“Don’t find fault. Find a remedy.”
– Henry Ford
Scouller (2011) found fault with earlier models of leadership. His remedy was to generate his own model which integrated psychological aspects of leadership into existing theories. Essentially, there are three domains in which leaders work; the public, the private and the personal. I use two parts of this tripartite framework to focus the discussion about how teachers, i.e. leaders in the educational context, think and act critically.
At the public level, teachers take decisions that affect the lives of many. The basic needs of the learner must be understood. Maslow’s Hierarchy (1954) provides a conceptual springboard for thinking about the continuum of needs from the physical to self-actualisation. As Maslow based his scale on selected individuals “from among personal acquaintances and friends” (p. 150) whom he had judged to have achieved self-actualisation, care is required before applying his model directly to non-middle-class, white male, US environments (Gopinathan, 2006; Heine et al., 1999; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). Maslow’s highest stage is self-actualisation, “a supreme motivation only in an individualist culture” (Hofstede et al., 2010, p. 129). Gambrel and Cianci (2003) present a four-level heirarchy for a collectivist culture that places social belonging at the bottom and “self-actualisation in the service of society” at the top (p. 157). Teachers and leaders who extol the virtues of individualistic goals in Japan, for example, find themselves up against prevalent notions of conformity where the “ultimate purpose of learning is to serve the society” (Yang et al., 2006, p. 348).
Paul’s observation that critical thinkers must be above cultural imperatives because cultures “lock us in to one way of looking at the world” (Paul, 2007) only goes in one direction. Teachers who have ‘transcended’ culture will still fail to lead if they operate on the assumption that students have done so as well. Following Haskins’ definition of critical thinking as a “process … to effectively arrive at the most reasonable and justifiable positions on issues” (2006, p. 2), readers note two facets: that it is a process, i.e. a sequence of cognitive events iteratively collaborating towards a goal; and that that goal is justifiable. This mirrors Scouller’s definition of leadership as being a process, “a series of choices and actions around defining and achieving a goal” (2011, Section 1). The public level of leaderships intimately links these three notions of cultural sensitivity, critical thinking and leadership.
At the private level, teachers’ ability to view the informational exchange between learner and teacher as a dialectical process is paramount in effecting learning success (Bensalah, 2011; De-Juanas, 2014). Supporting cognitive change in students requires a sensitivity to epistemological developmental possibilities (Moon, 2005), whereas an insensitivity to non-readiness can result in “fear and resentment … directed at teachers” (Brookfield, 2002, p. 36).
Nicol and Macfarlane-Dick suggest that one kind of good leadership feedback is to describe clearly to students the level of the desired performance (2006). Although the assumption is that students’ goals are achievable, they are “significant mismatches between tutors’ and students’ conceptions of goals” (Nicol & Macfarlane-Dick, 2006, p. 206). Dewey offers one scenario; “the more varied is the scene of conditions and obstructions that presents itself, and the more numerous are the alternatives between which choice may be made” (Dewey, 1916, Chapter 8 Section 1). However, a critical thinker rather will search for multiple possibilities in a single scene to find numerous alternatives (Brookfield, 1987). At the private level, leaders constantly and systematically oversee individuals’ output holistically while concurrently monitoring overall progress and results (Scouller, 2011, Section 1), a feat unthinkable without the mindset that is constantly looking for a remedy.
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