Title page for ETD etd-01262005-072743

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Schoen, La Tefy
Author's Email Address lschoe1@lsu.edu
URN etd-01262005-072743
Title Conceptualizing, Describing and Contrasting School Cultures: A Comparative Case Study of School Improvement Processes
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Educational Leadership, Research & Counseling
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Charles Teddlie Committee Chair
Amy Westbrook Committee Member
Eugene Kennedy Committee Member
Terry Geske Committee Member
Nathan Call Dean's Representative
  • teacher professionalism
  • teacher professional development
  • organizational change
  • school leadership
  • school climate
  • school effectiveness
  • school improvement
  • school culture
  • school restructuring
  • school reform
  • school accountability
  • student achievement
Date of Defense 2004-12-07
Availability unrestricted
What is school culture? How can it be measured, described and contrasted? Is school culture related to school improvement? This dissertation investigates school culture and its relationship to school improvement. The study is organized into three phases and employs a mixed methods approach to study the cultures of three pairs of matched schools over a 15 month period. Phase I consists of a multi-disciplinary literature review across the fields of psychology, sociology, business management, anthropology, and educational administration. This process resulted in the development of a new conceptualization of school culture based on merging complementary theories. As defined here school culture consists of four dimensions: I: Professional Orientation, II: Organizational Structure, III: Quality of the Learning Environment, and IV: Student-centered Focus. These dimensions are manifested on three levels: artifacts, espoused beliefs, and basic assumptions.

Phase II utilizes the new more complex framework to describe the cultures of six schools. Resulting case studies yielded thick descriptions which detail the salient aspects of school culture. Similarities, unique attributes, and points of contrasts in schools were readily apparent in the case studies developed through the new framework. Variations in policy implementation and internal processes were also captured by the study. Possible causal links between processes and products were suggested, such as a link between principal leadership and professional orientation, or between professional orientation and quality of the learning environment, or distributed informal leadership and teacher turnover.

Phase III contrasts the cultures of three pairs of matched schools that differ in the amount of improvement they demonstrated over a two year period. In all three cross-case comparisons of matched schools, the school with the more effective culture was also the school that demonstrated the most growth in student achievement. The dimensional framework allowed for more precise point by point comparisons of culture than were previously available. The primary differences found between the cultures of improving versus non-improving matched schools were in Dimension I. Professional Orientation, followed by Dimension II. Organizational Structure.

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