The purpose of this correlational study was to examine the relationship between Ohio music educators' self-perceived ethical awareness, with special attention paid to the ethic of care, and their high school music ensemble students' self-perceived sense of belonging and academic achievement. By doing so, the study attempted to lend validity to Starratt's (1991) Multidimensional Model of Ethical Leadership and Langlois' (2005) Ethical Leadership Questionnaire, which supports Starratt's model.
The participants in the present study were 40 music educators from 32 Ohio school districts, and 2,550 students, who participate in the respective music ensembles. Educators were given the Ethical Leadership Questionnaire developed by Dr. Lyse Langlois. The ethic of care subscale had 11 items, ethic of justice had 13 items, ethic of critique had 12 items, and ethical sensitivity had three items. The students answered questions from Goodenow's (1993) the Psychological Sense of School Membership survey. Four questions about their current music educator's personal and professional traits were also included. General themes, common descriptors, and noteworthy responses were identified in the qualitative data provided by students.
Important questions that were answered included whether music educators' level of ethical awareness (care, justice, and critique) was a predictor in students' sense of belonging and academic achievement and whether there was a relationship between music educators' self-perceived ethical awareness and their students' self-perceived sense of belonging and academic achievement. In addition, the ways students perceive music educators' ethic of care and personal and professional characteristics to be important factors in their sense of belonging and academic achievement were explored.
Students' sense of belonging, the ethic of critique, and the ethic of care were found to be predictors of GPA. Students who participated fewer years scored significantly lower on sense of belonging than those with more years experience in the ensembles. In addition, students with moderate sense of belonging had music educators who scored significantly lower on overall ethical awareness than students with a high sense of belonging. No significance was found between music educators' years of experience or gender with regard to ethical awareness. However, there were significant differences across the ethical awareness subscales. Choir music educators scored significantly higher than both band and orchestra music educators with the exception of orchestra music educators and the ethic of care, where there were no differences.
There is a need to promote professional ethics in school settings by creating a sense of responsibility in teachers and leaders. The findings of this study showed that when music educators' overall ethical awareness was high students' sense of belonging was high as well. Programs that can aid in preparation and development opportunities to develop skills in reflective teaching, critical thinking, and self-awareness of making ethical decisions benefit students' academic achievement and help provide them with a sense of belonging. In addition, the present study reflected the need to consider the benefits of looping students with teachers to create mentoring relationships, where students and teachers can relate to one another, know strengths and weaknesses, and work toward common classroom goals.