School culture is subjective, but essential components within a school’s educational environment. These two terms are often used interchangeably and school culture generally is the more adopted term throughout the research literature. However, school culture is much more than merely a sense of “quality” or “culture.” Culture in schooling includes the values, beliefs, customs, practices, and interpersonal associations that are shared by students in the school and are considered normal under the circumstances. School culture includes both the beliefs of the students who participate in the educational environment as well as the values, beliefs, customs, practices, and interpersonal associations of teachers, students, parents, and other individuals who are closely associated with the school.
The four components of school culture are academic beliefs, practices, policies, and interpersonal relations. The beliefs, practices, policies, and interpersonal relations are most often grounded in the values, beliefs, practices, and other important components of the school culture. The beliefs, practices, policies, and interpersonal relations all have their own internal and external aspects. When these four components are found in an environment, such as schools, that are operating effectively, it is expected that academic achievement would follow.
Academic beliefs or theories are the most common belief system in schools. Academic beliefs include concepts like intelligence, learning, knowledge, and so forth. Teachers may espouse these beliefs, practice them, and share them with the students. Students also internalize these concepts and some use them to explain and justify their behaviors to the teachers as well as others outside the school. Students also use these concepts to justify their behaviors in school and the behaviors that get them into trouble also.
Practices or policies are the concrete manifestations of school culture. A policy that is found in every classroom and applied consistently in the ways that the teachers teach is not simply a set of rules that can be violated. It is the basis of the philosophy and beliefs of the school. Practices can include academic and behavioral standards, traditions, and other important aspects that shape how students learn and behave on a day-to-day basis.
Creating a school culture requires a significant amount of effort and time from administrators, teachers, and students alike. Creating a school culture requires teachers to practice the theories and beliefs they espouse. Providing open and honest discussions about the values and principles of the school is fundamental to building a school culture. The best way to change behaviors and thoughts is to provide opportunities for young people to express themselves in various forms. In a world where bullying and cyber-harassment are becoming more prevalent, it is especially important for schools to take steps to stop such behaviors. It is equally important to provide opportunities for students to express their ideas and to develop meaningful relationships.
A vision is what the school will become if it creates a school culture that is consistent with its educational mission, vision, and mission. A vision is expressed not only in words but in actions. Supporting leadership development for all staff members is a good way to ensure that a strong vision is developed. All school leaders should be encouraged to participate in leadership training and other events that build a strong sense of school culture. Developing a vision and promoting a strong organizational culture should be an integral part of every school’s strategy.