Research, case studies, and theories noted, but aside, I believe that the only ethical approach to education and leadership decision making in education is through a student-centered lens. Essentially, "student-centered" defines an experience where the individual comes first in the education process, in both leading and learning. I believe this idea must underlie the entire educational process, at all levels.
Assessments need to allow the students to highlight their strengths. Portfolios should be more weighted than standardized tests. If the student demonstrates a propensity for graphic organizing let them convey the knowledge they've learned in such a way. If a student wants to write a poem to express her understanding for an equation let her do so.
Opponents of this sort of approach would argue that in allowing students to choose how they want to be evaluated they will under-develop other skills they may not appreciate, and that are necessary for higher education: learning must require work to acquire new skills and perspectives outside of comfort zones. In response to this argument, I would say this is not a student issue, but a teacher issue: the teacher is responsible for understanding the uniqueness of his students, for harnessing their talents and transforming their natural tendencies towards new understanding.
In curriculum and lesson planning a teacher must be knowledgeable of the student and creative in the delivery of educational objectives. Workshops, case study discussions, and role play can play an effective role in motivating educators towards multi-faceted approaches to reaching each of their students. Furthermore, drama/theater-based skills development, namely improvisation and character development, can improve educators' abilities to maximize student-centered learning. Concerning improvisation, training in this skill allows for the development of faster and creative thinking and embracing the idea of "going with the flow." Improvisation acting teaches the actor never to "block" the progress of a scene, or randomly or tangentially shift the scene in a different direction. In letting the idea play out, creativity and teamwork between actors is strengthened and the scene develops into a substantial work of art, with characters, plot, climax, and twist. A teacher can use improvisation skills in the classroom to playfully weave and steer students' uniqueness towards lesson and curriculum objectives.
Concerning character development, this skill involves understanding the intense process of intraspective or meta-cognition. In developing characters, a dramatic writer must understand the motivations, talents, and pet-peeves of the individuals. This process allows for deep analysis of the human psyche and human relationships. Training in this skill keeps the actor focused on the intricacies of the other characters, and forces him to find the connection he has with them. From an educational standpoint, character development can help the teacher identify the characteristics of his students that make them unique. In better, fully understanding the student the teacher has a foundation from which to design and implement curriculum.
At the administrative and decision-making level, the themes carry over. Educational leaders need to be creative, flexible, and caring of others, all while balancing the responsibilities of their role and influencing external factors. Only in fully understanding the uniqueness of their schools, teachers, and students can leaders be effective and ethical in their guidance. The student or individual-centered approach must drive educational leaders: the goals of policies and politics will always change, but teachers and students will always remain a constant.
Ethically, students must have choices, freedom, and the opportunities to explore their interests. Revisiting the amendments I proposed to Dr. Unger's "Big Idea #1" in the post What's The Big Idea, my stance for change starts with the fundamental re-shifting of all educational decision-making processes to refocus on the student:
The overall design for this shift concerns educational leaders discovering and cultivating the ethical importance of student-centered themes. Logically, then, using the reformatted diagram, this knowledge will resonate from the classroom through the schools, into community and district-forums, across states and into legislative offices, and with the advances of social media and internet technology, broadcast world-wide for global collaboration and exchange of ideas that impact student experiences.
As the new diagram to the right indicates, input derived from global exchange can provide the catalyst for discussion between leaders and professionals, and the resulting ideas scripted into educational policies, curriculum standards, and best-practice theories in teacher preparation programs. The culmination expands on and sustains ethical student-centered experiences in education.