School psychologists have identified a phenomenon that school researchers call the school culture. According to school psychologists, this phenomenon is the interaction and relationship among teachers, school administrators, students, parents, other students, and other elements of the school environment. A school psychologist may use a variety of tools to study how this interaction affects the development of children. In the past, school psychologists had to rely on personal observations, which generated limited research findings. More recently, school psychologists have developed new techniques to obtain reliable data on how school culture influences academic achievement.
School psychologists have identified three dimensions of school culture: academic norms, extralegal stress, and attitudes of teachers and staff members. Academic norms refers to how school teachers and school administrators treat students as well as other staff members and how they interact with each other. Extralegal stress is related to how teachers and school administrators react to student behaviors and to the relationships they have with other teachers and staff members. And attitudes of teachers and staff members can be considered a behavioral profile of school culture.
To understand how school cultures influence academic achievement, school psychologists make use of several different techniques. First, they gain an understanding of how teachers and staff members evaluate the performance of students. According to school psychologists, teachers’ appraisal of student performance reflects school culture.
Secondly, school psychologists observe school communities to assess the types of activities that school leaders and staff members participate in. These activities may include extracurricular activities, student clubs, extra-curricular activities, and sports teams. Thirdly, school psychologists observe school communities to evaluate the effects of these activities on the school climate. Again, the types of activities that school leaders and staff members engage in largely reflect school culture.
The four aspects of school culture explained above are not exhaustive. School climate, quality of education, and attitudes of teachers and staff members are not static elements. There are always changes in these aspects as school culture and social climate evolve over time. And while teachers and educators constantly change their attitudes and adapt their teaching styles according to changing social conditions, they do not change their basic work philosophy regarding what school culture should be like.
But whatever school culture develops, teachers must continue to monitor their practices closely and educators must also look for signs of ineffective school culture. For example, if teachers tell students, “Do your best at school,” but they don’t give them clear feedback on their progress, this sends mixed signals and does not provide feedback that helps teachers evaluate their students’ performances. Ineffective and inadequate school culture must be addressed and, when it occurs, school leaders and educators should try to address these problems.