Wednesday, 13 August 2014

How to Improve School Culture

I have been involved in international education now for the past ten years. I have been conducting research into organisational culture using the phenomenological or interpretative method. Organisational culture is often defined as "the way things are done around here". It can be a very positive aspect of a school or a toxic one.
In a previous post, I compared the functionalist and interpretative approaches to organisational structure or leadership. Culture is for integration within the functionalist paradigm. Culture is something an organisation has. In a sense, the organisation is still being viewed as an organism, culture being just another of its attributes, something to be regulated and adapted in order to ensure the organisation’s survival. In the interpretative paradigm, the organisation is seen as a culture. The organisation is viewed as a manifestation of human consciousness. The organisation becomes a subjective entity, an embodiment of subjective experience.
I have been reading extensively on this topic and would like to share a gem I found in the work of Beare, Caldwell and Millikan. They propose a list of 18 aspects of a school and believe that, by working to improve each of these, the overall culture of the school will be positively impacted.
The list is:

  1. Aims and Objectives
  2. Curriculum
  3. Language
  4. Metaphors
  5. Organisational Stories
  6. Organisational Heroes
  7. Organisational Structures
  8. Facilities and Equipment
  9. Artifacts and Memorabilia
  10. Crests and Mottoes
  11. Uniforms
  12. Rituals
  13. Ceremonies
  14. Teaching and Learning
  15. Operational Procedures
  16. Rules, Regulations, Rewards and Sanctions
  17. Psychological and Social Supports
  18. Parental and Community Interaction Patterns

I found this list very helpful! In my reading on organisational culture, I read lots of definitions and stories but found very little practical advice on how to actually improve culture. By working on even just one of the above, you will be impacting your school in a positive way. There is much more detail in the book if you would like to further explore these aspects of organisational culture.
Beare, H., Caldwell, B. J., & Millikan, R. H. (1989). Creating an excellent school : some new management techniques. London, UK: Routledge.