32 SES 12 A, School Culture (in the context of COVID and more)
Even a few decades after the educational expansion of the 1960s and 1970s, equal opportunities in education in Germany and Austria are still more of an illusion than an experienced reality (Bacher, 2005; Bruneforth et al., 2016). The causes for the entrenched inequalities are complex, but direct and indirect effects of the social class on educational choices are seen as essential elements. Not only does the choice of school type and a particular school depend on the social class, but also the educational goals and life plans of pupils. However, it is not only the social class that has an impact on continuing educational inequalities, also schools themselves matter. It is particularly interesting that different types of schools manage better or worse to compensate for effects of origin.
The school specific influence is closely linked to the theoretical concept of school culture. Schools are organizations and as such they possess organizational culture, which is known as school culture. Organizational cultures are formed whenever people interact together in an organization over a longer period of time and as such, they take influence on the behaviour of people in organizations in various ways. Probably the most frequently quoted source for explaining and describing organizational culture is from Edgar Schein (see Schein 2010). He distinguishes three levels of organizational culture, which he describes with the help of an iceberg model. Visible elements such as artifacts or publicly propagated values lie above the water surface, but a much larger proportion of invisible elements such as basic assumptions, values or attitudes are hidden under the water surface and are often not even consciously perceived by the members of an organization. Since the 1980s, qualitative educational research has been concerned with the question of how school attendance – measured by school cultural dimensions – affects the development of pupils' identities and in how far their habitus changes due to school attendance and school transitions (Budde, 2010; Helsper & Kramer, 2019; Kramer, 2014; Pallas, 2006; Schaupp, 2014). In particular, hidden basic assumptions, values and attitudes the pupils are confronted with at school are likely to have strong influence on their identity and self-image.
Existing studies that focus on the influence of school culture on identity development at the level of individual schools have largely examined secondary academic schools and reform pedagogical schools (Bendix & Kraul, 2015). More recently, studies have focused on regular secondary schools, mainly under the assumption of stigmatizing effects (Völcker, 2014; Wellgraf, 2014). What has been largely lacking to date is a systematic qualitative comparison of different school types and their school cultures. In this context, however, it should not be forgotten that the location of the school must also be taken into account. Although still known to be an inequality factor, differences between urban and rural areas have hardly been considered in scientific research. The contribution presents a study that takes a closer look at precisely these aspects.
The study builds on the results of a quantitative preliminary study that examined the living conditions and future expectations of Austrian pupils of lower school age. The study covered 1.756 pupils at nine Austrian schools, with particular emphasis on an equal distribution between urban and rural regular secondary schools (Hauptschule) and secondary academic schools (Gymnasium). We were especially interested in examining to which extent the choice of school as well as school and professional future orientations are co-determined by the socio-economic background of the parents. In multivariate models, independent influences of the schools become apparent when the socioeconomic background of the children and their parents is considered (Bodi-Fernandez, 2013). These findings support the assumption that schools have an independent influence on pupils. Based on these results, we conducted a qualitative study in which the interactions between school cultures and youth identity development are examined, while we give special attention to the differences between different types of school and the region. By asking pupils at the beginning and end of their educational career at the respective school, we try to trace how their orientations develop. These results will be compared with the school culture of the respective school, whereby we refer to Helspers' (2008) concept of school culture. The research instruments we used are based on the “Organizational Culture Assessment Instrument” (OCAI), a validated research method to assess organizational culture (Camoran & Quinn, 2006). Our study was conducted at three urban and two rural regular secondary schools as well as at two secondary academic schools each in an urban and rural area. We followed an ethnographic grounded theory approach (Charmaz & Mitchell, 2001), that we combined with text-interpretation based on the documentary method (Bohnsack et al., 2010). School cultures of the schools are explored by means of group discussions with teachers, individual interviews with principals and ethnographic field trips. We are interested to discover which aspects of positive or negative discourses are adopted by the pupils and how they form their self-image. To this end, group discussions will be conducted with pupils in the first and fourth grades of secondary school. The group discussions with both teachers and pupils are analysed using the documentary method, which was developed as an interpretative procedure for reconstructing collective, milieu-specific orientations. This is particularly important because aspects of school culture are usually not explicit but are present as implicit norms and orientations.
To date, the school culture surveys have been completed at all nine schools. The data corpus consists of nine individual interviews with the principals, ten group discussions with the teaching staff and 25 group discussions with pupils. Central to the survey is the image of schools as organisations that are understood as a lifeworld of children. Specifically, we are interested in working out school cultural characteristics and investigating their connection with the development of the pupils' identity and self-image. In a first step, we analysed the material for each school separately and produced nine individual school reports. In the school reports, the data collected in one school was combined. Thus, from the interview with the principal, the group discussions with the teachers and pupils, and the field notes, the respective school-cultural particularities and school-specific orientations of the schools were elaborated. These reports reveal differences in school culture that can be identified both along the school type and the region. Urban regular secondary schools, for example, are very strongly characterised by a rule-guided orientation that also has an impact on the pupils and their self-image. In contrast, urban secondary academic schools focus mainly on performance aspects. These aspects are internalised by the pupils and are reflected in a very pragmatic future planning for school, career and family. In our material we found further school-cultural characteristics. In a second step, these characteristics have been systematically compared with each other in order to not only show school-specific orientations, but also to identify differences and similarities across schools. In this context we are especially interested in the question, which aspects of positive or negative discourses are adopted by the pupils and how they form their self-image and how these differences vary according to school type and region.
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