Ethical dilemmas that school administrators and teachers experience: Reasons and coping strategies




Ethics, Ethical dilemma, Organizational culture, School administrator, Teacher


The purpose of this research is to identify ethical dilemmas experienced by school administrators and teachers working in public middle schools, the reasons of these ethical dilemmas and the coping strategies used by administrators and teachers. In accordance with this purpose, phenomenological research design was used in this study. Criterion sampling and maximum variation sampling were chosen to determine participantsconsisting of 10 school principals, 10 assistant principals, and 10 teachers. Data were collected by semi-structured interviews prepared by the researcher. Results revealed that school principals, assistant principals, and teachers experience dilemmas in behavioral, structural, political, and systemic aspects. School principals and teachers mainly solve ethical dilemmas completely during the solution process while assistant principals mostly employ partially solving strategies. School principals and teachers commonly use the strategies of establishing a dialogue and receiving opinions in the process of solving ethical dilemmas as well as the strategy of unilateral decision making. Suggestions concerning the prevention and effective management of ethical dilemmas were offered to the Ministry of Education, provincial organizations, school administrators, teachers and researchers.


Download data is not yet available.


Aroskar, M. A. (1980). Anatomy of an ethical dilemma: The theory. AJN The American Journal of Nursing, 80(4), 658-660.

Bateman, D. (2012). Transforming teachers’ temporalities: Futures in an Australian classroom. Futures, 44, 14-3.

Bateman, D. (2015). Ethical dilemmas: Teaching futures in schools. Futures, 71, 122-131.

Bigbee, A. J. (2011). Personal values, professional codes of ethics, and ethical dilemmas in special education leadership. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, George Mason University College of Education and Human Development, Fairfax.

Campbell, E. (2000). Professional ethics in teaching: Towards the development of a code of practice. Cambridge Journal of Education, 30(2), 203-221.

Catacutan, M. R. G., & de Guzman, A. B. (2016). Bridge over troubled water phenomenologizing filipino college deans’ ethical dilemmas in academic administration. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 44(3), 491-510.

Cranston, N., Ehrich, L. C., & Kimber, M. P. (2004). Towards an understanding of ethical dilemmas faced by school leaders. Principia: Journal of the Queensland Secondary Principals' Association, 1, 1-3.

Cranston, N., Ehrich, L. C., & Kimber, M. (2006). Ethical dilemmas: The “bread and butter” of educational leaders' lives. Journal of Educational Administration, 44(2), 106-121.

Cross, D. C. (2013). An analysis of school superintendents' responses to ethical dilemmas. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Southern Illinois University Department of Educational Administration and Higher Education, Illinois.

Crowson, R. L. (1989). Managerial ethics in educational administration: The rational choice approach. Urban Education, 23(4), 412-435.

Denig, S. J., & Quinn, T. (2001). Ethical dilemmas for school administrators. The High School Journal, 84(4), 43-49.

Donagan, A. (1996). Moral dilemmas, genuine and spurious: A comparative anatomy. In H. E. Mason (Ed.), Moral dilemmas and moral theory (pp. 11-22). New York: Oxford University.

Dowd, M. C. (2012). A national study of the ethical dilemmas faced by student conduct administrators. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Minnesota State University College of Education, Minnesota.

Ehrich, L. C., Kimber, M., Millwater, J., & Cranston, N. (2011). Ethical dilemmas: A model to understand teacher practice. Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Tractice, 17(2), 173-185.

Ehrich, L. C., Cranston, N., Kimber, M., & Starr, K. (2012). (Un)ethical practices and ethical dilemmas in Universities: Academic leaders' perceptions. International Studies in Educational Administration, 40(2), 99-114.

Erdogan, O. (2018). Ethical dilemmas of school administrators and teachers: Reasons and coping strategies. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Gazi University Faculty of Education, Ankara.

Finnish National Agency for Education (2014). National core cirruculum for basic education. Helsinki: Finnish National Board of Education.

Greenfield, W. D. (1985). The moral socialization of school administration: Informal role learning outcomes. Educational Administration Quarterly, 24(4),99-119.

Greenfield, W. D. (1993). Articulating values and ethics in administrator preparation. In K. R. Howe, and O. B. Miramontes (Eds.), The ethics of special education (pp. 267-287). New York: Teachers College.

Gurr, D., & Drysdale, L. (2012). Tensions and dilemmas in leading Australia's schools. School Leadership & Management, 32(5), 403-420.

Helton, G. B., & Ray, B. A. (2006). Strategies school practitioners report they would use to resist pressures to practice unethically. Journal of Applied School Psychology, 22(1), 43-65.

Howe, K. R., & Miramontes, O. (1992). The ethics of special education. New York: Teachers College.

Husu, J. (2001). Teachers at cross-purposes: A case-report approach to the study of ethical dilemmas in teaching. Journal of Curriculum and Supervision, 17(1), 67-89.

Kieltyka-Gajewski, A. (2012). Ethical challenges and dilemmas in teaching students with special needs in inclusive classrooms: Exploring the perspectives of Ontario teachers. Doctoral Dissertation, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada.

Kidder, R. M. (1995). How good people make tough choices. New York: Morrow.

Kirby, P. C., Paradise, L. V., & Protti, R. (1992). Ethical reasoning of educational administrators: Structuring inquiry around the problems of practice. Journal of Educational Administration, 30(4), 25-32.

Marshall, C. (1992). School administrators' values: A focus on atypicals. Educational Administration Quarterly, 28(3), 368-386.

Maslovaty, N. (2000). Teachers' choice of teaching strategies for dealing with socio-moral dilemmas in the elementary school. Journal of Moral Education, 29(4), 429-444.

Middlewood, D., & Cardano, C. (2001). The significance of teacher performance and its appraisal. In D. Middlewood, and C. Cardno (Eds.), Managing teacher appraisal and performance(pp. 1-16). London: Routhledge.

Ministry of National Education (1998). Milli Eğitim Bakanlığı öğretmen ve yöneticilerinin ders ve ek ders saatlerine ilişkin esaslar. Retrieved from

Millerborg, A., & Hyle, A. E. (1991). Ethics or the law: What drives administrative decisions? (Report Nu: ED335769). ERIC Document Reproduction Services.

Norberg, K., & Johansson, O. (2007). Ethical dilemmas of Swedish school leaders contrasts and common themes. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 35(2), 277-294.

OECD (2016). PISA 2015 results (volume 1): Excellence and equity in education. Paris: OECD.

Pontiff, S. W. (2007). Ethical choices: A phenomenological study of how managers in organizations perceive their decision-making experiences in the face of ethical dilemmas. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, Washington.

Pope, N., Green, S. K., Johnson, R. L., & Mitchell, M. (2009). Examining teacher ethical dilemmas in classroom assessment. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5), 778-782.

Reeves, S. S., & Jones, L. J. (1993, November). Ethics or the law: What drives administrative decisions among school administrators in the claiborne county public school system. Paper presented in Annual Meeting of the Mid-South Educational Research Association, New Orleans.

Roche, K. W. (1997). Principals' responses to moral and ethical dilemmas in catholic school settings. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Ontario.

Rosano, S. A., Gates, D. M., Zaretsky, L., & Kurilko, M. B. (2005). Accountability versus responsibility. In J. P. Shapiro and J. A. Stefkovich (Eds.), Ethical leadership and decision making in education: Applying theoretical perspectives to complex dilemmas (pp. 120-135). New Jersey: Taylor & Francis.

Seattle Public Schools (2017). 2017-2018 adopted budget. Retrieved from

Shapira-Lishchinsky, O. (2009). Towards professionalism: Ethical perspectives of Israeli teachers. European Journal of Teacher Education, 32(4), 473-487.

Sprouse, F. (2009). School district superintendents' response to ethical dilemmas: A grounded theory. Unpublished doctoral dissertation Graduate School of Clemson University, South Carolina.

Storey, J., & Salaman, G. (2009). Managerial dilemmas: Exploiting paradox for strategic leadership. West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Tekel, E., & Karadağ, E. (2017). İlkokul ve lise okul müdürlerinin karşılaştıkları ahlaki ikilemlere ilişkin nitel bir çalışma. Is Ahlakı Dergisi, 10(1), 77-98.

Terrazas-Wells, L. (2006). Ethical Thinkers for the twenty-first century: A descriptive study of ethical reasoning frameworks elementary principals use when faced with an ethical dilemma at work. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, College of Education and Organizational Leadership, University of La Verne, California.

Trevino, L. K. (1986). Ethical decision making in organizations: A person-situation interactionist model. Academy of Management Review, 11(3), 601-617.

Türkiye İstatistik Kurumu (2020). İl göstergeleri. Retrieved from

U.S. Department of Education (2008). Structure of the U.S. education system: Curriculum and content standards. Retrieved from

Walker, A., & Dimmock, C. (2000). Leadership dilemmas of Hong Kong principals: Sources, perceptions and outcomes. Australian Journal of Education, 44(1), 5-25.




How to Cite

Erdoğan, O., & Sezgin, F. (2020). Ethical dilemmas that school administrators and teachers experience: Reasons and coping strategies. Pegem Journal of Education and Instruction, 10(2), 593–634.