Am currently doing some research into organisational culture within schools and as such am reading around the subject. Deal and Peterson (2009) cited a number of research studies of both businesses and also schools where evidence suggested that the culture of the organisation impacting on the outcomes of the organisation. As such it hit me that culture is a critical part of a successful school
In an earlier post I mentioned about the importance of relationships; well these relationships and how people interact, share, discuss and even argue provides us some insight into the culture within a school. If all interactions are open, positive and focussed on continual improvement and on learning, then the culture is likely to be of the positive open type. If discussions and interactions are undermined with selfish motivations or if staff discussions are polarised by individual points of views then the likelihood is that the culture will be closed and negative, assuming such motivations and opinionated points of view permeate the whole organisation.
So the next time I am having a conversation I need to be wary of how my interaction paints the organisational culture to others who are watching. Now this suggests the self fulfilling nature of organisational culture. A closed negative culture will result in negative interactions between staff and even students. These negative interactions will result in negativity growing within the school which will result in further negative interactions and so on and so forth. If a positive open culture exists then the positive interactions between staff will create a positive open environment which will result in more positive interactions. Now here I am looking very much at the overall school culture as it is possible that a school with an overall negative culture may have positive sub-cultures existing within it, and vice versa.
Culture therefore is a powerful feature of an organisation in its ability to encourage positivity which in turn will increase motivation and ultimately student outcomes. The issue is that we very seldom look at the culture of a school instead choosing to look at the measurable aspects of school performance such as standardised test results. Seldom do we stop and look at the traditions symbols, history, stories and routines which go to establishing, as well as providing us a window on, a schools culture.
Now the issue of stories strikes a cord with me after a recent training session. At the end of the session the attendees stated that they had very much enjoyed the session, stating that they particularly enjoyed the stories and anecdotes I had used throughout the session. So my question to school leaders at the moment would be: What are the stories of your school and what do they tell people about the school and its culture?