The culture and improvement of Western Australian senior secondary schools.
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The operation and development of Western Australian senior secondary schools is based upon traditional theories of organisational management and school administration. The study sought to explore alternative conceptions of the nature of schools and the processes by which they can be improved.Examination of research on school effectiveness revealed that student learning outcomes were consequential on the values and norms of the staff of schools. These values and norms constitute the culture of a school and govern the professional activity of teachers. School culture can be contrasted with the formal school organisation in which the work of teachers is prescribed by explicit rules and regulations. Viewing schools from a cultural rather than organisational perspective requires conceptualising the school as a learning community. A learning community is bonded together by common expectations about the roles of teachers and the learning of students. The predominant consideration is the educative mission of the school and not the requirements of the formal organisation. Organisational development is viewed as cultural transformation. The improvement of the school is facilitated by the growth of a school culture which is supportive of the professional needs of teachers and the educative needs of students.The study utilised a developmental mixed-method research approach to investigate the nature, temporal stability and improvement of the culture of local senior secondary schools.A quantitative instrument was developed to measure aspects of school culture identified in the school effectiveness literature. The School Cultural Elements Questionnaire (SCEQ) provided a measure of the level of teacher efficacy, emphasis on learning, collegiality, collaboration, shared planning and transformational leadership in local schools. The SCEQ data were supplemented by data from a stratified sample interview programme in two schools. Empirical findings indicated school culture was internally dynamic, in interaction with its external environment and capable of changing. Interview data provided examples of internal and external influences on the maintenance, growth and decline of school culture.The results of the empirical phases of the study were applied in the development of a model of school culture, the School Improvement Model of School Culture. The model contained six cultural constructs which are characteristic of school culture and the processes by which it can be transformed. The model was then applied in a detailed examination of practical and theoretical aspects of Western Australian systemic school improvement initiatives. The effectiveness of these initiatives was explained as a consequence of implementation strategies and their interaction with the prevailing school culture.The study is important for school level personnel, school improvement programme designers and educational researchers. In particular, the School Improvement Model of School Culture provides a significant alternative conception of the nature of schools and the processes by which they improve.
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