A middle school case study on principal behaviors effecting change in school culture

Michael J Almeida, Johnson & Wales University


The culture of a school influences the behavior, attitudes, and beliefs of those within the school community. Although researchers and reformers assert that school culture makes a difference in the learning environments of schools (Barth, 2002; Deal & Peterson, 1999; Fullan, 2001; Rossman et al., 1988) and achievement of students (Hoy & Sabo, 1998; Louis & Marks, 1998; Louis, Marks, and Kruse, 1996; Petterson et al., 1986; Rutter et al., 1979, as cited in Deal & Peterson, 1999), its importance has been overlooked and underestimated. Principals, must acknowledge, assess, and shape the culture within a school (Barth, 2002; Clark & Clark, 2003; Webb & Norton, 2003; Zmuda, Kuklis, & Kline, 2004). Research and literature, however, provides little or no guidance for principals on the specific behaviors for developing and sustaining a healthy school culture. ^ Previous research has identified the essential elements of healthy school cultures (Almeida, 2003; Deal et al., 1999; Saphier & King, 1985). This study examined the role of the principal in developing and sustaining these elements in a school. A survey based on the essential elements identified the changes in teachers' perceptions of the existence of each of the elements over a two-year period. Thirteen essential elements of healthy school cultures were identified on the survey. ^ Using the results of the survey data, a questionnaire was developed to identify the principal's behaviors directly related to each of the changes in existence. A quota sample of the school's teacher population was asked to complete the questionnaire. Participation was both voluntary and anonymous. To supplement and complement the questionnaire data, the researcher kept a journal detailing his specific behaviors in attempting to change the school culture. School documents and faculty bulletins and memos were also kept and analyzed to identify specific behaviors leading to changes in the school culture. A thematic analysis of the data from the questionnaires, principal's journal, school documents, and faculty bulletins and memos suggest several specific behaviors that principals can employ to develop the existence of five elements of healthy school cultures: continual school-wide review, understanding change and innovation, high expectations, shared decision-making, and shared-supportive leadership. ^

Subject Area

Education, Administration

Recommended Citation

Michael J Almeida, "A middle school case study on principal behaviors effecting change in school culture" (January 1, 2005). Dissertation & Theses Collection. Paper AAI3177194.