College of Education
State University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118
www.westga.edu/~cbulach (home page)
James Berry, Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership and Professional Studies
College of Education
State University of West Georgia
Carrollton, GA 30118
Presentation at the Southern Regional Council of Educational Administrators in Jacksonville, FL (11-1 to 11-4, 2001).
While there is a plethora of research showing the importance of school climate for achievement, there is also some research that supports its importance for other factors. For example, Bulach and Malone (1995) in their work with 20 schools, investigated the relationship between school climate and how effectively two reforms (school-based decision making and/or the non-graded primary)were being implemented in Kentucky schools. They found significant positive relationships (+.50 and +.40, p < .001) between school climate and how effectively school faculty perceived the reforms to be implemented.
Other research links school climate to job satisfaction, levels of work?efficacy, and teacher autonomy. Bahamonde?Gunnell (2000) found that teachers who were satisfied with their jobs had more positive views about school climate than those who were not satisfied. Hirase's (2000) research found that teachers have a greater sense of work?efficacy in schools where there is a good climate. Erpelding (1999) found a strong relationship between teacher autonomy and school climate. Research that did not find a link was completed by Bulach, Lunenburg, & McCallon (1995). They investigated the impact of leadership style on school climate and found no significant difference in climate as a result of leadership styles.
Sergiovanni and Starratt (1998) and Lunenburg and Ornstein (2000) are two
of the leading authors of leadership training textbooks for educational
administrators. They both devote a chapter to school climate and its importance
for the effective operation of a school. In summary, there is a great deal
of support for school climate as an important factor that can directly
and indirectly affect student achievement.
The purpose of this research was to investigate the impact of selected demographic factors on school culture and climate. If factors such as levels of training, gender, experience, and years teaching at a school influence how teachers perceive the culture and climate of the school, this would provide school administrators with additional insight in shaping a school=s climate and culture. For example, if older more experienced faculty and/or with more education have better or poorer perception's of a school's climate and culture, then the plan to improve culture/climate could be more focused.
culture/climate: those psychological attributes (culture) and institutional attributes
(climate) that give an organization its personality (Bulach, Lunenburg, and McCallon, 1995). An analogy of an iceberg can be used to further explain climate and culture. The part of the iceberg that can be seen above the water could not exist without the part the that cannot be seen below the water. The climate variables can be seen whereas the culture variables cannot be seen and like the iceberg, climate cannot exist without the underlying value and belief systems that form the culture (see instrumentation for the culture and climate variables). Petersen and Deal (1998) define culture as the set of values, beliefs, traditions, and rituals built over time. While this is the more commonly accepted definition of culture, we prefer ours because it distinguishes between two concepts that are closely intertwined: culture and climate.
This causal-comparative study involved six high schools, seven middle schools, and twelve elementary schools. Data were gathered from 1163 teachers regarding their perceptions of each school's culture/climate. School officials at these schools volunteered to take part in this study as part of their involvement in a grant to implement a character education curriculum (Bulach, 2001). The data were collected at a faculty meeting. The administration convened the meeting and explained that their responses were confidential. They were told to complete the survey and turn the data over to one of the teachers who would place it in an envelop, seal it, and turn it in to central office personnel. The data were then sent to the authors for analysis.
The instrument that measures culture/climate is called the "Instructional Improvement Survey." It consists of four items that measure the demographic factors and 96 behaviors that measure a school's culture and climate. The culture variables (psychological attributes) are as follows: group openness, group trust, group cooperation, and group atmosphere. The climate variables (institutional attributes) are also the effective school variables as follows: discipline, instructional leadership, classroom instruction, expectations, parent/community involvement, assessment/time on task, and sense of mission. The instrument has an overall reliability of + .95 as measured by the Cronbach alpha. Reliability on each of the subscales varies from +.79 to +.85 (Bulach, 2001). Teachers respond to each of the 96 behaviors on a five?point Likert scale ranging from "completely disagree" to "completely agree." Completely disagree was scored as a "one" and completely agree was scored as a "five." An agree response was scored as a 4.0. Since nine of the factors are measured by eight behaviors, a score of 32 (4 x 8 = 32) is considered a strength and scores below 32 are considered areas needing improvement. Group trust and group openness have more than eight behaviors and have been mathematically controlled to equal a score of 32 (see Appemndix A for a listing of the behaviors for each culture/climate factor).
Method of Analysis
One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) was the statistical test of significance
used to evaluate the role of levels of training, years of experience, and
years teaching at a school on the 11 factors that make up a school=s culture/climate.
The t-test for independent groups was used to evaluate the role of gender
and its impact on the 11 factors that make up a school=s culture/climate.
In further analysis, the Crosstabs function of SPSS, was used to evaluate
the impact of the demographic factors on each of the 96 behaviors associated
with the 11 culture/climate factors. Kendall=s Tau-b was the statistical
test of significance used for this analysis.
The data clearly indicate that gender is a major variable impacting the 11 factors that make up the measure of culture/climate (see table 1). The t-score for nine of the 11 factors was significant (p < .05). After using the Bonferoni technique to adjust for multiple t’s, six of the factors were still significant (p < .00). Those six factors were as follows: group trust, classroom instruction, expectations, parent/community involvement, assessment/time on task, and sense of mission. While the remaining five factors were not significant, it is remarkable that females had more positive scores on all 11 factors.
Also, the behavior in the group atmosphere factor dealing with being sensitive to student needs was very positive. In both instances, however, it was the faculty with 10 or more years at a school that were the most positive.
Overall, there are a few positive indicators of a good school culture/climate.
For example, faculty believe (scores range between 79.6%-96.6%) parents
can find out how their child is doing academically. Similar beliefs were
found regarding the school’s mission statement and the practice of varying
instructional strategies according to the needs of the students. In every
instance, however, it was the senior faculty at a school who were the most
positive. One possibility for explaining this phenomenon could be the fact
that the senior faculty, because of their length of time at the school,
have helped to shape the culture and climate of the school. As a result
they are more comfortable and positive about it. Regardless, faculty
members, with ten or more years at a school, are more likely to be positive
about the school’s culture/climate.
The number of years teaching experience for a faculty member is also a major variable affecting the climate factors, but not the cultural factors. Six of the seven climate factors had F-scores that showed significant differences within the group. There were no significant differences within the group for the four culture variables. This varies considerably from the comparison for the number of years in a building where significant differences were found for all 11 factors. A possible explanation for this could be the number of teachers with 21+ years experience. Two hundred and eighty teachers reported 21+ years experience, but only 80 had their experience in the same building. Another major difference was the grouping of teachers. In the previous analysis for number of years in a school the grouping was for one year at the school and 2-5 years at the school. In the analysis for years experience, the grouping was for 0-5 years, 6-10 years, and 11-15 years. This is probably the reason for the difference in the comparison years teaching versus years at a school. However, the data tends to support the opinion that the number of years at a school is more important than the years’ experience.
A comparison of the individual behaviors that make up each factor revealed statistically significant differences on 46 out of the 96 behaviors. One behavior for each factor was selected and listed in Table 8 for analysis purposes. A similar pattern, with a few exceptions, emerges as with the previous analysis. Teachers with less than five years experience are less positive than teachers with more than five years. Teachers with more than five years and less than ten are less positive than teachers with more experience. In looking at the data in table 8, behaviors associated with the openness factor again show an unwillingness to be open with other faculty. While the faculty with 21+ years are more willing to share, only 30% agree that they will share their thoughts. Consequently, the majority of the faculty, regardless of experience, are unwilling to share their thoughts with each other.
The fact that more experienced teachers are the most positive about culture
and climate is encouraging. This could be because they are more satisfied
with their careers, have honed their craft, and are more able to deal with
problems that arise. However, the data in Table 5 clearly show that school
culture is not very positive as none of the four culture variables have
a score of 32 (an agree response) and only three of the climate factors
have an agree response for experienced faculty. These data support the
conclusion of Ingersoll (2001) that the organizational climate found in
most schools is impersonal and alienated. He goes on to say that most teachers
choose to stay or leave because of organizational conditions.
The behavior in Table 8 “the administration knows what is happening in
the classroom” in the instructional leadership factor had agree responses
in the 40-50% range. Faculty responses, indicating that the administration
“sometimes” knows what is happening, were in the 30% range. More teachers
with less than 10 years experience disagreed (21%) with this statement
compared to those with more than 10 years (12%). The opposite should have
occurred. Administrators should be more aware of what is happening in the
classrooms of teachers with less experience. Ingersoll (2001) reported
that 30% of the teachers who left the profession were dissatisfied with
the amount of administrative support. If administrators want to be instructional
leaders, they will have to pay more attention to what is going on in classrooms.
of the study
The 11 factors that are used to analyze a school’s culture/climate do not
measure all of the factors that can affect a school. For example, the four
culture variable of openness, trust, cooperation, and atmosphere represent
only a part of the value and belief system that affect that school’s culture.
There could be and probably are other factors. However, the ones that were
chosen to be measured by the survey are the ones believed to be the most
important for a school’s culture/climate.
The lack of openness that exists on most faculties is a real concern and
should be addressed by administrators. This could help with one of the
other major concerns, and that is the lower culture and climate scores
for male faculty. Perhaps, the most important finding of this research
is the lower scores for faculty after their first year of teaching. Faculty
with 2-10 years experience are the most at-risk of leaving the profession.
Administrators need to provide more administrative support and continue
with mentoring activities after the first year. School administrators also
need to pay more attention to the culture and climate of their schools.
of the best ways to keep teachers from leaving the profession is to make
sure the culture and climate of the school is positive.
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A MEASURE OF SCHOOL CULTURE AND CLIMATE