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School Cultural Theory

Any environments where human beings reside, there is an existing culture. The total time that the community members, teachers, and students spend in school environments develop cultural elements have a direct influence on how they act and function in their respective positions.

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Developing a system of cultural awareness in schools is critical in activating teachers and school stakeholders to engage in growth promoting activities. Teachers in school settings make up the main components of a school organizational network. It is important noting that schools are forms of organizations that uphold a shared culture. Milner & Browitt (2013) in their study of organizational cultures argue that any organization strives to find a meaningful purpose together as a group that has a shared goal. They further discussed the organizational systems develop individual structures and behavioral patterns with actual means of accomplishing the processes. Organizations create the necessary tools for accomplishing objectives; agree on relationships and model behaviors that suit their missions. Systems that self-organize are cohesive, collective cultural units that support one another in creating environments that promote personal discovery as well as stability.

To study cultural components of schools, their missions and self-awareness levels opens opportunities for innovative changes that start from the grass roots. To find a meaningful understanding of cultural perspectives of schools, studying culture from a wide range of fields is critical: sociology, corporate culture, anthropology, education as well as organizational development. Studying culture in schools is achievable through the examination of how culture may have different effects on an organization.

Schools have their unique cultures; empirically different as at no point in time have two schools had the same cultures. A school’s cultural composition includes a combination of characteristics from the staff members, the student’s organization and the leadership style of the principal. Experts from sociology, anthropology as well as education have for years studied culture, formulating different theories and perspectives that have similar values, rituals, and beliefs. However, anthropology is closely associated with cultural studies.

Recent research on school culture has focused on the relationship between school culture and change, particularly on their interdependence. With many school reform programs underway, scholars and researchers now understand that school reform success or failure are tied to the schools social norms. Engaging for meaningful school reforms without considering school culture is an exercise in futility. Agger (2014) assert that education stakeholders must be directly involved in bringing change to their schools at the levels they are comfortable with. Where a strong culture is in existence, they are in a better position to withstand and overcome hurdles and struggles that result from implementing new policies.

Studies reveal that completely stuck schools (schools with impoverished learning) always do not support change or reforms that bring about improvement regarding results and achievements. Many times these schools are in complete isolation and uncertainty. To move schools from one point to another requires teachers to work together as a unit since teachers continuously learn from one another (Hudson et al., 2013). The school cultures that are more robust incorporate open support systems and meaningful communication strategies resulting in a confident and more certain environment that results in greater student achievements. Wherever human beings reside, there is an existing culture. Therefore, the total time that the community members, teachers, and students spend in school environments develop cultural elements that have a direct influence on how they act and function in their respective positions.

There are two different types of cultures in schools. Collaborative and individualistic where both have different effects on school improvement and change. Collaborative cultures incorporate teaching as a primary component that is inherently hard. Professional teachers at no point stop to learning innovative methods of teaching (Agger, 2014). Teachers never stop to learn. An environment where a teacher openly gives and receives help is positive in improving learning and teaching standards. In collaborative cultures, change is critical in enhancing professional career-long learning. A school that offers perpetual growth and support in their culture realizes meaningful changes. On the other hand, individualism culture is as a result of many years of isolated teaching. Such an environment harbor professionally estranged teachers totally isolated from one another. In the end, the culture results in conservative behaviors that prevent innovative changes.

Various researches conducted particularly focused on collaborating teachers in change process of education as advised by collaborators and problem-solving agents (Milner & Browitt, 2013). They further looked into prudent partnerships between schools and universities through side-by-side inquiries. With help from University facilitators, they researched the culture based on a community that collaborates through the setting up of community partnership collaboration. They provided teachers with enough time to implement new methods for analyzing, interpreting and identifying the problems of literacy instruction and as well as the curriculum. Based on mutual and exclusive sharing of experiences, the researchers found out that a collaborative culture is meaningful if it incorporates a shared language, mission, vision and problem-solving methods.

Successful school cultures have characteristics that include: vibrant and candid communication styles, lateral and meaningful working relationships, openness, care and the ability to face challenges and uncertainty as a group. A school culture has a direct influence on the formation of an emotional climate of a school as well as the leadership style of the school administrators.


Agger, B. (2014). Cultural studies as critical theory. Routledge.

Hudson, K., Ben-Ary, G., Lawson, M., & Hodgetts, S. (2013). The dynamics of collaborative resistance: negotiating the methodological incongruities of art, cultural theory, science and design.

Milner, A., & Browitt, J. (2013). Contemporary cultural theory: An introduction. Routledge.

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