School improvement: Organisational development or community building?

Year: 2001

Author: Cavanagh, Robert, Della, Graham

Type of paper: Refereed paper

The design and implementation of school improvement programs is severely compromised by confusion concerning the role of schooling and the function of schools in the current economic rationalist environment. This is exacerbated by the continued influence of theories of organisational behaviour on school operations and pressure for application of corporate organisational development approaches in educational reform. The traditional role assigned to schools by society, the enculturation, learning and development of children is difficult to reconcile with the economic rationalist press for efficiency and demonstration of effectiveness. Organisational learning, learning organisations, learning communities, school climate, school culture and learning community culture are examined. These concepts are critiqued in terms of their relevance to realisation of traditional societal expectations of the social institution of education. Adoption of a learning community conception of schools with attention to pedagogical and sociological constructs is advocated for school improvement research. Research methods for investigating the culture of learning communities are examined, specifically; holistic and transformative integrated mixed-method evaluations. The utilisation of common paradigmatic frameworks to ensure reliability and validity is recommended. Examples of learning community culture research into school restructuring school improvement, teacher professional development, classroom learning environments and parental involvement in schooling investigations are provided.