Locating the source of an individual’s educational values is an exercise in personal exploration. What does it mean to say such-and-such is a source of a value? At face value (no pun intended), some ‘sources’ are quite straightforward. If I am brought up to believe in the value of hard work and I associate my hard work with my subsequent success, it is likely that I’ll value hard work and that I’ll be able to identify the source of the value in my upbringing. However, this view is too easy because it misses so many of the nuances of life’s contingencies that are influential in the production of outcomes. In the hard work example, the definition of success depends on a particular value set. If that value set is intimately related to the types of actions and social conditions that the individual was made to experience, success may be less of a result of any hard work and more the result of the underlying social conditions. Additionally, hard work is definable in this case to the degree of success. If an individual works very hard and achieves some degree of success, the link between the work and the outcome is assumed to be clear. However, it must be remembered that the work was done with a goal in mind and that no one who succeeded would have not done that work. This situation becomes cyclic. The goal defines the work and the work defines the goal. Many, many other possible outcomes are ignored in what may be no more than confirmation bias.
I was particularly struck by Margaret Archer’s understanding of the mechanisms for understanding the source of values. Other writers present systems for value change but leave the crucial mechanism out. Archer described a mechanism that seems very plausible.
Halstead (1996) contends that educational values must be understood within the framework of wider societal values and not, as was common, from an analysis of the theory of education. This view has merit. Educational values that arise from purely theoretical considerations may be directly in contradiction with the values of a given society. For example, humanistic educational values of self-determinism stemming from Maslow (1954) may be problematic in collectivist cultures (Gambrel & Cianci, 2003); or the tensions arising between critical thinking, secularism and religion in schools(Davies, 2014). However, Halstead’s view can only be a partial one; societal norms play a role in shaping the values of an individual (Giddens, 1979) but they are insufficient to describe the “constellation of values” (Steven Hitlin & Piliavin, 2004, p. 361) that comprise an individual. The first discussion item requires an answer at the personal level the question of from where our own values stem. Accordingly, I must chart my own constellation and precede backwards to assess their origin.
After working through the “metaphorical mirror” (Wagenheim, Clark, & Crispo, 2009), I was able to articulate an insistence on autonomy as my prime educational value. It turns out that this is rather selfish. In short, I understood in my early teens that my disadvantaged family background would be a weak position from which to realise my ambitions in classical music. The role of parental support in early education especially for the disadvantaged is well known (Sime & Sheridan, 2014), and without that, I knew that I had to drive myself: hence the inception of autonomy. This worked for me. I became a child ‘star’ in my home country, and the belief took root that anyone could do the same. That it has a dominant influence on my educational values even now is a result of how little I have reflected on the presence of values until now. Values can change, and I sense the need for change in my own educational values after reflecting on the source of this dominance of autonomy which has effectively eradicated other potential educational values such as collaborative practices, civic engagement and global perspectives. In other words, I have imposed my singular value onto all of my teaching; I had felt that there was a weakness, an upper limit, in my approach, and I chose this Ed.D. programme as the mechanism for change.
Change could be relatively straightforward. Stets (2010) discusses the notion of an identity standard, or a set of values that define how the individual sees a particular identity and how they relate to that. Educational leadership, as an identity standard, presumes certain characteristics of knowledge base, personal skill set and creative vision. Each element presupposes associated values: hard study to acquire knowledge, dedicated practice and reflection to realise interpersonal skills and so on. In every cohort student, the tacit acceptance of these values forms a precondition to commencing our journeys towards our doctorate. To the degree we hold the value set of what we each see as an educational leader, we can create our identity standard. To some extent, the ‘standard’ is actually a ‘goal’, and anyone who has been newly promoted at work can appreciate the tension between having to become and their current being (Weinbaum, 2015). Stets’ (2010) five-stage behaviourist feedback loop presents a mechanism for continually refining current being in accordance with standards. However, the loop relies on the role of emotion to provide the stimulus for change without explaining exactly how that emotion functions. Therefore, Stets’ (2010) model cannot address the role of the agent in the change process. An explanation comes from Archer (Archer, 2007) whose critical realist three-stage model explicates how reflexivity mediates continuities and incongruities to produce agentive change potential. Arguably, Archer (2007) places too much belief in the individual’s reflexive ability as she does not address the degree to which individuals are aware or are unaware of forces acting upon them and only focusses on issues of which the individual has direct agentive cognition(Kahn, 2009). However, Archer (2007) offers two kinds of reflexivity that promote value change. When an individual experiences a discontinuity with how they conceive a situation, according to Archer, they attempt to reposition themselves within that system, imperfectly but while retaining their sense of autonomy through autonomous reflexivity. The second happens when the individual realises that the gap between their existing value set and the current one is too wide and a radical, or subversive, change is required. This meta-reflexive change can occur in either the individual, through an abrupt change of identity standards, or by changing the environment itself.
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