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Moral Authorship: publications

In the basic empirical study, we interviewed 19 novice teachers which resulted in 19 narratives about the moral dimensions of novice teachers’ work.

The narratives led to several publications:

Gertsen, R. (2016). Shaping Phronesis. No Polish without Friction.

In Bakker, C., Montessori, M.N. (Eds.) (2016). 

Complexity in Education. From Horror to Passion.

Part II, chapter 5, pages 97-119.

Rotterdam: Sense Publishers


In Part II, Chapter 5, I describe my research on 'Understanding Moral Authorship of Novice Teachers in Primary Education'. I interviewed novice teachers from different schools, asking them about their profession's demands, complexities, and challenges. The research focuses on the activities that novice teachers undertake to develop a process of moral meaning-making. I understand the induction of novice teachers as a socialization process through which they develop practical knowledge or phronesis.

An explanation of five key concepts and subsequent assumptions forms the basis of my work. These key concepts incorporate the notion of amor complexitatis (Van Ewijk & Kunneman, 2013) as the necessary process for developing phronesis.


I warn against an attitude of merely relying on the well-known high grounds since this would entail an attitude of horror complexitatis (Van Ewijk & Kunneman, 2013) which implies the repression of complexity and, therefore, also the personal vulnerability of the professional.


In chapter 5, I consider teachers as craftsmen who learn through professional action and perform their profession with commitment, passion, judgement, and courage (Kegan, 1982).


Based on my research, I have further developed the concept of Moral Authorship, considering it to be a combination of six specific but related tasks: moral commitment, moral awareness, moral orientation, moral positioning, moral performance and moral evaluation. I illustrate this with a case study about two novice teachers who were friends but had to compete to obtain a position as a teacher in one particular grade. They faced the dilemma of prioritizing either their friendship or their ambition to get the job. The case-study is then analyzed through the lens of the theoretical framework presented in this chapter.

In a second study, the concept of moral Involvement was elaborated and was clarrified using the narratives of the first sub-study.

Rob Gertsen (2021). The Moral Involvement of Novice Teachers in Primary Education: Exploring Moral Dialogues.

Journal of Constructivist Psychology, Volume 35, Issue 1, 218-234

DOI: 10.1080/10720537.2021.1923093

Novice teachers working in primary school experience in their practice, impact the contemporary multicultural, knowledge-based society.
This article aims to gain insight into novice teachers’ retrospection on their actions, using the modes of Moral Involvement, based on a post-modern stand on morality and a dialogical narrative approach to teachers’ moral meaning-making. 

The modes describe the mixed moral atmosphere as the congruities and incongruities between two perspectives, the “I” and the “Other” of the Dialogical Self.

Moral Involvement frames the reciprocity of influences of the workplace, the others and teachers’ inner argumentation to balance self-interest, mutual interest and personal attachment to principles.


Transcripts of interviews with novices in primary education were analyzed to categorize how novices reflect on their work and how they use different perspectives to explore their Moral Involvement.

The results show that novice teachers mainly discuss their achievements from the I-position and use the Other-positions when elaborating on collaborating, alignments or uncertainty about their work.


The conclusion is drawn that retrospection on moral issues during Teacher Education and workplace learning supports learning to deal with complex moral issues experienced in school practice.

In a third study, the concept of moral authorship was elaborated. With the narratives of the first sub-study, it is clarified that the six distinct tasks of moral authorship are relevant for further study.

The study has resulted in an article published in:

Gertsen, R., Schaap, H.  & Bakker, C. (2017). Moral Authorship of Novice Teachers in primary education.

Teachers and Teaching: Theory and Practice, 23, 570-582.

DOI: 10.1080/13540602.2016.1218842

This article focuses on moral authorship as an element of the professional development of novice teachers in the Netherlands.
Moral authorship refers to the ability of teachers to observe, identify, verbalize and reflect on the moral aspects of their work in a proactive and dialogical manner.


We elaborate on moral authorship by theoretically exploring six interdependent tasks of moral meaning-making: moral commitment, awareness, orientation and positioning, moral performance and evaluation.


Narratives of 19 novice teachers were analyzed to explore moral authorship in teachers’ talks.

The results show the opportunities for moral authorship to support, navigate, and reinforce the professional development of novice teachers.

This study suggests professional self-dialogues for enhancing the development of moral authorship.

In a fourth study, a questionnaire for self-assessment on moral authorship was developed and tested. Novice teachers and more experienced teachers were asked to fill in the questionnaire.

In November 2017, the research results was reported at the AME-conferentie in St. Louis, USA.

In 2022 the preliminary validation of the questionnaire was published in:

Rob Gertsen, Sharon Klaassen, & René Butter (2022). The Development and Preliminary Validation of the Moral Authorship Questionnaire.

Learning Environments Research,

DOI: 10.1007/s10984-021-09400-y


When novice teachers start working in a school, it is vital that they are aware of the moral aspects of the work environment and can use their moral abilities to make their work not only successful but also good.

We developed the Moral Authorship Questionnaire for self-assessment to map these moral abilities.


Objective: This paper reports the initial test of the structural validity and reliability of the developed self-assessment questionnaire. Setting: Dutch student teachers, novice teachers and more-experienced teachers in primary and secondary education participated in this research.


Method: To test the psychometric qualities of the attitude scales, we used Confirmatory Factor Analysis (CFA) and Pearson correlations.


Results: The initial test resulted in reliable and valid subscales of 69 Likert items in the renewed questionnaire. Next, the Pearson correlation between the subscales was calculated. Finally, the Pearson correlations between the domains were calculated to validate the construct of Moral Authorship.


Conclusion: The test results show that the six tasks of moral authorship can be measured using Likert items. The questionnaire can be used as a tool for self-assessment and reflection on one’s moral abilities in one’s professional learning environment. Further testing to adjust the questionnaire is needed to improve the personal moral authorship profile or the moral selfie.

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