Restructuring the large urban high school: A moral education approach to target professional development

Caesar Previdi, Fordham University


Organizational design of urban high schools has been under discussion by many scholars in school improvement literature. Emanating from these reforms, two strategies, bureaucratic control and participation, rely on different organizational structures and affect teachers in dissimilar ways. Kohlberg suggests many of the disparate reform strategies for educational reform fit into a cognitive developmental model. In this study, Kohlberg's model of smaller settings, democratic governance, and cognitive moral development is applied to the restructuring of the school. This study has described the restructuring of a large urban high school from hierarchical to democratic governance. A case study of 43 faculty and staff offered a view of faculty members' perceptions of their roles in differing governing structures. A secondary analysis compared their moral reasoning with the quality of their participation in school activities. The findings suggest, in hierarchy, communication relies on a top down chain of command. In democratic governance, all members of the school body participate in open communication and shared decision-making. Schools are places where teachers as well as students learn to communicate and collaborate. Those who used higher levels of moral maturity were better able to help each other learn. They solicited others' points of views considered their perspectives, and integrated diverse points of view. Developmentally mature teachers and administrators were more empathic with their colleagues, used a variety of complex interpersonal skills, and employed a variety of teaching models for more effective educational strategies. The findings from this study parallel those of Kohlberg (1984, 1985), Kohn (1977), Harvey, Hunt, and Schroder (1961), Oja and Sprinthall (1978), and Levine (1984).

Subject Area

Secondary education|School administration|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Previdi, Caesar, "Restructuring the large urban high school: A moral education approach to target professional development" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412159.