UBC Graduate Research

Educational Leadership Reconceived Through the Lens of the Capability Approach of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum Anderson, Shawn; Isabelle, Elizabeth


This thesis explores educational leadership reconceived through the lens of the Capability Approach as presented by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Chapter One explains our background and our inquiry process, with our inquiry question being: How can educational leaders work with intention to motivate each staff member? Chapter Two, our literature review, first focused on analysing various theories of motivation. However, upon discovering the limitations of these theories, we found a more holistic approach in the Capability Approach (CA), which led us to focus on the importance of people, what they are able to do, to be and aspire to be, rather than in the process of simply motivating them. Chapter Three demonstrates how educational leadership, reconceived through the lens of the CA, can be used to tackle real-life scenarios in schools. Each of the six scenarios we present focuses on one of the core concepts of the CA. In exploring these concepts, we found unexpected connections to important academic scholars as they relate to core ideas we felt were important to acknowledge. These scholars’ philosophies align themselves with our interpretation of the CA. In Chapter Four, we present our six recommendations on how to effectively use the CA as an educational leader. In furthering our understanding of the CA, we observe the pressing need for educational leaders to develop empathic relationships and demonstrate support and care for staff members as educators. At the core of our research findings is the realization that educational leaders must support staff members based on their individual capabilities and functionings - which are two of the six core concepts of the CA. They must place each staff member at the forefront of decision-making. This understanding would help teachers feel noticed and valued. In Chapter Five, we reflect on what we learned from this overall experience, as expressed in the declaration of our commitments.

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