chapter  5
18 Pages

Towards a critical theory of emotions in educational leadership and administration: building on concepts from Jürgen Habermas


Educational organisations and learning processes are ‘powerhouses of emotion’ (Harris 2007: 3). They are sites of pleasure, excitement, joy, fulfilment, and minefields of disappointment, envy, fear, anguish, depression, humiliation, grief, and guilt (Ackerman and Maslin-Ostrowski 2004). Thus it should not be surprising that there are important emotional aspects to the work of those who lead and administer schools, colleges, universities, and other educational concerns. But what is surprising is that it took educational researchers until the mid-1990s to recognise this. Since then, a growing body of research has emerged; it is now acceptable to study, think about, teach, and develop this emotional dimension (Beatty and Brew 2004). There are, however, differing opinions as to why emotions are on the agenda and whose interests are best served by this new approach. Questions about power and politics are emerging around the significance of emotions in educational leadership (Boler 1999).