An ethnographic study of two schools : some aspects of school culture and the significance for change : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Educational Administration at Massey University

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
Two New Zealand schools. one primary, one intermediate are studied in depth using ethnographic research techniques. with an emphasis on observations in the field. Observations were supplemented by a survey of subils. by formal and informal interviews of people in the school community and by document analysis. The aim of the study was to understand the culture of each school, its way of life, the responses each made to change and the means each used to begin the process of school improvement. Descriptions and interpretations of the cultures revealed 'sacred values' which provide a possible key to why changes occurred. At the primary school the 'sacred value' of bilingualism is revealed. This value is supported by rituals, ceremonies, symbols, language, a priestess and patterns of behaviour within the school. Other related values are: concern for peoble, teamwork, concern for learning and teaching, openness, consultation and involvement of the kowhai School community; all incorporated within the values of positive reinforcement, flexibility and informality. Manuka Intermediate is different from Kowahi School having an overall, inspiring slogan, making manuka matter to which three main 'sacred values' are connected. The value of putting people first is shown by sub-themes of teamwork, family feeling, shared decision-making and positive reinforcement. This analysis revealed some sub-cultural groups with competing views. suggesting a site of change. The principai is shown have a key role in culture shaping and as an agent of change. Two further 'sacred values' of aiming for excellence and image building are explicatad. Incorporation of children's views is shown in the children's values of variety, choice are schoolwork. From the study of the school cultures a theory of change is derived, from which the author proposes that the changes endorse, and are compatible with the cultural themes and 'sacred values'. These cultural values are postulated to determine the pace, the process and the acceptability of types of changes. Many participants acknowledged that there had been multiple changes but found it difficult to specify them; suggesting that they had been incorporated into the 'way of life.' Changes were deemed to be largely positive, especially by informed people. Participants believed that it was mainiy children who were affected by changes. although staff and community also were affected to a lesser degree. Finally, If one goal of school improvement is an abillty to handle change (Hopkins, 1984). then, Judging from their ability to handle change and from parent perceptions, it appears that the two schools have commenced the process of school improvement. The thesis, therefore, contributes towards the understanding of the processes of school change.
Educational anthropology, School environment, Educational change, New Zealand