Journal of Educational Change

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 21–48 | Cite as

Where the two shall meet: Exploring the relationship between teacher professional culture and student learning culture

Article

Abstract

This study focuses on the understudied connection between teachers’ and students’ perceptions of school culture. Utilizing a longitudinal sample of approximately 130,000 students and 9000 teachers in 225 New York City traditional public schools, we investigate how professional culture among teachers intersects with students’ collective emotional engagement—that is, the extent students together view the school environment as trusting and respectful, both between teachers and students and among students (i.e., student learning culture). We find that when the teachers report a strong collaborative culture, believe they have adequate materials, and feel physically safe, students report a stronger and more positive learning culture. Our results thus fill a gap in prior research on school change that has looked at either teacher or student perceptions of school culture but not the two together. Here, because our results demonstrate such a positive relationship between the collective views of teachers and the collective views of students regarding the environment in which these groups work, they suggest new avenues for research to examine how such subcultures within a school may, together, act as critical and interdependent levers for school change.

Keywords

School culture Organizational culture Student engagement 

Introduction

Since Roethlisberger’s (1939) classic study of worker conditions, a substantial stream of research has occurred on how workplace culture impacts organizational and individual change. Within this framework, Schein and Bennis (1965) specified that organizational culture and, particularly, a learning culture, is critical to changing behavior. Such a culture, characterized by openness, proactive behavior, diversity and systems thinking allows, as Schein (2010) put it, organizational members to “unfreeze”, challenge existing assumptions and beliefs and learn. Schein (1993) and others (Edmondson et al. 2016) also argue that such a culture is most needed in organizations facing strong environmental pressures with high levels of uncertainty. In such environments, when not attended to, culture may serve to stabilize current, and often ineffective, processes and norms rather than catalyze change. This reality suggests a need for those interested in creating change to better understand how to cultivate learning cultures.

This need for organizations to foster change through workers’ learning and growth is perhaps nowhere truer than in education, a context rife with environmental challenges and traditional norms that can make change difficult (Higgins et al. 2012a). As early as the 1970s, Lortie (1975) described the teaching profession as favoring norms of autonomy, egalitarianism, and conservatism. More recently, Hargreaves and Shirley (2009) characterized school culture as embracing “adaptive presentism” in which teachers move from reform to reform, unable to gain traction on any of them or produce real change. Others (e.g., Elmore 2005; O’Day 2002; Knapp and Feldman 2012) have suggested that recent external accountability pressures stunt schools’ ability to build a culture of internal or collective accountability in which teachers effectively work together to identify and implement appropriate strategies for improvement. These less than favorable cultural norms have persisted over time (Datnow et al. 2013; Imants et al. 2013; Weiner 2014) and may help to explain the somewhat lackluster results of many educational reforms of the past three decades (e.g., Hemelt 2011; Horn and Miron 1999; Preston et al. 2012; Stuit 2010).

While the culture of many schools makes positive change difficult, there are a number of exceptional schools that break through these traditions and facilitate meaningful change. Additionally, and important to the current research, these successes are often attributed to the school developing a positive organizational or professional culture (see Harris et al. 2015 for a review). For example, recent work by Bryk et al. (2010) and others (e.g., Ronfeldt et al. 2013) found schools with cultures characterized by trust, collaboration and respect, positively impact teacher efficacy and willingness to grow. Risk-taking among teachers was also identified as an element of a school culture promoting learning and change (Le Fevre 2014). However, such cultures remain relatively rare in schools and, when missing, can lead to real and negative consequences including high teacher turnover (Allensworth et al. 2009; Johnson et al. 2012; Simon and Johnson 2015) and, subsequently, low student achievement (Caprara et al. 2006; Collie et al. 2012; Jia et al. 2009). Clearly, school culture matters for organizational, adult, and student outcomes. However, what is perhaps less clear is how these elements work together to produce these outcomes.

School climate research, which has focused primarily on students’ experiences and perceptions regarding their relationships with teachers, provides some preliminary insights into how teachers’ professional culture may interact with students’ learning culture (See Thapa et al. 2013 for a review). For example, when teachers report that their professional culture is characterized by respect, trust, and caring, students characterize their relationships with their teachers in similarly positive ways (Osterman 2000; Thapa et al. 2013). Additionally, positive student perceptions of student–teacher relationships can positively impact student behavior and engagement (Gregory and Cornell 2009). Further, such positive student perceptions of school climate can, ultimately, enable student learning and achievement (Collie et al. 2012; Jia et al. 2009). And yet, while this work on climate provides important insights regarding how individual students respond to teachers and report on their relationships with them in schools, it does not necessarily get at students’ collective experiences and norms (i.e., student culture). Doing so would require treating students’ experiences as a part of a collective with shared values and norms (i.e., students’ perceptions of school culture).

To our knowledge, while this perspective of focusing on the collective has been applied in other domains such as collective intelligence (Leimeister 2010) and collective efficacy (Bandura 1995), it has not yet been used as a lens to examine student culture. Similarly, few have taken an ecological approach (Bronfenbrenner 1977) to understand the connection between teacher and student culture or have even proposed that different levels of school culture (i.e., teachers’ professional culture, students’ learning culture) simultaneously and interactively impact school change. The benefit of this approach, as outlined by Bandura (1995), is that it can better captures people’s experiences in organizations as they are largely defined by their interactions with others. “People do not live their lives in individual autonomy. Indeed, many of the outcomes they seek are achievable only through interdependent efforts” (p. 76). Moreover, as we argue here, though the aggregate or sum of individual experiences within the group can provide insights into an individual’s feelings (e.g., a student’s emotional engagement) it does not create a true measure of the collective, as is appropriate when studying constructs, such as culture, that involve a group or constituency in an organization. As Bandura explains relative to the concept of collective efficacy,

For example, it is not uncommon for groups with members who are talented individually to perform poorly collectively because the members cannot work well together as a unit. Therefore, perceived collective efficacy is not simply the sum of the efficacy beliefs of individual members. Rather, it is an emergent group level property…It is people acting coordinatively on a shared belief, not a disembodied group mind that is doing the cognizing, aspiring, motivating, and regulating. There is no emergent entity that operates independently of the beliefs and actions of the individuals who make up a social system (p. 76).

Therefore, here, conceptualizing student emotional engagement as a collective phenomenon allows us to understand how their feelings serve to build a particular kind of learning culture that then may impact students’ collective behaviors and experiences. Moreover, this impact may occur regardless of, or more likely interactively with, their individual level of emotional engagement. In other words, we might think of each student having her own personal level of emotional engagement that is then situated within a context of collective emotional engagement that may be similar or different than her own and yet, still impacts her behavior.
In the present research, we take up these issues directly, and focus our attention on the intersection between teacher professional culture and one aspect of student learning culture previously studied at the individual level, student collective emotional engagement.1 Specifically, our research questions were:
  1. 1.

    What school-level environmental factors impact teachers’ professional culture?

     
  2. 2.

    How do these same factors impact students’ learning culture?

     
  3. 3.

    What, if any relationship, exists between teachers’ professional culture and student learning culture over time?

     

Exploring these questions in a longitudinal sample of approximately 130,000 students and 9000 teachers in 225 traditional public schools in NYC, we find that when the teachers report that the professional culture includes strong teacher collaboration, teachers believe they have adequate materials, and teachers feel physically safe on campus, students report a more positive learning culture (i.e., higher levels of collective emotional engagement). Additionally, some of the demographic measures often anecdotally associated with more negative school climates (e.g., more students in poverty, higher percentages of English language learners, etc.) had no significant effect on students’ learning culture using our collective emotional engagement measure. Our findings provide support for the idea that the way students, teachers, and administrators treat each other and the culture in which these actions are embedded, matter as much, if not more, than demographics.

Literature review

The purpose of this literature review is to provide grounding from which to consider the so far understudied connection between teacher professional culture and student learning culture. To do so, we begin with an overview of the literature on professional culture broadly and then within the context of teachers and schools. Specifically, we focus on the impact of professional culture on teachers and their work engaging in organizational change and improvement. We then shift to the school climate literature. We do so less to provide a comprehensive examination of how students experience school and school culture and more to highlight gaps in the literature regarding the relationship between teachers’ collective experiences as professionals and students’ collective experiences as learners. We then discuss and explore how our framing of student collective engagement as an indicator of student learning culture serves as an opportunity to address this gap and to examine the interconnection of these two subcultures within the school.

Organizational culture as a mechanism for positive change

One way to consider the conditions for improving performance and changing practice is to focus on organizational culture. Beyond the influential work of Schein and Bennis (1965), numerous scholars find that organizational culture can make a tremendous difference in workers’ behaviors and practices (e.g., Harris 1994; Liden et al. 2013). And, depending on the kinds of cultures produced, employees may respond to stressful situations more or less adaptively, thus having different kinds of effects on change (c.f., Liden et al. 2013).

Although the concept of culture is used in a variety of ways, most consider the term to refer to aspects of the work environment, including shared beliefs, values, and patterns of behavior, as reported by groups working in that context (e.g., Van Maanen 1979; Weick 1995). It is important to note that organizational culture may be experienced as “the way we do things around here” differently by different groups of people, (e.g., partners versus managers, those working in R&D versus sales, etc.), with each subculture still existing as part of the larger organizational culture (Schein 2010).

When one shifts from considering organizational culture theory and its broad application to the specific context of education, it becomes clear that schools often have strong or even entrenched professional cultures with norms that frequently diminish the possibility of change. First, schools have long embraced an egg-crate structure, in which autonomy is favored and teachers close their classroom doors with little opportunities to collaborate or share best practices (Donaldson et al. 2008; Imants et al. 2013; Little 1990; York-Barr and Duke 2004). As Meyer and Rowan (1977) presented long ago, the lack of connection between teachers’ behaviors and external oversight is often replicated across schools, resulting in “loosely-coupled systems” whose rules are followed by teachers in name only and make meaningful, positive change hard to achieve.

Egalitarianism also remains a professional norm of teachers (Donaldson et al. 2008; Lortie 1975). Teachers still frequently refrain from challenging each other’s practice due to the shared value that all teachers are, essentially, equal (Weiner 2011; York-Barr and Duke 2004), a reality that can result in unclear expectations for how the work should be done (Fullan 2007; Gitomer et al. 2014). Finally, the teaching profession is characterized as having a weak technical core (Spillane et al. 2011; Weiner 2014). In this professional culture in which teachers value autonomy and egalitarianism, coupled with a weak technical core, tremendous variability in teaching practice persists across and within schools (Sass et al. 2012). Moreover, and partially a result of this reality, student performance tends to cluster among certain neighborhoods and demographics creating concerns regarding equity and access (Balfanz and Legters 2005) and making change even more difficult.

However, even with these many challenges, there are schools able to create professional cultures that promote positive change. Work by Bryk and Schneider (2002, 2003) and others (e.g., Cosner 2009; Tschannen-Moran 2014) point out that trust and, in particular, the degree to which teachers experience collegial trust, is a key element of schools that successfully engage in improvement. Such observations align closely with Schein and Bennis’ (1965), and more recently Edmondson’s (1999, 2003), work on “psychological safety” as a key attribute of cultures able to promote change. According to Edmondson (2003), “psychological safety” is the “degree to which people perceive their work environment as conducive to taking …interpersonal risks” (p. 257) and is a concept being applied to schools and education with greater frequency (e.g., Wanless 2016). When a culture is psychologically safe, individuals do not fear speaking up, asking for help, or admitting mistakes, fostering a sense of collective learning and supporting people in changing their behaviors in ways that can improve performance (Edmondson et al. 2001; Morrow et al. 2010). Such findings are also clearly transferable to schools and the need for teachers to feel safe to engage deeply and authentically about their practice (Edmondson et al. 2016). As Spillane and Thompson (1997) found in their research of a group of schools engaged in standards-based reforms, “trust created an environment in which local educators were comfortable discussing their understandings of and reservations about new instructional approaches, conversations that were essential for reconstructive learning” (p. 195).

As suggested above, when teachers report a positive professional culture, they often engage in practices that facilitate growth and learning, which, in turn, promotes change. For example, the introduction and cultivation of professional learning communities (PLCs) (see Wells and Feun 2012 for a review) and other forms of shared learning and decision-making in schools (Hallinger 2011; Wahlstrom et al. 2010) are often linked to an enhanced professional culture. Such initiatives have frequently proved effective, particularly when they increase teachers’ critical reflection and collaboration (Fullan 2006; Hord and Sommers 2008; Lieberman and Mace 2008). These kinds of opportunities can be tremendous levers for change; they can create learning opportunities for teachers, yielding change in instructional practice, as well as improved student achievement (Fletcher and Kaufer 2003; Harris and Jones 2010; Wahlstrom et al. 2010).

Effective school leaders are another critical lever that can create a positive professional culture (Hallinger 2011; Harris et al. 2013). Beyond creating and communicating a coherent vision for improvement (Dimmock 2012), providing teachers with necessary resources (Weiner 2011) and actively and effectively supporting teacher practice (i.e., instructional leadership) (Bush and Glover 2014), recent research has also looked at how principals create what Hackman (2002) and others (Kochanek 2005; Tschannen-Moran 2014) would call “enabling conditions”—in this case, conditions aimed at facilitating a learning culture among teachers. For example, and connected to prior points, is the recognition that facilitating trust is a key aspect of effective school leadership (Bryk and Schneider 2003; Wahlstrom and Louis 2008) as is leadership that enables learning (Higgins et al. 2012a). Additionally, and perhaps related to ever-increasing accountability pressures and focus on “performativity” (Day and Gu 2007), has come a focus on a school leader’s ability to buffer teachers from these external pressures to allow them the space to innovate and learn (Dworkin and Tobe 2014; Cosner and Jones 2016). Such buffering also supports teachers’ ability to develop what Elmore (2007) and Sahlberg (2010) describe as internal or professional accountability in which teachers share specific expectations and values about their work and hold each other and themselves to these expectations to produce positive results for students (Abelmann et al. 1999; Wahlstrom and Louis 2008).

Taken together, this research clearly illustrates that a school’s professional culture can positively impact teacher behavior to support change and student achievement. And yet, the mechanisms underlying that relationship and, for example, how specifically trust among teachers leads to improved student achievement, remains somewhat opaque. To begin to fill this gap, we shift to school climate research and how climate impacts students’ experiences and outcomes. Specifically, we focus on the ways in which students’ collective norms and experiences regarding emotional engagement may help us to understand the intersection between teacher professional culture and student learning culture as two distinct, but deeply intertwined, subcultures within the school.

Bridging school climate research and student learning culture

While, at first glance, exploring the connection between teacher and student culture may appear to be relatively straightforward, it is laden with difficulty. First, there is little precedent either theoretically or empirically for such an inquiry in the educational literature. Second and related to this point, it has been the tendency for school culture research to be split within two disciplines with organizational behavior and theory driving much of the research on how those who work in schools (e.g., teachers, administrators, etc.) experience that culture and how it impacts adult-level outcomes such as turnover (see Simon and Johnson 2015 for review), efficacy (Collie et al. 2012) and effectiveness (Kraft and Papay 2014). Alternatively, much of the research on students’ experiences and outcomes as a result of school culture (e.g., attendance, motivation, achievement) (see Thapa et al. 2013 for a review) comes from the school climate literature with a different disciplinary focus and way of constructing these experiences that make straight comparisons difficult. We discuss each of these issues below in turn.

On the first issue related to the connection between teacher and student perceptions of school culture, although within the field of organizational psychology there is ample research on the spillover effects from one subculture within an organization to another (i.e., from the executive suite to the front line) (e.g., Sackmann 1992) or intersections between subcultures held by functional units of business organizations (Schein 2010), this same framing is somewhat absent in education research. That is, education scholars tend to study school culture as perceived by either adults or by students separately and independently (Bradshaw et al. 2010), and not in an interrelated fashion as subcultures of a larger organizational culture.

The second issue that makes exploration of this topic difficult centers on the different disciplinary approaches guiding the work looking at professional or organizational culture broadly versus those related to school climate. Though the concepts of culture and climate have long been understood as overlapping and interconnected concepts (Schein 1985, 1996), they are often framed quite differently. For example, Hoy et al. (1991) argued that school climate tends to be viewed through a psychological perspective focused on individual or averaged behaviors and perceptions of those within the organization. Indeed, though the climate research provides strong evidence of meaningful relationships between students’ perceptions of their school’s work environment and their sense of connectedness with their school, their teachers, and fellow students (Furrer and Skinner 2003; Wang and Holcombe 2010), it does not speak to how these feelings may be spread across students to create a particular learning culture. Similarly, climate research also shows that students who report positive feelings and strong relationships with their teachers exhibit more positive classroom behavior and engagement (Gregory and Cornell 2009), and better achievement (Caprara et al. 2006; Collie et al. 2012). And yet, even with these essential contributions, this research does not provide insights into how such feelings experienced by one student or a group of students might shape student culture at a school or the intersection of this culture with teachers’ professional culture.

Alternatively, and in keeping with Schein’s (2010) theory of organizational culture as comprised of basic assumptions, espoused beliefs, and artifacts and Van Maanen’s (1979) and Trice and Beyer’s (1993) research defining culture as the observable patterns of behavior associated with a group in an organization, we apply this research tradition to our analysis. Specifically, we treat culture as “a property of the group itself, not just the individuals within it” (Woolley et al. 2010, p. 687). Therefore, one key contribution of the present study is its ability to build on these different, but clearly connected, strands of research to learn more about student learning culture and its relationship to teachers’ professional culture.

To do so, we work to define one aspect of student learning culture from within the climate literature. In particular, we focus on the concept of emotional engagement and our desire to examine norms that might be most directly linked to the established and validated teacher-level constructs relating to professional culture—those of internal accountability and psychological safety (Higgins et al. 2012a). Unlike student behavioral or cognitive engagement that focuses either on a child’s self-directed behaviors or internalized approach to learning, emotional engagement looks at the students’ affective responses to the school environment (Fredricks et al. 2004). Therefore, when treated collectively, student emotional engagement can be understood as student relatedness or connectedness to teachers and peers, including whether and to what degree students feel that teachers are supportive, responsive and caring (Wang and Holcombe 2010, p. 637).

Additionally, examining student emotional engagement at the collective level is timely as research suggests that student engagement and students’ views of school and school climate are on the decline (Orthner et al. 2013). Some researchers argue that this decline is most prevalent among traditionally underserved students and contributes to their lower levels of attendance and achievement and higher dropout rates (Johnson et al. 2001). Considering that at the same time engagement is decreasing, many educators, through initiatives like the Common Core, are attempting to increase the cognitive demands of instructional content, identifying ways to increase student engagement may be an important tool to help improve all students’ access to rigorous learning opportunities.

Finally, student emotional engagement is highly malleable (Fredricks et al. 2004) making collective emotional engagement a useful area for focus. Student engagement is responsive to intervention (e.g., Wigfield and Guthrie 2000; Turner et al. 2014), whether these interventions target an individual or are implemented in a classroom or school-wide (Wang and Holcombe 2010). Additionally, the connection between engagement, positive behavior (Wang and Eccles 2012), participation (Battistich et al. 1997), attitudes (Wang and Holcombe) and student achievement (Fredricks et al. 2004; Klem and Connell 2004) is well-documented and applicable for students across the academic spectrum (Applebee et al. 2003). Therefore, links between teacher professional culture and students’ learning culture, as understood through their collective emotional engagement, may guide us towards high-leverage interventions for change at the school level and may help improve students’ daily experiences, learning, and growth.

Methods

Data

This research is based on a larger study of New York City teacher and student data from the 2008–2009, 2009–2010 and 2010–2011 school years. Starting in 2007, the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) conducted surveys of teachers, students and parents to gather information about the school environment and the degree to which it is conducive to learning. The survey information is also used as part of the city’s school accountability system.

For teachers, survey items examined teacher perceptions of the professional culture as traditionally defined in the school climate literature (see Thapa et al. 2013 for a review) including the degree of accountability, collaboration, principal effectiveness, and psychological safety in the building. It also included teacher reports on ecological factors relating to resources and order. Student surveys focused on the degree to which students felt respected and valued by teachers and their peers. Our analysis then connects these data and two surveys to examine if and how these two distinct perceptions of school culture are related. The rest of the data regarding the school demographic measures came from the district reports associated with the surveys.

As our goal was to study students’ learning culture in the school, the school was the unit of our analysis, rather than individual teachers and students. However, as this technique may create some questions regarding whether the respondents represent the whole, we imposed parameters that limited our sample to facilitate more credible conclusions about the teachers and students within a school. First, we imposed a threshold response rate of 40 % for respondents to the surveys within the schools. This baseline was derived using the findings from Baruch and Holtom’s (2008) meta-analysis of 1607 studies that utilized survey data from 2000 and 2005 where the average response rate was 36.2 and 35%. Second, as student mobility in NYC is relatively high when compared to other locales (Schwartz et al. 2009) and we did not have a means of tracking individual students over time, we chose not to impute student data and only included schools that had reported student level data for all three years. This generated a sample of approximately 9000 New York City teachers and 130,000 students in 227 schools, over three years.

Dependent variable

Student learning culture

Since to our knowledge the concept of student learning culture has yet to be formally measured at the collective level, it is not a surprise that the student climate survey did not have clear indicators of this construct. Therefore, it fell to us to identify and test an appropriate indicator to use for our purposes here. To do so, we focused on student collective emotional engagement, which we measured using a composite indicator derived from nine items on the student survey. All items included a four point Likert response scale ranging from 1, “strongly disagree” to 4, “strongly agree.” The items comprising the composite included elements related to the degree students felt known and valued by the adults and students at the school, and whether there was a sense of respect between teachers and students and among students. The following stems were included: “I feel welcome at my school,” “Most of the teachers, counselors, school leaders and other adults I see at school every day know my name or who I am,” “The adults at my school look out for me,” and “Most students in my school help and care about each other.” The item, “My teachers connect what I am learning to life out of the classroom,” was included to support understanding of how much students felt that teachers valued students’ lives and aspirations outside the classroom (i.e., felt known). Other stems included “Teachers in my school treat students with respect,” and “Most students in my school treat each other with respect.” Finally, there were also two items focused on whether students felt safe speaking to teachers and adults within the school: “How comfortable are you talking to teachers and other adults at your school about (a) a problem you are having in a class and (b) something that is bothering you.”

Principle component analysis showed these items could be considered to be one construct. For example, the Eigenvalue for the first loading of the composite based on the 2009 survey items was 6.56 with the second loading falling below the 1 threshold (ƛ = .711) (Kaiser 1960) showing that these items together can be utilized as a single variable (Franklin et al. 1995). Similar results occurred when we tested the other two years of survey data. To maintain ease of interpretation, we developed an unstandardized composite comprised of these items to use in our analysis (α = .95)2 for students, in school, i, in each survey year, j.

Main variables of interest

Teacher professional culture

In contrast to the student survey, there were a number of construct indicators from previously tested and validated indicators of teachers’ professional culture to draw upon for the purposes of our analysis. We discuss each of these indicators below.

Internal accountability

To measure the degree of internal accountability (Edmondson et al. 2016) among teachers within a school, we used seven items on the NYC teacher survey. Teachers were asked to evaluate how much educators in their school collectively hold high standards and collectively feel accountable for reaching certain external achievement targets. Examples include: “meeting targets for student progress is a priority in this school,” “our school is focused on improving performance on measures of student achievement for this year,” “my school has high expectations for all students,” and “teachers in this school set high standards for student work in their classes.” Teacher responses ranged from 1, “strongly disagree” to 4, “strongly agree.” To capture teachers’ collective views of this felt internal accountability, we generated an unstandardized composite, μ, with a Cronbach alpha of .92. We then calculated school-level values for μ by generating the mean score of the teachers, \(\bar{x}\), in school, i, in each survey year, j.

Psychological safety

Teachers’ perceptions of psychological safety were measured using three items from teacher learning environment survey. Items were constructed based on Edmondson’s (2003) conception of psychological safety, and had been previously validated for use in schools (Higgins et al. 2012a). Item stems asked teachers to reflect on how much they and their peers felt free to speak up and share information particularly as it related to solving or addressing problems. Specifically, items included the following: “in this school, it’s easy to speak up about what is on your mind;” “people in this school are eager to share information about what does and doesn’t work; and “people in this school are usually comfortable talking about problems and disagreements.” Teacher responses were captured on a Likert-type scale that ranged from 1, “strongly disagree” to 4, “strongly agree.” We created unstandardized composites using teacher-level data (α = .89) and then created a mean composite score for each school, i, for each year, j, of survey data.

Teacher collaboration

Teachers were asked to report on the extent to which they felt teachers supported one another at the school with items such as, “Teachers in this school trust each other,” and “Most teachers in my school work together to improve their instructional practice.” These items were also rated on a Likert scale from 1 to 4, and the Cronbach alpha for this composite was α = .81. Responses were at the school-level with mean scores of teachers, \(\bar{x}\), in school, i, in each survey year, j.

Principal effectiveness

Aligned with research showing the essential role the principal plays in supporting a positive professional culture among teachers, the survey asked teachers to reflect on to what extent they felt “supported by your principal,” and could “trust the principal at his or her word,” and whether the principal… “has confidence in the expertise of teachers,” “places the learning needs of children above other interests,” and “is an effective manager who makes the school run smoothly.” Responses were on the same 1–4 Likert scale and responses were again used to create an unstandardized composite μ (α = .94), in school, i, in each survey year, j.

Controls

Table 1 summarizes the control variables used to predict whether and in what ways aspects of teachers’ professional culture transfers to students’ views of the learning culture within the school. The variables are grouped into three categories: ecology measures (i.e., resources and environmental factors influencing teacher practice), school performance measures, and school demographics. All of the predictors are included as each has been shown to impact overarching school climate and culture in prior research.
Table 1

Definitions of control variables

Predictors

Descriptions

Ecology

 

Material resources

Measures whether teachers feel they have enough and well cared for instructional materials. Indicator ranges from 1 to 4 for each school, i, for each year, j

School order

Teachers’ perceptions on school order and the support teachers are given to maintain this order. This composite is comprised of teacher survey data and ranges from 1.18 to 4 for each school, i, for each year, j

School performance measures

Prior performance

AYP status. Whether school, i, successfully met AYP standards for each year, j. Coded 1 for yes, 0 for no

Teacher turnover

Number of Teachers that decided to leave the school i, in a given year, j, and ranged from 0 to 67

Safety

Teachers’ perceptions of physical safety comprised of teachers’ survey reports of threatening activity tied to gang activity, crime and violence, and substance abuse at the school. Composite ranges from 1 to 3 with higher scores indicating greater feelings of threat, i, for each year, j, of the data

School demographic measures

Race/ethnicity

The percent of white students in school i, for each year, j. Schools ranged from serving almost all white (87%) to serving majority minority (0% white)

Socioeconomic status

Free and reduced price lunch status. Percent of students in school i eligible for subsidized meals, for each year, j. Ranging from 6 to 99%

Limited english proficiency (LEP)

The percent of students in school i identified as English language learners in year i j. Ranging from 0 to 96%

Documented disabilities

Percent Special Education Status. The percent of students in school i who have documented disabilities in year j ranging from 0 to 45%

School type

Dummy signifying whether the school is an Elementary, Middle, High School or Other Configuration

School enrollment

The number of students enrolled in school i, for each year, j. Enrollments ranged from 105 to 3210 students

Estimation technique

To examine how a school’s professional culture, as indexed by teacher reports of their work environment, impacts students’ learning culture, we utilize a tobit model with random effects. There has been increasing use of this estimation technique in the social sciences (Sigelman and Zeng 1999), and, for studies with longitudinal data (Twisk and Rijmen 2009), to address potential censoring of data (Siegel and Siegel 1957). Therefore, we deploy a tobit here as it allows us to answer our question regarding the relationship between teacher and student culture over time, and the distribution of the outcome data shows a right skew with a clustering of points near the top and bottom of the scale. The distribution of the outcome data suggests that there was a ceiling effect, if not also a floor effect. As such, it appears that the current scale, ranging only from 1 to 4, may have failed to capture feelings more negative/positive than permitted by the scale (i.e., censoring likely occurred), which makes the tobit an appropriate choice. The standard tobit model is defined as:
$$Student\,\,x_{ij}^{*} = x_{ij} \beta +\epsilon_{i} + \mu_{ij}$$
$$y_{ij} = y_{ij}^{*} \quad if\,\, y_{ij}^{*} > 0$$
$$y_{ij} = 0 \quad if \,\,y_{ij}^{*} \le 0$$
where student x* is a latent dependent variable and student x is the observed dependent variable that exists as a true 0 or a censored 0.
Additionally, as mentioned above, we take a random effects approach to the tobit modeling. We do so to address both the clustering of observations at each time period and to match our assumption that each school is a complex and unique organism; hence, each school likely has its own starting point in terms of professional culture and, therefore, may experience a different trajectory regarding the degree to which this culture is transferred to students and their collective emotional engagement at school. As such, the complete model may be articulated as:
$$Student \;X_{ij} = \beta_{0i} + \beta_{1} Year_{ij} + \beta_{2} X_{ij} + \beta_{3} \gamma_{ij} + \beta_{4} \delta_{i} + \left( {\varepsilon_{ij} + \mu_{i} } \right)$$

The outcome is the predicted value of students’ learning culture at the school, i, in year j. β0i represents the random intercept for each school. The assumption here is that each school is unique in its particular culture such that the model allows for such differences to exist.

β1Yearij represents the impact of time on the degree of student learning culture as measured by student collective emotional engagement for each school. β2Xij represents a vector of the four professional culture measures as perceived collectively by teachers at each school in each year—psychological safety, internal accountability, teacher collaboration and principal leadership. These measures allow us to simultaneously evaluate the relative and simultaneous relationship of each of these cultural elements to students’ learning culture. β3γij is a vector of time-varying ecological, school performance, and demographic controls to help us evaluate whether and to what degree school culture at the adult or student level is dependent on exogenous factors.

β4δi includes similar controls which do not vary over time. Finally, the error term ɛij represents the random slope trajectory for each school (time-varying), while μi represents the random nature of the intercept estimate for each school. This error structure allows us to assume not only that, at the point of first data collection, that each school had a slightly different cultural footprint, but also that the way in which these cultures evolve may look different for each school.

Based on this model, we can then interpret the parameter estimates to evaluate the degree of correlation, given the empirical relationship between the true nature of students’ learning culture and the predictors of interest. It is important to note that because we use potentially censored data that includes repeated observations over time and intercepts that are allowed to vary across individuals, we use the BIC to assess the fit of each model rather than the Maximum Likelihood Estimation as the latter can be inconsistent even when the parametric form of the conditional error distribution is specified accurately (Chay and Powell 2001; Honoré 1993; Twisk and Rijmen 2009).

Findings

In Table 2, we present the descriptive statistics and the inter-correlations among all variables in our dataset.
Table 2

Means, standard deviations and intercorrelations for dependent, independent and control variables

Variable

Mean

SD

1

2

3

4

5

6

1. Student learning culture

2.15

.20

      

2. Internal accountability

3.36

.29

.41***

     

3. Psychological safety

2.83

.47

.31***

.49***

    

4. Teacher collaboration

3.33

.26

.40***

.64***

.58***

   

5. Principal effectiveness

3.18

.45

.34***

.81***

.56***

.59***

  

6. Materials

3.11

.39

.47***

.68***

.48***

.55***

.65***

 

7. Order

3.00

.49

.42***

.79***

.49***

.59***

.76***

.68***

8. Prior performance*

.73

.44

−.01

.19**

−.19***

.03

.11**

.13**

9. Safety

1.76

.36

−.53***

−.73***

−.34**

−.50***

−.59***

−.63***

10. Teacher turnover

16.73

10.82

−.06

−.23***

−.08*

−.04

−.17***

−.09*

11. Racial demographics

10.11

17.43

.19***

.33***

.13**

.19***

.19***

.31***

12. Socioeconomic status

67.68

20.66

−.03

−.21***

−.12**

−.21***

−.12*

−.23***

13. Limited English proficiency

14.93

18.43

.26***

.04

.06

−.03

.07~

.12**

14. Documented disabilities

14.99

7.41

−.17***

−.20***

−.01

−.17**

−.12**

−.15**

15. Middle school*

.34

.47

.04

.06

.02

−.03

.06~

.06~

16. High school*

.35

.48

−.18***

−.02***

.08*

.05

−.06~

−.11**

17. Other School type*

.22

.41

.01

.08**

−.09*

−.02

−.04

.00

18. Size

575.87

388.62

−.16***

.13**

−.07~

−.10**

.04

.07*

Variable

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

9. Perceived threat

        

10. Teacher turnover

.15***

       

11. Racial demographics

−.40***

−.17***

      

12. Socioeconomic status

.27***

.11*

−.70***

     

13. Limited English proficiency

−.09*

.09*

−.19***

.43***

    

14. Documented disabilities

.31***

.06~

−.11**

.21***

−.28***

   

15. Middle school*

−.01

−.00

.06~

.07

.00

.31***

  

16. High school*

.15**

.14**

−.12**

−.14**

.05

−.32***

−.53***

 

17. Other school type*

−.06

−.10**

.09*

.02

−.05

−.00

−.38***

−.39***

18. Size

−.02

−.21***

.27***

−.14**

−.03

−.10*

−.05

.05

p < .10; ** p < .05; *** p < .01; two-tailed tests

The mean value for student collective engagement is \(\overline{m}\) = 2.15, which indicates that overall, students do not perceive a strong positive learning culture within their schools. Still, as previously described, the distribution indicates possible censoring at both ends of the distribution. Alternatively, the mean values for the teacher professional culture elements (i.e., accountability, psychological safety, collaboration, and principal effectiveness) range from \(\overline{m}\) = 2.83 for psychological safety to \(\overline{m}\) = 3.36 for internal accountability and are, therefore, relatively high given the scale on which these composites were measured (1–4). As constricted ranges tend to make finding statistically significant effects more difficult, if such effects are indeed found, they may signify a particularly robust relationship.

The correlations were calculated using the average value of each variable across the three years of the data. As hypothesized, each of the teacher professional culture indicators are independently positively and moderately to strongly associated with student learning culture as represented by their collective engagement, as are the ecological factors of order (r = .42, p ≤ .0001) and learning materials (r = .47, p ≤ .0001). In this way, these early findings provide encouraging evidence that student culture is worthy of consideration and is strongly connected to how adults experience that same school’s culture.

As we look across the teacher cultural and ecological predictors, we find that there is a very strong correlation between principal effectiveness and internal accountability (r = .81, p ≤ .0001), principal effectiveness and the degree of perceived order in the school (r = .76, p ≤ .0001), and between internal accountability and perceived order (r = .79, p ≤ .0001). As a result of these very high correlations, we were concerned about and hence tested for multicollinearity across these variables. We did so using the variance inflation factor (VIF) as a means of estimating the linear dependence between the variables.

We find that the VIF is above the suggested threshold of 2.5 (Allison 1999) for principal effectiveness and internal accountability, and therefore conclude that multicollinearity exists. To address this issue we draw upon recent research from Hallinger (2011) and others (Grobler 2013) that shows that the principal’s effectiveness has an indirect impact on student achievement via elements like teacher professional culture. In this case then, the multicollinearity may exist because principal effectiveness is also a predictor of student collective engagement through rather than alongside, these other cultural elements.

Therefore, we explored the possibility that internal accountability was mediating the impact of principal effectiveness on students’ collective emotional engagement and find evidence to support this. When both internal accountability and principal effectiveness were in the model, the effect of principal effectiveness disappeared while the impact of internal accountability remained. This suggests that teachers’ internal accountability may serve as a pathway for principal effectiveness. While further research is needed to confirm the true nature of the relationship between principal effectiveness, teacher professional culture and students’ collective emotional engagement, for the purposes of this study, we choose to remove principal effectiveness as a predictor of student collective engagement in order to assess the impact of the other elements of teacher’s professional culture regardless of their derivation (i.e., whether principal effectiveness predicts them or not).

Estimation results

Model 1 is the unconditional model of student learning culture over time. Across the 3 years of the data we see that with the random effects model the average collective emotional engagement in each school is 2.11. Again, as a score of 2 on the survey represented “disagree,” this average across schools reveals a fairly low sense of the collective emotional engagement on the part of students, in general. Such findings recall current research suggesting that student engagement is on the decline (Orthner et al. 2013) and reinforces the need for potential intervention and focus on helping teachers and students connect more authentically and deeply with each other. However, and more positively, we also find that there is a significant positive effect of time with student collective emotional engagement generally increasing over time. Such findings make practical sense: as students become familiar with the institution, their peers and their teachers and vice versa their positive views regarding the student learning culture are likely to strengthen and grow (Table 3).
Table 3

Parameter estimates and standard deviations of random effects tobit modeling

 

Model 1

Model 2

Model 3

Model 4

Professional culture

Internal accountability

   

−.055 (.046)

Psychological safety

   

−.062* (.026)

Teacher collaboration

   

.122** (.040)

Rate of change

Year

.037*** (.005)

.023* (.010)

.016~ (.011)

.051** (.019)

Ecology

    

Materials

  

.067** (.025)

.063* (.025)

Order

  

−.003 (.027)

.010 (.030)

School performance

Prior performance

 

−.016 (.016)

−.020 (.001)

−.021 (.016)

Safety

 

−.202*** (.026)

−.163*** (.040)

−.161*** (.040)

Teacher turnover

 

−.001 (.001)

−.001 (.001)

−.001 (.001)

School demographics

Race/ethnicity

 

.002* (.001)

.002* (.001)

.002* (.001)

Socio-economic status

 

.000 (.001)

.000 (.001)

.001 (.001)

Limited English proficiency

 

.002*** (.001)

.002** (.001)

.002** (.001)

Documented disabilities

 

−.002 (.001)

−.002~ (.001)

−.002~ (.001)

Middle school

 

−.083* (.033)

−.087** (.033)

−.090** (.032)

High school

 

−.126*** (.035)

−.129*** (.036)

−.139*** (.032)

Other school type

 

−.110** (.035)

−.112** (.035)

−.117** (.034)

School size

 

−.000*** (.000)

−.000*** (.000)

−.000*** (.000)

Constant

2.11*** (.013)

2.60*** (.076)

2.35*** (.145)

2.24*** (.183)

Variance components

In initial status

.099*** (.003)

.089*** (.004)

.089*** (.004)

.088*** (.004)

Rate of change

.175*** (.009)

.119*** (.008)

.116*** (.008)

.115*** (.008)

Goodness of fit

BIC

−631.22

−437.92

−433.80

−428.47

Number of observations (schools)

664 (227)

432 (224)

432 (224)

432 (224)

p < .10; ** p < .05; *** p < .01; two-tailed tests

In Model 2, we add the school-level controls related to school demographics and those related to school outcomes of note (i.e., performance, teacher turnover, threats of violence). While the negative and significant relationship between student learning culture and most of the demographic information was as anticipated (e.g., larger schools, those with greater numbers of students designated as having special needs, and middle and high schools tend to have students reporting that there is less collective emotional engagement in their school), a few controls produced surprising results. First, the percentage of students receiving free lunch was not significantly related to student collective emotional engagement. Second, while the percentage of students who are English Language Learners (ELL) does predict student collective emotional engagement, the relationship is positive. Given that, in New York City, schools with high concentrations of poor and non-native English speaking students (i.e., ELL students) are also oftentimes schools characterized as more frequently under-resourced (Kelleher 2014), such findings are heartening and suggest that though important in determining many other student outcomes, poverty does not seem to negatively impact student learning culture regarding feeling connected and cared for in the school, and further, diversity, at least in relationship to native language, may bolster it.

In terms of the school performance controls, the school’s prior success in meeting accountability measures (i.e., AYP) was not related to student learning culture. Given current research regarding the negative impact of external accountability pressure, particularly for low-performing schools on teacher well-being at work (e.g., Au 2011), this finding is somewhat surprising and may suggest that not all aspects of teacher professional or organizational culture have a one-to-one relationship with students’ learning culture. In other words, there may be some elements of teacher culture from which students are buffered or which students do not feel so acutely.

Teacher turnover was also unrelated to student collective engagement despite research showing a connection between turnover and teacher professional culture (see Simon and Johnson 2015 for a review) and student achievement (Goldhaber et al. 2007). However, school safety was a significant predictor: the less safe teachers felt within the school, the more negative were students’ perceptions of their learning culture.

In Model 3, we add the school ecological predictors on teacher experiences including their perceptions of school order and the sufficiency of the material resources provided to them. We find that, while holding all else constant, the degree to which teachers collectively feel that they have the necessary materials to support instruction and that these materials are in good condition positively impacts student learning culture. Teacher perceptions regarding order have no impact on student learning culture and brings up questions regarding the intersection between school behavioral policies, teachers’ implementation and students’ experiences of them. With the addition of these predictors, all of the other relationships between the controls and the outcome remain stable both in terms of direction and magnitude.

Model 4 is our final model and includes all of the controls in addition to the newly added organizational culture elements of teacher internal accountability, psychological safety, and collaboration. First, the impact of time is much larger in this model than in the prior models (i.e. almost a twofold increase). This finding supports our hypothesis that teacher professional culture writ large does indeed impact student collective emotional engagement, and particularly as it evolves over time. Second, looking now at the specific organizational factors, there is a positive relationship between the degree to which teachers report that they work together to improve instructional practice and that their relationships are supportive and trusting (i.e., a culture of teacher collaboration) and student collective emotional engagement. Indeed, teachers’ perceptions regarding collaboration (β = .122, p ≤ .001) is one of the strongest positive predictors of student learning culture. On this point, while the degree to which teachers report being psychologically safe is a significant predictor of students’ collective emotional engagement, the relationship is negative, though we note that it is fairly small relative to the other significant predictors in the model (β = −.062, p < .05). This finding is surprising and warrants further inquiry. Finally, teachers’ sense of internal accountability did not appear to impact student culture, and may perhaps be connected to the wording of the survey questions, which focus on student achievement rather than personal relationships.

Discussion and conclusion

Prior education and organizational change research has linked organizational culture to changes in the behaviors and practices of individuals central to the organizational change process (e.g., Harris et al. 2015 in education; Schein 2010). In the present study context of education, we studied two groups of actors central to the change process in schools—students and teachers. Each group of actors shapes the school culture and is shaped by it. And yet, prior education change research has treated these actors’ views of school culture separately, in parallel. For example, some education scholars have studied teachers’ perceptions of school culture and how positive conditions such as teacher collaboration impact student learning (e.g., Fletcher and Kaufer 2003; Tschannen-Moran and Hoy 2001; Wahlstrom et al. 2010). Other scholars have studied students’ perceptions of their schools’ learning environments or school climate and have linked these reports to student learning (e.g., Collie et al. 2012; Jia et al. 2009; Wang and Holcombe 2010). Although both streams have ably demonstrated that school culture is tied to important learning and achievement outcomes, to our knowledge, no research has bridged these parallel perspectives on school culture. This is despite the clear possibility, given prior findings, that they may operate not only in tandem, but also in an interrelated fashion and as such, may, together, be a critical lever for change.

In this study, we address this empirical and theoretical gap in the education change research and braid these parallel lines of research to investigate if and how teachers’ and students’ perceptions of school culture are related to one another over time. We do so in a complex context rife with change and uncertainty, which is New York City Public Schools, at a time when increasing accountability was placing extreme pressure on both teachers to change their instruction and students their performance (Shipps and White 2009). Thus, our work is central to the study of change and to improving our understanding, in particular, of the subcultures in an organization—a school—that can aide or abet that change process.

In particular, we examined specific elements of teacher-reported school culture, such as teachers’ internal accountability (Elmore 2007), their experience of teacher collaboration (Little 2012), and their psychological safety (Edmondson 1999). We investigated the relationship between these and other elements known to affect school improvement, such as teacher turnover and prior performance, and their relationships to one particular dimension of student learning culture—the extent to which students feel collectively emotionally engaged at school. We focus in particular on student collective emotional engagement because it reflects the extent to which students believe that their school environment is characterized by mutual respect and trust among teachers, among students, and between students and teachers. As prior research shows, student emotional engagement, measured at the individual level, is related to improvements in student learning and achievement (Gonida et al. 2009). And, in many respects, this aspect of student culture aligns well with similar positive elements such as teacher collaboration, mutual respect, and trust that have been examined in prior research on teacher reports of school culture (e.g., Bryk et al. 2010; Ronfeldt et al. 2013).

Our central finding is that teacher-reported aspects of school culture are positively related to student learning culture and further, that these relationships seem to strengthen with time. In the present context, since we were able to study teachers’ collective views on school culture by assessing how they felt teachers collaborated, for example, we investigated the collective—that is, the perceptions of a group by a group. And, in the case of students, we were able to employ the construct of emotional engagement to look at the collective feeling of students—again, a group reporting on their collective sense of school culture. Our approach does not look at culture as a function of individual-level perceptions; rather, we are truly investigating the level of a collective—of two collectives and their relationship to one another with regards to their views of school culture.

Our specific findings echo some of the seminal work on organizational culture, which has found that different subcultures make up an organization’s overarching or “macro” culture, which can impact shifts in practice and change over time, particularly as organizational culture becomes stronger (Schein 2010). Our findings echo some of the classic organizational research on culture, which showed that a strong overarching culture—one in which norms are shared widely across an organization—can, over time, enable an organization to improve its performance (e.g., O’Reilly and Pfeffer 2000). And thus, our work suggests that, over time, similar kinds of shared norms—those held by the two most central players in a school, teachers and students—might, together, produce momentum for positive change in school outcomes.

Our research also suggests some interesting avenues for future research on school change. First, though the occurrence of alignment between teacher and student sub-culture within a larger school culture makes intuitive sense—we might imagine such alignment to produce more effective outcomes and opportunities for positive change—some scholars show that that the most agile firms are those with subcultures that are dissimilar (e.g., Boisnier and Chatman 2003). Therefore, future research might investigate the costs and benefits of different subcultures in the context of school change as well as how they may best interact to promote change and improvement.

Second, our suggestive evidence that the school leader could be mediating some of the effects of teacher professional culture on student learning culture may also warrant further research. A substantial stream of work in education has focused on the principal as the charismatic lone hero change agent, at the expense of considering the leader as architect, as the person who creates the conditions—such as organizational culture—for change (Higgins et al. 2012b). In recent organizational learning research and particularly in research on psychological safety, the leader’s role in setting those conditions is emphasized over the personality traits or experience of any one single person (e.g., Edmondson et al. 2016). Thus, it may be useful to explore how these cultural contexts get set in motion in the first instance. A deep exploration into the kinds of leader behaviors that, for example, might reinforce learning at both the teacher and student levels could have tremendous practical implications—not just for hiring effective school leaders but for developing them as well.

Our analyses also produced some puzzles that warrant further investigation. In particular, we were surprised to find that teacher psychological safety, one aspect of teacher professional culture was not related to student learning culture. It is possible, as prior studies have found, that psychological safety is acting as a mediator or moderator of the effects observed or that it is acting in conjunction with other aspects of culture not examined here. As recent research has found, psychological safety does not always relate directly or linearly to learning-based outcomes (e.g., Bunderson and Boumgarden 2010) and may help to explain these findings.

We also note that our study is not without limitations. We were fortunate to have access to data that spanned a period of several years and also to have two sets of data—that of teachers and that of students—and for the same time period and for schools in the same district. However, we did not have access to individual identifiers and hence, could not track these responses at the individual level over time. Since, as explained, we were most interested in the collective experiences of teachers and the collective experiences of students, we do not feel that this was a serious limitation of our work; still, we note that changes in personnel and student populations could have shifted these perceptions. To account for these possibilities, we controlled as best we could for a multitude of school-level demographic factors and ecological factors. However, we note that additional research is needed and perhaps also in other districts to verify and extend these findings.

Finally, we suggest that these survey-based results must be considered as one data source, albeit, existing over time, representing a very complicated and large system of schools on a topic that is difficult to grasp through a series of survey questions. The concept of organizational culture is highly nuanced and subjective (Triandis and Vassiliou 1972) and so, ideally warrants multiple lenses and perspectives, including qualitative methods such as observations and interviews, to truly uncover what is meant by words such as “collaboration” and “trust” in the work and learning environments that make up our schools. Of course, such an approach is time-consuming and also fraught with tripwires in interpretation as well. Still, we propose that future research on organizational culture employ multiple methods to capture both the larger patterns—such as those discovered in this study—as well as uncover new and underlying mechanisms that might account for effects observed.

From a practical perspective, we are hopeful that our work will provide support for those working in schools who intuitively believe that teacher collaboration is important and yet may lack the justification for intervening in ways that move the teaching profession in that new direction—away from the solo executioner teacher model and toward a model in which teachers share practices openly and learn together. Here, our findings clearly suggest that while addressing material issues such as scarcity of resources is important, there are also vexing and nuanced problems associated with the very nature of the teaching profession itself that warrant serious reconsideration and reinvention.

Additionally, with increasing attention today placed on student disengagement at school and the ways in which students’ negative feelings toward school can yield negative outcomes and inhibit change, our study offers a way forward that focuses instead on positive aspects of the school environment as potential levers for change. This is a different approach than that which focuses on students as the problem and one that, instead, places teachers and principals centrally in the equation. Moreover, it does not necessarily identify teachers as the only actors responsible for the change process. Rather, as presented here, since both students and teachers are centrally located in, and responsible for, changing student as well as teacher learning, our research on organizational culture and our introduction of the notion of subcultures into the education literature offers a new lens on how change occurs—one that considers how these two groups can together, and over time, create the school culture and hence, positive conditions for change.

In conclusion, as we contemplate the many levers for change in this era of education reform—from new funding, a new “common core,” new technology, and new structures for schools and school systems—let us not forget that schools are fundamentally work environments. They are work environments for teachers and they are work environments for students. Together, the cultures of schools need not be considered in separate streams of research; indeed, the greatest opportunity for enhanced learning for students may be in building the culture in schools so that both teachers and students can truly do their best work.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    As we discuss in greater detail later, we use student collective emotional engagement as a key indicator of student learning culture and thus may refer to the two constructs interchangeably.

  2. 2.

    The presented alphas are averages across the 3 years of data. In this case, the lowest α = .93 and the highest α = .96.

Notes

Acknowledgements

All research was conducted using data from New York City public schools. Neither author has any financial interest nor will any benefit arise in the direct application of this research.

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Neag School of EducationUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  2. 2.Harvard Graduate School of EducationCambridgeUSA

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