. The process of ethical decision-making through multiple paradigms formed the active connection relating individual and communal value sets. The conceptual framework depicted the aforementioned values relationship. Values alignment and values congruence formed the theoretical framework, exploring how to bring personal and organizational values into alignment and the resulting congruence or dissonance between them. Although prevalent in the business sector, this study’s application of the theory in education suggested ramifications for decision-making, job satisfaction, and professional success.Findings showed salient values across participant responses, observations, and documents and highlighted concepts of organizational fit, prayer as process of reflection, and individual versus communal goods. Further, values awareness and values negotiation were found to be layers in the dynamic process of alignment by which an appreciation of pre-existing stakeholder values could be brought to bear in discerning potential success or failure of change through ethical decision-making. The Catholic school culture, consisting of a seemingly unified values framework, provided a common sense of mission, vernacular, and expression through artifacts and décor. Recommendations were posited for “match” programs that could connect aspiring principals with schools of similar values. Delving more deeply into values awareness and negotiation by further examining principal motive and collecting broader stakeholder feedback could stimulate additional research.