Date of Submission



Researchers are advocating for a stronger focus on moral purpose and ethical leadership within school improvement processes (Burford & Bezzina, 2014; Duignan, 2006; Fullan, 2011a; Shapiro & Gross, 2013; Stefkovich & Begley, 2007); however, the relevant literature suggests this is not being operationalised for teachers in schools. At one Catholic primary school, teachers who participated in the Australian Catholic University’s Leaders Transforming Learning and Learners (LTLL) project developed a model where explicit attention to moral purpose involved teachers focusing on key values and ethics, the moral dimensions of leadership and learning.

This thesis explores how explicit attention to moral purpose influenced teachers’ perceptions and practice in teaching, leading and learning. Using case study methodology within the paradigm of interpretivism, the research involved collecting and analysing qualitative data from one-to-one interviews, a focus group interview and documentary evidence. The participants were fourteen classroom teachers and three school leaders who led the school improvement process.

This research found four areas where teachers focusing on moral purpose generated school improvement: a collaborative culture of practice, professional learning, professional relationships, and reflective practice. Teachers were sensitized to the moral dimensions of their work, displayed moral potency or courage and became agents of change. These findings suggest ways in which school leaders can challenge teachers’ engagement, commitment and enactment of moral purpose as a driver for change in schools.


School of Educational Leadership

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


260 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Faculty of Education and Arts