School Culture and Change in the Context of the Greek Primary Education: Under the Circumstances of the 21st Century.

Imagotipo CRIEDO
Any: 2018

Taking into account a reported need for change in the educational practice and teaching methodologies due to evolving contemporary conditions, issues related to the practical implementation of relevant initiatives are discussed, with specific emphasis put on the role of school culture. The discussion is placed in the time context of the 21st century and the place context of the Greek educational system. The conceptual areas analyzed in the theoretical framework of the current thesis include the introduction and implementation of change and innovation in education, and especially teaching and learning, the 21st century skills and school culture.  The concept of school culture is analyzed through a discussion of its various definitions, and its relationship to educational outcomes, the concept of school climate and the characteristics of the Greek educational system.

The research methodology develops on a pragmatic basis, combining quantitative and qualitative research methods, within a sequential three-stage design. The development of the research tools and the data analysis is conducted with reference to an originally designed model of four school culture types. The culture types of the model are differentiated with regards to different levels of predisposition to the introduction of change. They include the change rejective, change resistant, change friendly and change creative culture types.

The research methods used include preliminary semi-structured interviews, a survey, follow-up semi-structured interviews, field observation and document analysis. The main objective of the preliminary interviews was to provide an initial insight of the conceptualization of school culture that could, also, inform the improved development of the survey tool. The questionnaire used in the core stage investigates six culture dimensions, namely the prevalent values and morale, the relationships, the management, the student and family identity and the areas of academic emphasis. The dimensions are approached through their actual and their desired characteristics. The comparison of the two perspectives results in the recognition of value gaps, which point to areas where intervention is considered necessary. The interviews, observation and document analysis of the follow-up stage aimed at the enrichment and triangulation of findings, providing a more thorough understanding of the investigated concepts in the Greek primary education.

The results point to an actual school culture that combines both change negative and change positive characteristics. Specific aspects are evaluated as more change negative, such as the families and the approach to the development of the personal, social and civic skills, while others as more change positive, such as management. A need for a more positive predisposition to the introduction of change is expressed by both teachers and headteachers in all cultural aspects investigated. Specific systemic characteristics, such as centrality and emphasis on academic achievement, are found to have a great impact in the school culture formation and, consequently, in the evolution of educational practice. Taking into consideration the identified cultural aspects that may impede effective implementation of change, as well as those resources that can contribute to the achievement of educational change objectives, the discussion of the research findings results in specific suggestions for policy. Issues that are regarded of heightened importance include communication within the system, continuous training with regards to current conditions, enhanced and more meaningful use of projects, empowerment of the headteachers’ role and more flexibility and participation in decision-making at the school level.

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