Monash University

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Ethics of belief : an exploratory analysis of the profession of teaching.

posted on 2017-03-22, 01:30 authored by Forster, Daniella Jasmin
This thesis examines what it means to be a professional, ethical educator. I argue that genuine moral agency grounded in open-mindedness provides conditions necessary for professional autonomy. I argue that trust in the morally loaded roles teachers take must be strengthened to counterbalance the erosion in professionalism and commodification of learning current in Western education sectors under policies geared to increasing national productivity and other instrumentalist approaches to the aims of education. I claim that being an ethical and professional teacher entails moral evaluation of both beliefs and actions such that these engender greater responsibility represented in the professional body rather than individual complicity. In doing so, I consider how these themes play out in various areas of teachers' work including policy frameworks and codes of conduct, teacher education, evidence-based practice, critical thinking and values education in pluralist democratic environments. The crux of my position is the claim that the epistemic and ethical dimensions of teachers' professional roles are inseparable and that an important moral dimension of teacher professionality and re-professionalisation is the critical and sophisticated enactment and interrogation of an ethics of belief that is cognisant of the teleology of the role and of broad-based morality. In theorising ways of being ethical educators William Carr's notion of interrogated educational praxis is coupled with Charles Taylor's radically questioning human agent. Teachers' ways of being are placed within the complexity of emerging systems and trust-oriented relations in which they are embedded. This is informed by moral and cognitive psychology, critical theories as per Heidegger and Derrida, neo-Aristotelian virtue theory and Deweyean conceptualisations of educational experience as growth. I test the claim that being an ethical educator entails an ethic of belief grounded in tolerance for uncertainty and active open-mindedness by considering the value of the virtues of ignorance.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Robert Scott Webster

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Education / School of Philosophy and Bioethics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Education

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