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School Culture Survey

In the process of improving schools we must address school culture and its relationship to school improvement. Stephen Gruenert and Jerry Valentine's research (University of Missouri-Columbia), as well as other school culture research, concludes that improving how adults in a school work together improves student learning. School leaders must explore what relationships are like, how things are done, and what matters most in their schools. With the use of a quality measurement, school leaders can see the reality of adult working relationships within their schools. Then school leadership teams can use the data to gain insights and improve their school culture.

With the permission of Valentine and Gruenert, the WVDE is able to provide a research-based School Culture Survey for its schools. This instrument assesses the culture of a school. With the data from this survey, school leaders can begin to understand the present status of their school's culture, particularly the collaborative nature of their culture. Given time and concerted effort, leaders can assess changes in their school culture. This insight should be valuable as school leaders work to create a highly effective school for their students.

History of the school culture survey: An initial instrument was developed based upon a review of school culture literature. That instrument was administered to 632 teachers in Missouri. Through factor analysis, six factors were established. The factors and the factor descriptions are: (1) Collaborative Leadership, describes the degree to which school leaders establish and maintain collaborative relationships with school staff. (2) Teacher Collaboration, describes the degree to which teachers engage in constructive dialogue that furthers the educational vision of the school. (3) Professional Development, describes the degree to which teachers value continuous personal development and school-wide improvement. (4) Unity of Purpose, describes the degree to which teachers work toward a common mission for the school. (5) Collegial Support, describes the degree to which teachers work together effectively. (6) Learning Partnership, describes the degree to which teachers, parents, and students work together for the common good of the student. Chronbach's Alphas were computed to establish reliability of the new instrument. Validity of the instrument was established through correlational analysis of the six factors with selected factors from the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) School Climate Survey.

Using the School Culture Survey: To maximize the benefit from the survey data, we ask that schools first contact either the Office of School Improvement or their RESA before introducing the use of the culture survey to the entire school staff. We find it imperative that a trained WVDE or RESA staff member work with each school through this process. We will need to debrief with schools to understand the limitations and implications of the data.

For additional assistance, contact Nancy Cline, nmcline@access.k12.wv.us, 304-558-3199 ext. 53021.



To learn more about the research and recommended best practices, the Office of School Improvement recommends reading Shaping School Culture : Pitfalls, Paradoxes, and Promises and using the Fieldbook, .

School Culture Typology

School Culture Typology is a self-reflective tool and related activity designed to identify a school-wide perspective of the “type” of culture that exists in a school. The typology tool was first developed in 1997 based upon the work of Fullan and Hargreaves (1996) as a hands-on, practical method of defining for discussion purposes a school’s stage or type of culture. The activity was revised in 2000, reflecting the work of Deal and Peterson (1999) and again revised slightly in 2006. To complete the activity, teachers assign point values to statements that are “most descriptive” of their school from a series of statements representing twelve elements of school culture.

Those elements are (1) student achievement, (2) collegial awareness, (3) shared values, (4) decision making, (5) risk-taking, (6) trust, (7) openness, (8) parent relations, (9) leadership, (10) communication, (11) socialization, and (12) organization history. Once the members of a leadership or school improvement team, or the whole faculty, have completed individual worksheets, the facilitators of the activity lead the group in a consensus discussion or take the individual worksheets and compile them to form a mathematical summary of the teachers’ responses.

This process creates a composite picture of the school’s “predominant” type of culture.

The six types of culture, derived from the writings of Fullan and Hargreaves (1996) and Deal and Peterson (1999) are:

  • Toxic,
  • Fragmented,
  • Balkanized,
  • Contrived Collegiality,
  • Comfortable Collaboration, and
  • Collaborative.
Contact your school improvement specialist or your RESA for assistance in using this tool to improve school culture.