Exploring the school culture in a township primary school January 2015

Exploring the school culture in a township primary school January 2015
Exploring the school culture in a township primary
school
by
Lebesa Mabel Kgomotso
January 2015
i
Exploring the school culture in a township primary
school
by
Lebesa Mabel Kgomotso
Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree
Master in Education
Curriculum and instructional design and development
Faculty of Education
University of Pretoria
South Africa
Supervisor:
Dr Alta Engelbrecht
Co-supervisors:
Dr Lizette De Jager
Dr Vanessa Scherman
January 2015
ii
DEDICATION
_____________________________________________________
I dedicate this Master’s dissertation to my beloved late sister, Refiloe Pitse
(1965-2009), father in-law, Sabata Lebesa, mother in-law, Matshediso Lebesa
(1930-1999) and my late father, Andrew Moseki ‘Raphiphi’ Pitse (1927-2007)
whose passion and purpose was to see his children educated. I further
dedicate this degree to my father who always drove me to strive for
excellence and who I know would have been proud of me. Even if he is no
more, I am grateful to have had such a wonderful father. Rest in peace
iii
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
______________________________________________________________
I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the following people who played
a significant role in the completion of this study:
My superviors: Dr Alta Engelbrecht, Dr Lizette De Jager and Dr Vanessa
Scherman for their hard work in assisting me to complete this dissertation. I
acknowledge their unfailing commitment, patience, hard work and dedication.
My participants: The principal, teachers, parents and learners who
participated in this research, including the school governing body who gave
me permission to conduct the study in their school. Their support and passion
for this dissertation did not go unnoticed.
My family: This dissertation would not have been possible without the support
from my husband, Khafa and my two angels, Thusego and Tokelo. Your
patience, love and support kept me inspired through all the challenges during
the course of my study.
I also want to thank the Pitse family and the Lebesa family for their support
and encouragement, Saki, my mother, for her words of encouragement. My
heart-felt gratitude also goes to my sisters Akele and Mmadukane, brothers
Moutane and Ramoagi and friends Moni, Ennie and Sonto for their support.
And above all, I would like to thank God for giving me the strength and
endurance to complete this dissertation.
iv
DECLARATION OF AUTHORSHIP
______________________________________________________________
I LEBESA MABEL KGOMOTSO (28584725) declare that
•
the research reported in this dissertation, except where otherwise
indicated, is my original work.
•
this dissertation has not been submitted for any degree or examination
at any university
•
this dissertation does not contain other persons’ writing, unless
specifically acknowledged as being a source from other researchers.
Written sources have been quoted, then their words have been rewritten but the information attributed to them has been referenced.
________________ _____
Mabel Kgomotso Lebesa
_________________
Date
v
ABSTRACT
______________________________________________________________
Educational change in most South African public schools resulted in irregular
school attendance by learners; poor performing schools; disputed authority
relations between principals, teachers, learners and parents; low morale;
general demotivation; conflicts and violence around the school. A negative
school culture results in low academic achievement and a high number of
disciplinary problems that can result in the malfunctioning of the school.
Schools that exhibit a negative school culture experience learners that are
unmotivated, unwilling to learn and who demonstrate disruptive behaviour.
The study was directed by the following research question: How does school
culture impact on the functioning of a township primary school? The attitudes,
perceptions and beliefs of the principal, teachers, parents and learners
towards the school culture were explored through interviews with the principal
and four grade 7 teachers, a focus group discussion with the parents, class
observations of one grade 7 class and learners' drawings of the school
culture. The transcriptions were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
The findings suggest that the learners seem to be the victims in the scenario
of this particular school, while all the other stakeholders blame each other and
in doing so, add to the negative school culture, rather than trying to improve
the school culture in some or other way.
KEY TERMS
Negative school culture - low academic achievement - disciplinary problems attitudes - perceptions and beliefs - principal - teachers - parents - learners,
content analysis - Critical theory - School improvement model - Input-processoutput model.
vi
TABLE OF CONTENTS
_____________________________________________________________
Page
Dedication
iii
Acknowledgement
iv
Declaration of authorship
v
Abstract
vi
Table of contents
vii
List of figures
xii
List of tables
xiii
Chapter 1: Introduction
1
1.1.
Background and context
1.2.
Rationale
2
1.3.
Problem statement
3
1.4.
Research questions
5
1.5.
Purpose of the study
5
1.6.
Preliminary literature review
5
1.6.1. The influence of the principal in determining school culture
6
1.6.2. The influence of teachers in determining school culture
9
1.6.3. The influence of parental involvement in determining
school culture
11
1.6.4. The influence of learners in determining school culture
13
1.6.5. Conclusion of the preliminary literature review
15
1.7.
15
Preliminary conceptual framework
vii
1.7.1. Critical theory
16
1.7.2. Models of school culture
16
1.7.3. School culture and school climate
17
1.8.
Research design and methodology
19
1.9.
Significance of the study
20
1.10
Outline of chapters
21
1.11
Conclusion
21
Chapter 2: Literature review
22
2.1 Literature review plan
2.2 School culture and school climate
24
2.3 Organisational Culture
26
2.4 South African school culture
27
2.5 Factors that influence school culture
30
2.5.1 The influence of the principal in determining school culture
31
2.5.2 The influence of the teachers in determining school culture
34
2.5.3 The influence of the parents in determining school culture
39
2.5.4 The influence of learners in determining school culture
45
2.6 Conceptual framework
50
2.6.1 Critical theory
50
2.6.2 Models of school culture
51
2.6.2.1 Input-process-output model
51
2.6.2.2 School Improvement Model of school culture
54
2.7 Conclusion
56
viii
Chapter 3: Research design and methodology
3.1 Introduction
58
3.2 Research design
61
3.2.1 Interpretive paradigm
61
3.2.2 Qualitative research
63
3.2.3 Research method
65
3.3 Research methodology
66
3.3.1 Research sites and participants
66
3.3.2 Researcher’s role
68
3.3.3 Data collection
68
3.3.3.1 Introduction
68
3.3.3.2 Data collection strategies
69
3.3.3.3 Face to face interviews
69
3.3.3.4 Focus group discussion
71
3.3.3.5 Observation
73
3.3.3.6 Learners’ drawings of school culture
74
3.3.4 Data analysis: Qualitative content analysis
76
3.4 Ethical issues
79
3.5 Quality criteria of the research
79
3.5.1 Trustworthiness
80
3.5.2 Dependability
82
3.5.3 Triangulation
83
3.5.4 Member checking
83
3.6 Conclusion
84
ix
Chapter 4: Data analysis and findings
4.1 Introduction
85
4.2 Levels of analysis
85
4.2.1 First level of analysis: Categories
86
4.2.1.1 Category 1: The leadership of the principal
86
4.2.1.1.1 Teamwork
87
4.2.1.1.2 Motivation
88
4.2.1.1.3 Effective communication
89
4.2.1.2 Category 2: The roles of teachers in teaching and learning
89
4.2.1.2.1 The teaching challenges faced by teachers
94
4.2.1.2.2 Teacher behaviour and attitude within the school
96
4.2.1.3. Category 3: The role of parents
99
4.2.1.3.1 Challenges faced by parents
99
4.2.1.3.2 Experiences of teachers and the princical with regard to
parental involvement
103
4.2.1.4 Category 4: Social factors
105
4.2.1.5 Category 5: Behaviour displayed by learners
105
4.2.2 Second level of analysis: Themes
106
4.2.2.1 Theme 1: Insufficient leadership
106
4.2.2.2 Theme 2: Lack of teacher professionalism
108
4.2.2.3 Theme 3: Low level of parental involvement
110
4.2.2.4 Theme 4: Socio-economic factors
112
4.2.2.5 Theme 5: Behavioural problems of learners
113
4.2.3 Third level of analysis: Theories
116
4.3 Summary of the chapter
121
x
Chapter 5: Overview, synthesis of findings, recommendations
and conclusion
5.1 Introduction
122
5.2 Overview of the chapter
122
5.3 Synthesis of the findings in terms of the research subquestions
125
5.4 Limitations and strengths of the study
133
5.4.1 Limitations
133
5.4.2 Strengths
134
5.5 Aspects of future research
134
5.6 Recommendations
135
5.7 Conclusion
136
Biblography
137
Appendices
151
A Permission for access from the school governing body
B Letter of informed consent: principal and the teachers
C Letter of informed consent: parents (invitation to participate).
D Letter of informed consent : parents ( permission of learners).
E Letter of assent: learners
F Interview schedule for the principal
G Interview schedule for educators
H Focus group discussion protocol with parents
I Observation schedule
xi
G Guideline for learners’ drawings
LIST OF FIGURES
______________________________________________________________
Page
2.1
Input-process-output model
53
2.2
School improvement model of school culture
55
3.1
Schematic diagram of the research process
59
4.1
Learners’ drawings of teaching and learning
91
4.2
Corporal punishment of learners by teachers
98
4.3
Littering, bullying and smoking of learners
115
xii
LIST OF TABLES
_____________________________________________________________
Page
3.1
Schematic representation of the research process.
59
3.2
Interpretative paradigm
62
3.3
Demographic information of the participants
77
4.1
Codes, categories and themes
118
xiii
Chapter 1
Introduction
______________________________________________________________
1.1 Background and context
Since the 1990s, serious attempts have been made by South Africans to
construct their social institutions along democratic lines. Education has not
been excluded from these efforts of change (Fleisch & Christie 2004).
According to Gilmour (2001) the change in education is to serve the demands
and pressure through two key organising principles, namely, equity and
equality in terms of resource allocation and reprioritisation within and between
the provinces.
The aforementioned underscores the argument that even if educational
change results in equality of opportunity, equality of outcomes is still
compromised through unequal financial and human resources (Gilmour
2001). As Fullan (2002) states, real change involves loss, anxiety and
struggle,
therefore,
successful
school
improvement
depends
on
an
understanding of the problem of change at a level of practice and
development. Gilmour (2001) and Fullan (2002) concur that change in the
South African education system caused policy tension and contradiction.
There is evidence that the new curricula were influenced by Western
educational models (Nekhwevha, 1999) and resulted in a lack of indigenous
cultural capital of the African masses. Therefore, strategies are required when
change occurs (Rhodes, Camic, Milbur & Lowe 2009).
1
Educational change in most South African schools resulted in irregular school
attendance by learners; poor performing schools; disputed authority relations
between principals, teachers, learners and parents; low morale; general
demotivation; conflicts and violence around the school (Christie 1998). This is
supported by Harber (2001) who indicates that where there is violence,
availability of weapons and patriarchal values and behaviour, the negative,
non-functioning school is prominent. I believe that this influences how people
think and act at school level. The purpose of this research is to investigate the
effect of school culture on the fuctioning of a school. Change in education can
influence the school culture positively or negatively. It is from the background
above that my study looked at the school culture and how it impacts the
functioning of the school.
1.2 Rationale
My observation as a teacher in a township primary school is that teaching and
learning in township schools are currently ineffective. On the first day of the
new school year, the front page of a daily newspaper, The Sowetan (13
January 2011) reported three secondary school boys in possession of alcohol
on their way to school.
In the school where I taught, I observed that not all learners attend on the first
day of school, both teachers and learners arrived late at school, the school
environment is not clear at the beginning of the year and teaching only starts
in the third or fourth week of the new year because time tables and class
allocations have not been finalised. Learners who do attend school often do
not have the stationery required. This raises the following questions: Are
parents responsible enough for the education of their children? What is the
nature of the leadership at the school? Are disciplinary measures conducted
at schools? Do teachers display negative attitudes towards the learners? Do
learners' behaviour and attitudes cause negativity at school?
2
I have also observed that many teachers are reluctant to work and lack
committment. This might be the result of their attitudes toward Outcomes
Based Education (OBE) 1. It was introduced in 2005. Teachers with Outcome
Based Education give children practical experiencethat actually help them in
life. Again their workload, the behaviour of learners and the climate that is not
conducive to teaching and learning contributed to the reluctancy of the
teachers. In my view the relationship between the school and parents is
limited. Parents do not participate enough to work effectively with the school.
One of the reasons for the lack of parents' participation seems to be the fact
that due to the impact of HIV/Aids in the community, learners' guardians are
often grandparents, who are illiterate. They are unable to help learners with
their school work. The non-involvement of parents impacts negatively on the
school culture and results in negative impact on the functionality of the school
(Fan 2001). The school, on the other hand, does not help the parents to
understand their responsibility toward the well-being of their children.
The lack of physical resources like furniture, textbooks and proper
infrastructure also plays a major role in affecting school culture (Maja 1995).
The observations above have led me to believe that the functioning of the
school is influenced by either an ineffective or effective school culture. It is
against this background that I explored the influence of school culture on the
functioning of a school.
1.3 Problem statement
School culture is important in learning because of its alignment to the vision
and mission of the school. A negative school culture means low academic
achievement and a high number of disciplinary problems (Md Nor & Roslan
2009) which can result in the malfunctioning of the school. Keiser and Schulte
1
OBE – Outcome Based Education: An approach to learning that seeks to link education more closely
to the real world, giving students skills to access, criticize, analyse and practically apply knowledge
(Education in South Africa, University of Michigan)
3
(2009) support this notion when they indicate that schools that exhibit a
negative school culture experience learners that are unmotivated, unwilling to
learn and who are disruptive. I believe that variables that can impact on the
functioning of the school and result in a negative or positive school culture are
the principals' leadership, teachers' attitudes, parental involvement and
learners' perceptions about the school culture.
Previous research on school culture has focused more on its impact on the
performance of learners and perception of teachers. More studies have
focused on creating a positive school culture through safety measures
(Furlong, Greif, Bates, Whipple & Jimenez 2005). These studies have led to
prevention programmes and intervention. Little research however, has been
conducted on the impact of the school culture on the functioning of township
schools in South Africa, which this study addressed. School culture includes
social systems of shared norms and expectations (Johnson, Stevens & Zvoch
2007) where learners often form peer groups that are stronger social
influences for negative behaviour in general. Learners' negative behaviour
can contribute to teachers' lack of confidence and determination to overcome
their differences
and impact on the functioning of the school (Keiser &
Schulte 2009).
By investigating school culture, using qualitative approaches and involving
organisational structures, we can better understand perceptions and
misconceptions about school culture. Principals, teachers and parents can
plan interventions to prevent or change attitudes and behaviour towards the
school and they can assist with programmes that will promote the existing
culture in schools. In this study, I investigated the school culture in one
township primary school and my investigation was guided by the research
questions below.
4
1.4 Main research question
This study aimed at addressing the following research question: How does
school culture impact the functioning of a township primary school? The
following sub-questions will be addressed:
1 How do the principal's perceptions, beliefs of and attitude regarding the
school culture influence the functioning of the school?
2 How do teachers' perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the school
culture influence the functioning of the school?
3 How do parents’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the school
culture influence the functioning of the school?
4 How do learners' perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the school
culture influence the functioning of the school?
1.5 Purpose of the study
The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of the relationship
between school culture and its functioning in a South African public township
primary school. An attempt was made to unpack the impact of school culture
on the functionality of the school. The school culture involves learners'
commitment, well-being, performance, behaviour and learning. It also involves
teachers' attitudes towards the school and learners', the principal's perception
about school culture and parents' involvement in the school. Through a
qualitative content analysis the research endevoured to identify underlying
factors in the school culture that could impact the functionality of the school.
1.6 Preliminary literature review
The purpose of this preliminary literature review was to identify relevant
sources concerning the variety of factors that may either cause or improve
5
school culture. According to Bulach, Boothe and Picket (2006) there is a
growing mismatch between the types of learners that schools are producing
and the needs of the economy. The literature review was based on recent
trends in promoting culture from which learners, teachers, parents and the
Department of Education will benefit. The following factors influencing school
culture are discussed:
•
The influence of the principal in determining school culture
•
The influence of the teachers determining school culture
•
The influence of the parents in determining school culture
•
The influence of the learners in determining school culture
1.6.1 The influence of the principal in determining school culture
Since change occurs consistently, principals are required to convert their
schools into learning organisations (Stocklin 2010). A learning organisation is
"an organisation skilled at creating, acquiring, transferring knowledge, and
modifying its behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights" (Stocklin 2010:
445).
To convert schools into learning organisations, school leaders should build
organisational capacity in which the development of knowledge and positive
consistent behaviour can be established and fostered (Barth 2002).
Knowledge and positive behaviour will support and value personal learning
and school culture. Barth (2002) further indicates that this can be done if
principals reshape the culture of their schools. He states that reshaping the
culture is when the principal listens to staff and lays the groundwork for
redevelopment of trust. The act of listening builds strength in others because
their needs are met when listening occurs. This shows that a leader cares
about the organisation's opinions, beliefs and values. It also expresses that a
leader is open to changing his/her leadership style to meet the organisation's
expectations (Barth 2002).
6
Gibb (1978) adds that listening results in openness and trust. He states that
openness and trust are clearly intertwined and once the institution perceives
that the principal is there to serve its interest and that s/he cares and
becomes open to these, the foundation for trust has been formed. This will
help learners and teachers to become more open and less fearful. This will
also improve the culture and the functionality of the school. A school with a
high level of trust will outperform a school with a low level of trust (Gibb,
1978). McGuigan and Hoy (2006) argue that to reshape and improve school
culture, academic optimism and academic achievement as shared beliefs
within the organisation are important. Academic optimism has the capacity to
help learners achieve and, therefore, learners and parents can be trusted to
co-operate. McGuigan and Hoy (2006) further indicate that this supports the
importance of setting high academic expectations; adopting high external
standards, gearing school policies and procedures towards pushing learners
to excel and behave. This will promote the relationship between features of
the principal and features of school culture.
Engels, Hotton, Devos, Boukenooghe and Aelterman (2008) indicate that
promoting the relationship that exists within the school requires a strong
association between principals' leadership and school culture. They further
argue that the crucial roles played by principals in teachers' well-being,
professional development as well as school development will enhance a
positive school culture and the effective functioning of the school. Such
processes can also result in more productive teacher-principal relationships
which are critical to a positive school culture.
The teacher-principal relationship is promoted when the principal's leadership
focuses on the organisational mission and goal, encourages a collaborative
and trusting environment in the school and actively supports instructional
improvement (Supovitz, Sirinides & May, 2008). This is also supported by
7
Engels et al. (2008) who indicate that the teacher-principal relationship
indirectly influences teachers' practices through the fostering of collaboration
and communication to improve school effectiveness. As an effective leader
the principal should support teachers, encourage participation in decision
making, stimulate co-operation and act as a good example (Engels et al.,
2008). This could extend teachers' responsibility and recognise their worth as
workers within the school, their work will be valued and they will be prepared
to do much more in turn (Lance, 2010).
A principal who, within the limits of his/her power, runs the school in such a
way that teachers regard this as enabling their work, is seen as caring.
(McGuigan & Hoy, 2006). S/he will be seen as supporting key academic goals
of the school, creating a positive environment in which learners can be taught
and explore their experiences within a positive culture. McGuigan and Hoy
(2006) state that teachers and learners should be commended and rewarded
for outstanding performance as a way of motivating them. This is possible if
the principal cultivates a climate of high academic goals. School leaders who
want to improve institutional capacity should focus on co-operatively creating
an organisation where the emphasis is on authentic self-expression, the
development of relationships and the overall development of the community
(Stocklin, 2010).
Principals should actively support instructional learning through collaboration
and communication, which consistently relates to school effectiveness
(Supovitz, Sirinides & May, 2008). Their involvement in the design and
implementation of the curriculum instruction, assessment practices and
monitoring the effectiveness of school practices can improve the functioning
of the school (Supovitz et al., 2008). This will lead the principal being
accountable for the direction the school takes to encourage authentic learning
and bridge the school's learning agenda (Lance, 2010). McGuigan and Hoy
(2006) state that accountability leads the principal to organise and run the
8
school in a way that makes a difference in the teachers' confidence and the
possibility of learners' academic success. They also state that a principal must
make time for joint planning, as this will help the principal to take the lead in
ensuring that professional development is integrally related to the school's
academic goal and the curriculum. It is, therefore, important for the principal to
encourage the forging of personal connections to help learners and teachers
feel needed and competent, and to have a sense of being publicly involved
(Lance 2010).
From the above discussion it became clear that the principal who leads the
school on a foundation of trust, who promotes decision-making and ensures
that the curriculum and learning outcomes are implemented accurately, will
help to promote the culture that exists in the school. In order for the school to
be manageable, the manager requires leadership qualities such as those I
have discussed above.
1.6.2. The influence of teachers in determing school culture
When building school culture, the values of learners, teachers and the
community are taken into consideration. An effective school culture is created
when teachers value learners by caring deeply, treating learners as
individuals and not as learning objects, putting learners first and supporting
them to do the best they can in each subject at whatever level of ability
(Lance 2010). Lance (2010) further adds that a prerequisite for this is the
acknowledgement that learners are at the heart of the learning enterprise and
that the culture of teaching and the functionality of the school should improve.
Forsey (2010) argues that many teachers find themselves involved in
reproducing forms and styles of schooling that suits some, but not all learners.
Learners who fit in with the culture of the school, build and maintain
experiences and are able to cope with any situation. Teachers can create a
positive school culture that enhances teaching and learning, and enables
9
learners to acquire learning experience and promote the functioning of the
school (Forsey 2010).
Hargreaves (1997) indicates that, in order to fully understand how teachers
improve the school culture that enhances teaching and learning, it is important
to examine the school organisational culture that affects teacher behaviour.
The organisational cultures that affect teachers' behaviour are attitudes,
beliefs and values that teachers have in common. These result in a teaching
culture that affects how teachers define their work, how they react to change,
how confident they are in the perception of how they make a difference in the
lives of their learners and the nature of the relationship among teachers. This
can be done if there are collaborative relationships that promote teamwork,
sharing ideas and information. Teachers' collective responsibility for the
functioning of the school is strongly and positively associated with school
culture (Hargreaves 1997). This emphasises strong academic goals and core
curriculum orientation. It is, therefore, concluded that it is important for the
principal and staff to positively influence the organisational culture through
their approach to decision-making, interaction with learners and parents for
the well-being of the school.
Teacher development and in-service training also impact on the functioning of
the school and affect the school culture. Johnson, Hodges and Monk (2000)
state that teachers working in economically developing countries are
constrained by different sets of circumstances, have different perspectives on
the work they do and need different in-service provision than those in
developed countries.
I believe that schools in South Africa, especially disadvantaged ones, need to
train and develop teachers according to the needs of the school, because the
needs of teachers are different from those in developed countries. Johnson et
al. (2000) believe that teacher development and change used in developed
10
countries might be poorly matched to the needs of teachers in developing
countries like South Africa. In conclusion, teachers who work together as a
team and enhance the development of the school will assist in the functioning
of the school, which in turn will result in a positive school culture.
1.6.3 The influence of parental involvement in determing school culture
Parents are part of the school community and their involvement plays a role in
the promotion of the culture that exists in the school. Hill, Castellino, Lansford,
Nowlin, Dodge, Bates and Pettit (2004) define parents' involvement as
parent's work with the school and with their children to benefit their children's
educational outcomes and future success. They further indicate that parental
involvement is operationalised as volunteering at school, parent-teacher
contacts, involvement of related activities at home and the quality of parentteacher relationship.
The parent-teacher relationship is influenced by effective communication.
Effective parent-teacher communication builds working relationships that can
support strong home-school collaboration and improve educational outcomes
(Mc Naughton & Vostal 2010). They believe that communication and
collaboration between parents and teachers encourage schools to recognise
parents as key participants in educational decision-making for their children.
This will impact on learners' achievement, reduce learner absenteeism,
increase graduation rates, improve learners' attitudes and behaviour, and
increase learners enrolment. Brandon, Higgins, Pierce and Sileo (2010) add
that poor communication between teachers and parents makes parents feel
that their children are not receiving appropriate educational services.
Therefore, communication is primary in the promotion of family involvement
(Farrel & Collier 2010). Home-school communication must be informed by an
understanding of culture, which includes ethnicity, socio-economic status,
11
neighbourhood and related cultural characteristics. Consequently, these
factors improve learners' grades, test scores, attitudes and behaviour. Fan
(2001) in part agrees with the above idea by saying that parental academic
involvement with their children has great effects on learners' academic
growth, while communication and volunteering have lesser effects.
Gonzalez-De Haas, Willem and Holbein (2005) argue that parental
involvement benefits children's learning and academic success and thus
improve learners' academic outcomes. This is supported by Kruger and Van
Schalkwyk (1999) when they indicate that parental involvement contributes to
better teaching and learning. Gonzalez-De Haas et al. (2005) further note that
parental involvement results in support that is related to motivation, autonomy,
self-regulation, mastery of goal orientation and motivation to read. This
engenders a positive spirit between parents and teachers, and the restoration
of trust between home and school. Parental involvement helps the teacher to
rely on parental support for learner performance and school attendance,
which promotes the functionality of the school.
Parental support develops parents' aspirations for their children to have strong
positive affects on engagement, self-efficacy and intrinsic motivation (Fan &
Williams, 2009) and this effects learner achievement and motivation, for
example learners were found to be more engaged with school activities when
their parents participate more frequently in school functions. Sarason (1995)
contends parental involvement is not the key to positive school culture. He
argues that parental involvement can claim no victories in the learning
process of
parental
children. He believes that state legislature should mandate
involvement
by
organising,
recommending
and
supporting
preventative courses of action that can lead to good relations which will
promote school culture.
12
However, Epstein and Sanders (2006) argue that teachers find it challenging
to increase involvement with parents and members of diverse communities.
Brandon et al. (2010) maintain that even if parents are key components of
their children's success in school, in today's world parents often work long
hours, have more than one job and participate in multiple responsibilities that
may limit their participation. One solution to this is to use effective information
and
communication
technology,
to
increase
family
and
community
involvement. Even if some of the literature contends that parental involvement
is not important, I believe that parents who are actively involved in the
education of their children improve the culture and the functionality of the
school. My proposition is strengthened by Epstein (2005) who comments that
community involvement in schools has been reported to improve learner
achievement, decrease delinquency, and improve overall learner behaviour.
1.6.4 The influence of learners in determining school culture
The concept of attitude includes ways of feeling, thinking, behaving and
maintaining any expression of one's identity within the environment. It is the
emotion to think or behave. Schools are partially responsible for learners'
moral and social development (Hayes, Ryan & Zseller 1994). Learners'
attitudes, perceptions and behaviours are determined by caring, which fosters
learners' emotional and intellectual growth (Hayes et al. 1994). In addition,
love and caring are basic requirements for growth and development.
Development depends on involvement of one or more adults in care and joint
activity with the child (Hayes et al. 1994). Children developing in such
environments gain competency and are able to master situations of greater
complexity. The functioning of the school is positively enhanced by valuing
learners' capabilities, interests and learning styles.
By developing positive and personal relationship with their learners, teachers
can help learners feel like important members of the school community
13
(Hayes et al., 1994) and I believe that this can change the environment of the
school. Hayes et al. (1994) maintain that traditional learning is based on a
personal relationship between teacher and learner, a strategy which may
result in learners' positive attitudes towards the school environment. Positive
attitudes towards the school environment enhance learners' well-being.
Engels, Aelterman, Van Petegem and Schepens (2004) add to the previous
statement by mentioning that the degree to which learners participate in the
classroom has a positive effect on their well-being. This enhances the feeling
of responsibility for one's own learning and behaviour. They believe that
teachers who treat their learners with respect and encourage them whenever
they do something good during lessons, contribute considerably to learners'
well-being. Engels et al. (2004) further state that subjective perceptions of
study pressures connected to unclear expectations of the teacher's poor
setting of tasks and tests, cause negative perceptions on the culture of
teaching and learning. If learners get little support from teachers they will
never understand the importance and the usefulness of learning and good
behaviour. Learners are interested in and are prepared to try harder in
subjects which they perceive as up to date, useful and connected to their
perceptions of the world. The teacher, as a supervisor of learning and
development, is responsible for the development of an effective learning
environment, as learners appreciate teachers who show signs of competence,
expertise and commitment (Engels et al., 2004).
A feeling of security also positively influences learners' well-being (Engels et
al., 2004). Engels et al. (2008) also maintain that it is important for the school
to be seen as taking action to deal with problems like violence, disturbances,
drugs and bullying. Learners rate schools that take action to curb problem
behaviour very highly. Schools that are rated low with regard to infrastructure
and facilities are not perceived as learning institutions by learners. Schools
where buildings are not properly maintained and classrooms are poorly laid
out are viewed negatively by learners. It goes without saying that a pleasant
14
environment and involvement in that environment is conducive to a positive
atmosphere at school (Engels et al., 2004).
1.6.6 Conclusion of the preliminary literature review
The preliminary literature review helped me understand how features of
school culture can affect school functioning. In my reading of the literature, I
found that more research is evident on the impact of school culture on
learners' performance; little has been written about the impact of school
culture on the functioning of the school. Current information about school
culture states that integration should exist between the school principal,
teachers, parents and learners in order to promote a positive school
environment (Engels et al. 2008). Furthermore, the features of school culture
and the school principal should form a relationship that will promote teaching
and learning, teachers' well-being and the development of the school.
The
principal's
leadership
practices
influence
improvement and
the
effectiveness of the school (Hallinger & Heck 1998). These practices cannot
be successful if teachers, parents and learners do not work together with the
principal to promote school culture and learning within the school. Lance
(2010) maintains that it is important for teachers to support learners and to
work with parents to contribute to better teaching and learning. It is clear that
the four stakeholders identified in this literature review are all involved in the
way in which school culture impacts on the functioning of the school.
1.7 Preliminary Conceptual framework
Critical theory is the theoretical lens through which I looked at my study. I
describe two models that explain school culture as a phenomenon and I
conceptually unpack the terms "school culture" and "school climate". This is a
15
preliminary and condensed theoretical discussion to show how the study was
directed. In chapter 2 the conceptual framework will be unpacked thorougly.
1.7.1 Critical theory
Critical theory is concerned with social and cultural transformation within an
organisation. The evaluative standard of critical theory can contribute in
overcoming social injustices and inequalities (Higgs, Titchen, Horsfall &
Armstrong, 2007). This is supported by Bohman (2005) who states that critical
theory is explanatory, practical and normative. He mentions the following key
principles of critical theory:
•
It explains the wrongs within the current social reality.
•
It provides norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for
social transformation.
•
It proposes changes to the status quo.
On the other hand, Higgs et al (2007) defines critical theory as a positive
utopianism and optimism towards possibility of revolutionary change. It is the
theory that deals with social and cultural transformation. Critical theory in my
study assisted me in describing the culture that exists in a township primary
schools and the impact it has on the functioning of the school. This section will
be elaborated on in chapter 2.
1.7.2 Models of school culture
Two models, which is the Input-process-output model (Bushnell, 2003) and
the School improvement model of school culture (Cavanaugh and Deller,
1997), were also used to guide my research. Cavanaugh and Deller (1997)
emphasise that the school improvement model of
16
school culture depicts the relationship among the six cultural elements and
their effects on the overall school culture.
The six elements that relate to school improvement include teacher efficacy,
emphasis on learning, collegiality, collaboration, shared planning and
transformational leadership. This model views school culture as an opensystems structure in which equilibrium is maintained between interactive,
internal elements and external factors. The model also embodies that school
culture involves cultural elements that facilitate cultural maintenance and
growth. The cultural elements are vehicles for improving the effectiveness of
schools. When the cultural elements are well developed, cultural growth and
school improvement occur. This model is dependent on utilisation of culturally
oriented planning and implementation strategies.
The second model that I used is the Input-process-output model (Bushnell,
2003). This model was used to mediate the structural features of the school
with the outcomes of learners and teachers (Van Houtte, 2005). I looked at
school culture and considered the outcomes based on discipline, learning,
communication and the overall environment of the school. This could assist in
good functioning of the school. In this study, the above-mentioned models
were used as guides to the analysis of school culture and how it impacts on
the functioning of the school.
1.7.3 School culture and school climate
School culture is defined as a system of related subsystems which includes
organising, communication, resources, social interaction, reproduction and
ideology (Engels et al., 2008). It is the basic assumptions, norms, values and
cultural artifacts that are shared by school members, which influence the
functioning of the school and enhance school effectiveness. Engels et al.
17
(2008) believe that positive school culture is considered as one in which there
is meaningful staff development and also enhanced learning and practices.
Van Houtte (2005) defines school culture as a set of shared meaning, shared
beliefs and shared assumptions among the members of the organisation. The
culture that exists in the school is organisational culture, which is a system of
shared values and beliefs that interacts with an organisation's people,
structures and control system to produce behavioural norms (Zollers,
Rathman & Yu 1999). In addition, Mok and Flynn (1998) define school culture
as a particular configuration of the core beliefs and values, symbols, traditions
and patterns of behaviour. They further state that school culture combines
both the in-depth ethnographic study of the human relationships within the
school and objective measures of school life. The important components of
school culture are the sense of community cultivated in learners and bonding
to members of the school community, which extends the physical boundaries
of the classroom. The four dimensions of school culture that contribute to
learning are motivation to stay at school, expectation, effectiveness and
educational well-being (Mok & Flynn 1998).
Every school setting has a set of psychological and institutional attributes that
gives it a distinctive interpersonal climate (Rhodes et al. 2009). Psychological
attributes include the level of trust and co-operate openness among teachers
and learners. Institutional attributes include teaching practice and levels of
collaboration of teachers, staff and parents.
Closely related to school culture is school climate, which theorists have
described as overlapping concepts (Macneil, Prater & Busch 2009). They
view this as behaviour and the total environmental quality within an
organisation. Macneil et al. (2009) also believe that the recent attention to the
effectiveness of public schools and their culture has given more interest to the
importance of school climate.
18
The definition of organisational climate depends on the approach taken (Van
Houtte 2005). One approach is the multiple measurement organisational
attribute approach. This approach is defined as a set of characteristics that
describe and distinguish itself from other organisations, and influence the
behaviour of people in the organisation. Van Houtte (2005) mentions another
approach, the perceptual measurements organisational climate approach,
which is a set of attributes that can be perceived about a particular
organisation as well as the sub system that deals with members and the
environment.
1.8 Research design and methodology
My central endeavour is "to understand the subjective world of human
experience" (Cohen, Manion & Morrison 2005:22). I studied constructed
school culture and the functioning of a rural school. The participants
comprised of the school principal, grade seven teachers, grade seven
learners and
learner’s parent/ guardians. This will be fully discussed in
chapter 3.
The interpretive nature of the qualitative case study design that I used aligns
itself to the interpretation of phenomena through the eyes of the people
involved. I accepted that there is a range of different viewpoints or ways of
understanding the world, I focused on discovering and understanding the
views and perspectives of the participants, rather than my own. In this study,
through an interpretive qualitative case study paradigm, I explored the impact
of school culture on the functioning of the school.
The study is descriptive and exploratory with a research problem constituted
by the role of school culture with regard to the functionality. Understanding the
meaning and impact of school culture content requires the study to be
19
situated contextually. A thorough literature investigation, a qualitative method
with data collection through interviews with the principal and four grade 7
teachers, class observation, learners' drawings and a focus group discussion
with four parents were used to explore the culture that exists in the sampled
school. I used qualitative content analysis as an approach to analyse and
interpret data inductively. Furthermore the study is positioned in the
interpretive paradigm. I adhered to the University of Pretoria’s policy on
ethical issues. The quality of data was measured by the trustworthiness of the
research, member checking, triangulation, and dependability. More details of
the research design are contained in chapter 3.
1.9 Significance of the study
The culture that prevails in schools serves as a starting point for the
educational well-being of the learners and learning. This study raises
important questions, not just about how we want to organise our schools and
education system, but ultimately about what kind of society we are seeking to
build (Forsey, 2010). I believe that a positive school culture can improve
learning if teachers, administrators, learners and parents are engaged in a
reproductive process that simultaneously reinforces and reinvents school and
schooling.
This research has value because every stakeholder in the school is affected
by the present culture that prevails in the South African township schools. The
findings of this study could be useful for schools struggling with a negative
school culture that result in ineffective schools. I believe that the findings of
this study could guide schools to identify aspects to concentrate on in order
to rectify mistakes and eventually improve school culture, ultimately resulting
in the effective functioning of the school.
20
1.10 Outline of the chapters
My study has five chapters. Chapter one gives the background and
significance of the study. I presented the rationale, research questions and
purpose of the study as well as defined the key theoretical concepts of the
study, such as the difference between school culture and school climate and
the theoretical lenses used. The literature on school culture is reviewed
extensively in chapter two and the conceptual framework was unpacked
Chapter three is concerned with the research process and details how I
conducted the data collection and analysis. It covers my philosophical views
about research and the procedures and steps I followed because I held those
views. Data collected were analysed and interpreted in chapter four, showing
how the report of the findings evolved. Chapter five is the summary of the
study in terms of how the research questions were answered and also
provides the strengths and limitations as well as the recommendations from
the findings in chapter 4.
1.11 Conclusion
In this chaper I have contextualised the research problem and research
questions by providing the rationale and the purpose of the study. A
preliminary literature review as well as a prelimanary conceptual framework
were discussed as an introduction to the study. The research design and
methodology was indicated and the chapter is concluded by the outline and
purpose of all the chapters and the significance of the study. The next chapter
deals with the literature of this study.
21
Chapter 2
Literature Review
_____________________________________________________
2.1 Literature review plan
School culture consists of the basic assumptions, norms, values and cultural
artefacts that are shared by school members in order to enhance school
effectiveness (Engels et al. 2008). Freiberg (1998) adds that the culture of a
school reflects the commitment levels of everyone within the school. When
the culture of the school is positive, the motivation and commitment levels of
teachers and learners improve. Negative school culture often implies low
academic performance and a high number of disciplinary problems (Md Nor &
Roslan 2009) which could result in the malfunctioning of the school.
Van der Westhuizen, Oosthuizen and Wolhuter (2008) regard the role of the
principal and his managerial style as a crucial factor in encouraging collective
responsibility among staff, as well as a sense of commitment among learners
and parents. According to Morrow (1994), teachers are among the most
important influences of the school environment. They play a key role in the
transformation of education and the reconstruction of society in South Africa.
Christie (1998) describes the school and the parents as the two major societal
influences on learners in modern society and advocates the interaction of
these two agencies in order to improve the school culture with regard to how
well a school functions. Positive attitudes from the learners towards the school
environment enhance the functioning of the school and learner involvement is
conducive to a positive school culture (Engels et al. 2004).
22
Based on the above introductory definitions of school culture, this literature
review explores the relationship between school culture and how well a school
functions. The chapter begins by describing the similarities and differences
between school culture and school climate, as these two concepts cannot be
used interchangeably. This chapter also explores the organisational culture
and school culture in South Africa, focusing specifically on township schools
as this is the main interest of this study. Thereafter, the role of the four
stakeholders of school culture is explored.
Specific attention is given to South African township school culture. The
following factors are discussed in this study: the principal leadership, the role
of teachers and learners, and parental involvement. The literature review
covers
critical
theory,
Input-process-output
model
and
the
school
improvement model of school culture as the theoretical lens that the study
used to direct the research process.
In Section 2.2 the difference between school culture and school climate is
elaborated on after which perspectives on organisational culture follows. The
discussion centred on school culture which is contextualised to South African
schools; whereafter factors that influence school culture are introduced. The
influence of the principal, teaching staff, parents and learners on the school
culture forms the main discussion of the literature review. The conceptual
framework concludes the chapter, discussing the lens of critical theory and
the two models of school culture in sections 2.7.1-2.7.2
23
2.2 School culture and school climate
The literature tends to liken the concepts of school culture and school climate
(van Houtte, 2005). Sergiovanni and Starratt (1993), for instance, are of the
opinion that any aspect of culture or climate that exists within the school as an
organisation can be referred to as either organisational culture or
organisational climate. Gonder and Hymes (1994) also believe that both
school culture and school climate are related to the environment that exists
within the school.
Van Houtte (2005) criticises the fact that culture and climate are considered
as interchangeable concepts in school effectiveness research. According to
Van Houtte (2005), both school climate and school culture are used to
describe the character of the school as an organisation, but school climate is
seen in terms of shared perceptions, while school culture is seen as shared
assumptions, shared meanings and shared beliefs. Denison (1996) concurs
with Van Houtte (2005) in that school climate researchers measure how
organisation members perceive the organisational climate, while in school
culture researchers look for what members think and believe. School culture
is concerned with values, meanings and beliefs, while school climate is
concerned with the perceptions of values, meanings and beliefs. School
culture measurements are based on what individual members of the
organisation believe or assume while school climate measurements are
based on what individual members perceive their colleagues to believe (Van
Houtte 2005). Each member of a school is an important and integral part of
the school culture (Recepoclu, 2013).
According to Keiser and Schulte (2009), school climate is the quality and
consistency of interpersonal interaction within the school community that
influences children’s cognitive, social and psychological development. They
further indicate that these interactions form specific relationships that evoke a
24
sense of school community. The elements of a sense of school community
are
shared
values,
commitments,
a
feeling
of
belonging,
caring,
interdependence and regular contact (Belenardo, 2001). Schools that display
the shared values of fairness, justice, respect, co-operation and compassion
have a positive sense of community and these schools further support and
motivate both teachers and learners (Keiser & Schulte 2009). However, Md
Nor et al. (2009) define school climate as a sum of values, cultures, safety
practices and organisational structures in a school that cause it to function
and react in particular ways. This includes how learners, staff and community
interact and what approaches are used to solve school problems. School
climate is also based on patterns of people’s experiences of school life and
reflects norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and
learning andorganisational structures (Thapa, Cohen, Guffey & Higgins-D’
Alessandro, 2013).
Smircich in Van Houtte (2005) states that school culture can be viewed as a
system of meanings, which are shared to a varying degree, or as a stable set
of assumptions that are taken for granted. Fullan (1997) adds to this definition
of school culture by describing the values, beliefs, behaviours, rules, products,
signs and symbols of a school in order for it to serve as a mediating factor in
school reform change. Fullan (1997) also states that school culture can act
either as a bridge or as a barrier to change when school improvement
programs are attempted.
There are several perspectives on school culture and school climate although
from this discussion, it became clear that both a positive school climate and
an appropriate school culture are necessary ingredients for implementing
change in order to enhance the efficiency of the functioning of schools
(Gonder & Hymes 1994). The next section considers the impact of school
culture in South African schools, especially in black township schools
25
2.3 Organisational culture
Martins (1992) compares a number of definitions of organisational culture and
draws a conclusion that, although organisational culture is usually defined as
shared norms and beliefs, there is a disagreement about what is being
shared.
Martins
(1992)
consequently
depicts
another
attribute
of
organisational culture as the uniqueness of every organisation’s culture.
When studying an organisation’s organisational culture, the interest should be
directed towards the unique features from a cultural viewpoint of that
organisation. Special attention should be given to how things are done within
a particular school, for example, arrangement of office or playground, the
working atmosphere and the relationship between all organisational
structures. Van Houtte (2005) also considers organisational culture as the
personal characteristics of the members of an organisation.
Sergiovanni and Starratt (1993) adds that organisational culture manifests at
four levels, namely: artefacts, perspectives, values and suppositions, whereas
Van der Westhuizen et al. (2008) describe organisational culture as consisting
of two main aspects, the intangible foundation and the tangible manifestation.
Intangible foundations include common beliefs; philosophy; mission; vision;
goals and objectives; suppositions; ethos; values and norms of an
organisation.
Tangible
manifestation
includes
verbal
manifestation,
behavioural manifestation and visual manifestations. Verbal manifestation
involves communication and revolves around the manner in which the
language is used within the organisation. It also focuses on specific events in
the history of the organisation. In school, the curriculum is viewed as an
aspect of the visual manifestation. Visual manifestation also refers to the
physical facilities and symbols of organisation such as official school attire.
From the aforementioned information, it is obvious that there are a variety of
ways in which organisational culture can be viewed. The section that follows
provides an in-depth discussion of South African school culture.
26
2.4 South African school culture
According to Salfi and Saeed (2007), South African schools with a positive
culture have better physical facilities, learning environment, teachers’
individual attention to learners, principal’s good management and supervision
skills and parental encouragement and involvement. Teachers from such
schools are involved in the decision making process; teacher-parent
interaction is frequent; teachers are highly qualified and there is a better
cooperation and relationship between teaching and supporting staff. On the
other hand, Derosier and Newcity (2005) posit that positive school culture is
where academic learning, effective discipline, policies, learners’ safety, and
involvement with the family and community are emphasised. Schools with a
positive culture perform better than schools with a negative culture (Rhodes,
Camic & Lowe 2009). In South African township schools, these traits of
positive school culture are hardly evident. Maja (1995) explains that the
culture that exists in schools demotivates motivated teachers. Motivated
teachers find themselves teaching in situations that go against systematic
learning and a healthy environment. Maja (1995) further argues that in most
South African township schools, teaching and learning are ineffective. During
the first week schools opening in the new year, some schools are still issuing
report cards for the previous year, learners are returning textbooks, new
learners are being admitted, the school is distributing available textbooks to
learners, teachers are being allocated subjects, the time table is still being
drafted and learners’ are being allocated classes. As a result, very little
teaching is done during January as no time table exists and teachers attend
classes at random. This is a major problem that influences the functioning of
township schools and results in ineffective teaching and learning (Banda,
2003).
According to Fataar and Patterson (1998), there are two extremes that exist in
South African schooling. These are functional versus dysfunctional schools.
27
Fataar and Patterson (1998) define functional schools as schools in which
necessary structures and leadership are in place so that systematic learning
can take place. A dysfunctional school is the opposite, in which the necessary
structure and leadership are not in place and this affects the systematic
learning in the school. Dysfunctional schools also obtain less than 20% pass
rates at the matriculation examination (Banda 2003).
A dysfunctional school is characterised by a poor culture of teaching and
learning (Chisholm & Vally 1996); disorderly environment; intermittent
interruptions in the school’s daily programme (Fataar & Patterson 1998); poor
infrastructure, lack of libraries, lack of teaching resources; untrained teachers
and poor quality of education (Banda 2003). In dysfunctional schools, starting
and closing times are seldom consistent and learners and teachers coming
late are a perennial problem (Maja 1995).
Fataar and Patterson (1998) further argue that learners at dysfunctional
schools are shaped by peer pressure, lack of educational support structures,
sport and recreational facilities. Currently high levels of unemployment and
negative perception of future employment in these schools cause learners to
discount the value of attending classes.
Although most township schools are dysfunctional, Christie and Potterton
(1997) identify resilient schools in South African townships. Resilient schools,
according to Christie and Potterton (1997), refer to the ability of a school to
survive and develop in contexts of extreme adversity. These schools are
situated in communities that are wracked by poverty, unemployment,
violence, socio-economic and political influence (Carrim 1999). The main
feature of these schools is a sense of responsibility that goes beyond
accountability and prevents teachers from seeing themselves as victims, but
rather as survivors (Christie & Potterton 1997), even if they work in appalling
28
conditions and struggle to maintain their practice against overwhelming odds
(Morrow, 1994). These schools manage to survive in contexts where there is
a breakdown of the culture of teaching and learning in neighbouring schools
(Christie & Potterton, 1997).
The most significant manifestation of these schools is willingness and the
ability to take initiative. Christie and Potterton (1997) further indicate that
resilient schools always take actions in order to gain the necessary skills.
These schools also provide a purposeful and supportive framework for
learning and teaching to their learners and staff (Christie & Potterton 1997).
Barth (2002) concurs with this statement by pointing out that the act of
converting a school into a learning organisation can improve the culture of the
school. According to Christie and Potterton (1997), agency can include small
things within the school such as sweeping classes, picking up papers on the
playground, bringing community people in to help with maintenance of school
boundaries so that drugs and alcohol are not sold through fences, and raising
funds to protect the physical facilities of the school. Christie and Potterton
(1997) believe that a key characteristic of resilient schools is a sense of
responsibility that follows policies for school improvement.
In most of the South African township schools, the physical facilities are not
taken care of. According to Maja (1995), after 1994 more school buildings in
townships were erected. Most of the schools are double storey buildings that
started out as well furnished. In the following years, the windows and doors
were broken and others removed; classes were dilapidated with papers lying
around and most of the furniture had been stolen (Carrim 1999). Even if there
was a fence surrounding the property, it was often cut at the back of the
school grounds that resulted in theft (Maja 1995). Maja (1995) further
indicates that often township boys from the surrounding location used classes
for their recreactional use. Toilets were blocked and electrical wires were
stolen. According to the South African school register of needs survey report
29
(2000), since 1996, there has been a decline in the number of schools that
had buildings in excellent and good conditions. The decline could be an
indication of low investment in infrastructure maintenance. All of these
conditions affect the functioning of a school and result in negative school
culture. Even if there are resources for teaching and learning, due to constant
break-ins at schools, most of the teaching resources are kept at a caretaker’s
house (Maja, 1995). Teachers seldom use the resources provided to them
because it is too much effort to collect and return the resources. Banda (2003)
supports Maja (1995) as when says that most of the South African township
school conditions are not conducive to teaching and learning. This indicates
that the environment where the school is located determines the functioning of
the school and this affects the culture that exists in the school.
The next section will consider the following factors: the principal’s role in
determining school culture, the influence of teachers on school culture,
parental involvement in the education of their children and the learners’ role in
school culture and how these factors impact the functioning of a school and
promotion of school culture.
2.5 Factors that influence school culture
Many factors have been identified from the literature as having an impact on
school culture, the main factors being the four stakeholders mentioned briefly
in the introduction. The role of the principal, the teachers, the parents, and the
learners are discussed (2.5.1-2.5.4) in relation to school culture, which
ensures that a school functions properly.
30
2.5.1 The influence of the principal in determining school culture
Macneil et al. (2009) indicate that, paying attention to the culture of the
school is the most important action a leader can perform. If the culture of the
school is not positive, effective learning cannot take place, therefore the
principal’s impact on learning is mediated through the culture of a school.
They further argue that principals are responsible for establishing a pervasive
culture of teaching and learning through long term goals in order to strengthen
the learning environment. Van der Westhuizen (1997) concurs that the
principal of a school plays a decisive role in initiating and maintaining the
school culture and also that his/her style of management and leadership can
improve the degree of professionalism among teachers as well as influencing
discipline, collaboration and team work (Van der Westhuizen, Oosthuizen &
Wolhuter 2008). This can only be done through a principal’s effective
leadership (Van der Westhuizen, 1997). Griffith (1999) also believes that an
effective principal always focuses on the school’s process of instruction,
makes frequent visits to classrooms and provide suggestions to improve the
quality of teaching and learning. This is supported by Edmonds (1979), who
explains that although principals are committed to different activities within the
school, an effective principal is always involved in academic instruction, for
example he/she maintains an orderly school environment, encourages
teaching the basics, monitors learners’ achievement progress, is actively
immersed in day to day activities of the school and sets clear and high
academic expectations.
Sagnak (2010) indicates that for a principal to be able to control the school,
and for the organisation to fulfil its purpose effectively, leadership should be
based on two approaches, the transformational and transactional leadership
approaches. In Sagnak (2010), Burns (1978) defines transformational and
transactional leadership as a moral leadership where leaders and followers
take each other’s motivation and morality to a higher level. Bass (1985)
31
further advances transformational and transactional leadership as idealised
influence, inspirational motivation, intellectual stimulation and individualised
consideration where leaders ensure that employees are able to look beyond
their self-interest and succeed in their objective by means of one or more
ways. Effective leadership also motivates, creates and maintains the
conditions necessary for the building of professional learning communities
within the school (Deal & Peterson 1999 & Flores 2004).
As school culture is built on the shared values, norms and beliefs of members
of school community and shapes the social environment of the school. Md
Nor et al. (2009) state that in order to build positive relationships, the principal
should create a sense of belonging and positive self-concepts amongst
members of the school. They further indicate that principals should play an
important role in moulding, showing priority and focus, initiating collaborations
and innovations in the school. This occurs only if principals become effective
role models who change the way others think, behave, and define priorities.
This will help learners to have a sense of belonging as well as confidence in
their self-worth and this will influence the morale of teachers.
According to Blasé and Kirby (1992), effective principals serve as guardians
of teachers’ instructional time, assist teachers with learner discipline matters,
allow teachers to develop leaners’ code of conduct and support teachers’
authority in enforcing policies. Blasé and Kirby (1992) further state that
although teachers can themselves take steps to preserve their professional
satisfaction and morale, they must also be nurtured, supported and valued by
their principals. This will influence their morale and contribute to a positive
school culture that will ensure quality teaching and learning and the realisation
of learner performance. However Hart (1992) in Griffith (1992) believes that a
principal’s
effectiveness
is
also
associated
with
school
structural
32
characteristics, learners’ population and broader organisational contexts,
which are called organisational configurations.
An organisational configuration is a set of identifiable common characteristics
of organisations that are useful in predicting organisational performance and
effectiveness. Hart (1992) in Griffith (1992) further states that empirical
studies have shown that organisations whose configurations are aligned with
their environment perform better than organisations with non-aligned
configurations. Md Nor and Roslan (2009) believe that the three components
that result in improving the culture of the school are the physical, social and
academic environment. They indicate that principals should understand that
the physical aspects of the school contribute to an environment that is
conducive to learning (Maja 1995) and that learners should feel that their
school is not different from other schools. This can be done, for example, by
designing the layout of gardens, planting trees and obtaining the involvement
of learners in transforming their schools through art and drawings that can
make them feel that they have a sense of belonging (Griffith 1992). The social
environment can be improved if principals celebrate the success of the
learners (Griffith 1992) through awards and certification. Principals should
also enhance ethnic connections through learners’ participation in cultural
activities. These activities will result in learners respecting one another. The
academic environment is stimulated when the principal introduces extra
classes and programmes to increase academic performance that will foster
the willingness to learn amongst weak and recalcitrant learners (Md Nor &
Roslan 2009).
Fullan (2002) furthers the argument that effective leadership is not only about
setting the vision and the mission of the school, or working as a team, but it is
to be much more attuned to the bigger picture. He believes that effective
leadership focuses on the relationship between moral purpose and
33
leadership. Moral purpose means closing the gap between high performing
schools and low performing schools and it plays a larger role in transforming
and sustaining system change. Fullan (2002) states that moral purpose can
be practiced within the organisation where leaders work together for
organisation development, or it can practised outside the organisation where
leaders make a difference in the social environment through system
improvement. He believes that school principals should be concerned with the
success of other schools in the district; this results in learning in context.
According to Fullan (2002), learning in context occurs when principals are
members of the inter-visitation study teams in a district. These teams assist
principals to observe specific instructional practices and develop a new set of
instructional practices as management strategies for their schools. They also
examine real problems and solutions as they evolve in their own system.
Fullan (2002) further indicates that learning in context is related to
sustainability because it improves the system in a way that establishes
conditions conducive to continuous development. These conditions include
opportunities to learn from others in the workplace, daily fostering of current
and future leaders, and the selective retention of good ideas and best
practices. This results in knowledge creation and sharing, as it is central to
effective leadership where information becomes knowledge through a social
practice. Creemer and Reezigt (2005) conclude that without effective
leadership, improvement efforts are unlikely to succeed. Therefore, principal
leadership is the core to improving school culture.
2.5.2 The influence of teachers in determining school culture
Schools are places where teaching and learning occur, but they are also
places where teachers learn and develop (Flores, 2004) with the implication
for quality education that should be provided to learners (Hargreaves, 1994).
34
To improve the functioning of a school, a positive school culture should be
created. An effective positive school culture is created when teachers’
cooperation and characteristics are seen as a condition for the educational
process (Carim, 1999). One of the characteristics of a good teacher, as
indicated by Kohl (1986), is the nurturing love and observation of growth in the
life of the learner. The best teaching of learners is sustained by the love of
growth in learners, and a belief that all learners can develop and learn no
matter what disabilities they appear to have. Kohl (1986) further indicates that
teachers should believe and understand their learners and know that not all
learners are the same. This will occur when teachers prepare themselves for
classroom situations in which they can display their professionalism and care,
the effect of which will show in the life of the learners (Kohl 1986).
Fullan and Haggreaves (1992) support the importance of professionalism in
that it is not about the possession of a certain level of qualification or status,
nor the possession of a set of technical teaching skills, it is the full acceptance
of the moral responsibility that is attached to the role of teachers, and the
ability to make professional judgement in complex and uncertain situations.
The degree of professionalism among teachers is related to their autonomy
and responsibility (Maeroff, 1988), where teachers are continuously involved
in making innumerable, practical, everyday small decisions that are of great
importance to learners (Fullan & Haggreaves, 1992). Those decisions include
discipline, classroom management, classroom fairness and the freedom of the
child versus the need for teacher intervention and support. All these embody
complex social, philosophical, psychological and moral judgements and assist
teachers to better understand their needs, expectations and be committed to
the life of a learner in order to improve the functioning of a school (Hargreaves
1994).
35
According to Hammon (1989), all professionals should be accountable in
various ways for the quality of service that they render to their clients, to the
public and to their colleagues. Hammon (1989) identifies two forms of
accountability that should be regularly applied to teachers and teaching. One
of the two forms of accountability is professional accountability, which is used
to cater for the needs of learners. Professional accountability has set
educationally meaningful standards for what parents and the public can
rightfully expect of a school system, school, or teacher. It also established
reasonable and practical means by which these standards can be
implemented and upheld, and it provides avenues for redress or corrections in
practice when these standards are not met. Teachers are now accountable for
the faithfulness with which they have followed standard procedure and
implemented policies.
According to Morrow (1994), teachers are central to the transformation of
education and the reconstruction of society. In order to carry out this role,
teachers
themselves
must
rediscover
their
special
professional
responsibilities, and come to see themselves as agents, not as victims. What
underlines this view in this context is that political involvement would not
solve this problem. The crisis where teachers see themselves as victims and
the struggle to which it has given rise, has led to a profound deterioration of
some of the basic conditions of teaching (Morrow 1994). Carrim (1994) quotes
a statement made by one deputy principal in a South African school who
noted that the unprofessionalism that is displayed by teachers is the fact that
when controlling late coming in schools by closing gates for learners, you find
that most of the late-comers are teachers and not learners. Again, in a range
of educational institutions across the country, there is disintegration that is
unrealistic based on the restructuring of the governance of the school,
salaries of teachers and resourcing of the system which are not helping
much in the teaching and learning environment (Morrow 1994).
36
Maja (1995) concurs to the importance of professionalism and argues that in
most of the South African township schools, most teachers are not motivated
and willing to work, and there is no emphasis on professional development.
Those who are not motivated are unwilling to work and be supervised as they
believe that they are independent. Some of those teachers want to stay in the
staffroom all day and do not attend classes. Maja (1995) further argues that
most teachers are engaged in upgrading their qualifications and this is done
at the expense of learners in that it takes away time from the classroom.
Academic planning and professional consultation happen but only in certain
subjects where there are subject committees. This aligns with Van den
Heever’s (1994) statement that society’s needs are an improvement in the
standard of professionalism among all teachers. Professionalism is an action
that involves making discretionary judgement in situations of unavoidable
uncertainty and it should not be defined or described in terms of pay or status
or qualification, but rather in terms of the distinctive kinds of actions and
judgement that professionals typically made (Fullan & Haggreaves 1992).
Hammon (1989) further adds that the management of education should be
able to draw attention to the professional competencies of teachers, build a
sense of unity of purpose, and reinforce the belief that they can make a
difference. The South Africa Education Labour Relation Act (1998) of South
Africa outlines the following duties of teachers: teachers should engage in
classroom teaching that will foster a purposeful progression in learning and it
should be consistent with learning areas and programmes of subjects and
grades, as determined. Teachers should prepare lessons taking into account
orientation, regional courses, new approaches, techniques, evaluation, and
teaching aids. Teachers should also take a leadership role with respect to
subjects, learning areas or phases. They should also plan, co-ordinate,
control, administer, evaluate and report on learners’ academic progress.
37
Teachers should recognise that learning is an active process and should be
prepared to use a variety of strategies to meet the outcomes of the
curriculum. Teachers should also establish a classroom environment that
stimulates positive learning and actively engages learners in the learning
process. These should be done through the consideration and utilisation of
learners’ own experiences as a fundamental and valuable resource. The roles
of teachers are extended to extra and co-curricular activities and
administrative work. They should also interact with all the stakeholders and be
able to communicate effectively with other teachers.
The Education labour relation council (1998) also indicates that in order to
improve teachers’ professionalism, an integrated quality management system
should be introduced and should be applied to teachers in order to facilitate
personal and professional development. This will improve the quality of
teaching practice and education management. The integrated quality
management system is based on the fundamental principle of lifelong
learning. One has to prioritise areas for development and growth throughout
one’s career in education.
In the bureaucratic model, teachers are viewed as functionaries rather than
well-trained and highly skilled professionals. This results in little investment in
teacher preparation, induction, or professional development. There is not
enough time for joint planning or collegial consultation about problem of
practice (Hammon 1989). Fataar and Patterson (1998) indicate that there are
unproductive ways in which the staff and management of dysfunctional
schools experience their profession. The first way is the moral minimising
approach, which refers to the development of an identity among teachers that
is rooted in the helplessness of not being able to change their school context.
In this approach, the school holds a strong negative conviction about the
ability of an idea to be supported in an argument in order to improve school
38
functioning and systematic change. Teachers of a dysfunctional school
employ discourses that diffuse moral responsibility, minimum participation,
and decreased commitment. They believe that innovation can be successful if
their school is to be preceded by stabilised improved school environment.
They expect the education department to deliver the resources in order for
teaching and learning to take place. Most of these teachers are conditioned
by the power of apartheid and believe that the new state has the same power.
The moral minimising approach represents a range of attitudinal and
behavioural responses as a defence reaction to difficult contexts. These
attitudes and behaviour are their way of coping with stress, but in turn may
have long term effects on institutional functioning. It is therefore important for
the teachers to promote their professionalism for the school to function
effectively.
2.5.3 The influence of the parents in determing school culture
Parental involvement in education is a key focus of current policies and
programs (Altschul, 2011). Parental involvement also has a protective effect
against the development of problematic behaviours in learners who are
exposed to risks caused by peer pressure and behavioural problems (Farrel,
Henry, Mays & Schoeny 2011). Lloyd-Smith and Baron (2010) further indicate
that parental involvement has a positive effect on student grades, attendance,
attitudes and motivation and this is empirical evidence that parents retain
substantial influence over their children’s education.
According to LaRocque, Kleinman and Darlinging (2011), children whose
parents are more involved in their education tend to come from a higher social
class, have higher maternal education qualification, live in two-parent
households and have parents who take a very active role in mediating their
children’s lives and the school their children attend. This is supported by a
statement made by professor Jansen in a local news-paper, Rapport (Marlan,
39
2013) that most South African township schools’ parents who can afford it
choose the schools that produce the best results. Therefore, there is a
migration of learners from township schools to former model C schools. When
parents participate in their children’s education, there is an increase in learner
achievement, attendance and an improvement with regard to discipline and
high aspirations (Farrel, Henry, Mays & Schoeny, 2011).
Regling, Cameron and Losike-Sedimo (2010) also indicate that the major
factor that influences the functioning of a school is the effect of parental
involvement. The belief is that parental involvement shows a consistent,
positive relationship between parents’ engagement in their children’s
education with education outcomes. It also plays a significant role in
improving learners’ reading achievement and increases a school’s probability
of attaining the standards of adequate yearly progress. Regling et al. (2010)
believe that in order to increase the probability of a school to the standards of
adequate yearly progress, the dimensions of parental involvement must be
considered.
Regling et al. (2010) state the three dimensions of parental involvement as
behavioural involvement, personal involvement and cognitive involvement.
Behavioural involvement refers to parents’ actions representing their
children’s education, such as attending open house, or volunteering at school.
Personal involvement includes parent-child interactions that communicate
positive attitudes about the school. The last dimension is cognitive
involvement, which refers to the behaviour that promotes skill development
and knowledge, such as educational excursions and reading books. Altschul
(2011) also adds that studies in parental involvement in academics include
home-based involvement and school-based involvement. School-based
involvement includes activities such as parent-teacher conferences, and
attendance to school meetings or events. Home-based involvement includes
40
assisting children with home-work, discussing school related matters with
children at home and engaging with children in intellectual activities. All these
involvements can be achieved if parents and the school work as partners to
make a positive difference in the education and transition outcomes of
learners (De Fur 2012). De Fur (2012) further defines partnership as partners
who define roles and responsibilities and who are accountable for carrying out
those responsibilities. One major responsibility of partners, for example is
when parents and teachers work collaboratively towards the realisation of a
mutual goal regarding the child (Morewood & Bond 2012). Teachers gain
insights on how to meet the needs of their leaners if they get information from
parents to set their activities and set appropriate goals for learners
(LaRocque, et al, 2011). Reglin et al. (2010) further indicate that home-school
partnerships help all youngsters to succeed in school and at a later stage in
life. This can occur if the school establishes effective communication and
collaboration between parents and teachers (Morewood & Bond 2012)
The above statement is supported by the Lamb Inquiry (2009) in Morewood
and Bond (2012) that greater engagement with parents through honest and
open communication improve teacher-parent relationship. Epstein (2008)
believes that open communication serves as proof that teachers and parents
can be a strong, combined force of accountability in education, ensuring that
learners receive and benefit from an effective education. Effective
communication can only be done if the school can create a culture for genuine
parent-school collaboration, which increases trust and improves results
(Reglin et al. 2010). Institutional methods of communication such as parentteacher associations, open house, and newsletters can improve the
relationship with parents (Llyod-Smith & Baron 2010). This relationship can
build relational trust that is constructed through consistency of interactions at
a group level where parents interact with teachers as a whole (De Fur 2012).
According to Llyod-Smith and Baron (2010), a communication breakdown that
41
exists between the school and parents results in a decline in parental
involvement.
Teachers’ attitudes and actions greatly influence how parents perceive the
school (Morewood & Bond, 2012). Schools are becoming more diverse, and a
great challenge facing teachers is meeting the needs of learners from different
backgrounds (Larocque, Kleinman & Darlinging 2011). Larocque et al. (2011)
further indicate that teachers have little information or training on how to work
with diverse learners. If, for example, the teacher considers a learner who has
been reared in the cultural belief that touching is frequent and welcomed, or
there is no personal ownership of learners’ things, a teacher who is unfamiliar
with this may view the learner as a disrespectful child. These types of cultural
conflicts can result with a negative parents-teacher interaction. Larocque et al.
(2011) further indicate that this dichotomous interaction may also affect the
ways in which parent involvement is perceived by teacher and parents. Even
if families want to build a positive relationship with school personnel, they are
not always sure of how to become involved in a way that the school personnel
values. This uncertainty leads to a decreased involvement for parents from
diverse backgrounds.
However, Altschul (2011) has a different view of how parents get involved in
the education of their children. Altschul (2011) indicates that there are parents
who introduce their children to life lessons, including early introduction to hard
labour that will demonstrate the value of education. Their involvement means
that they keep telling their children to do well in school so that they do not end
up working in low-wage, manual work positions. Altschul (2011) believes that
in this way, parents attempt to socialise with their children to achieve in
school, without directly engaging with the educational system. Such forms of
parental involvement are not visible to the school and teachers often label
these parents as uninvolved.
42
Too many learners in schools around the world are struggling with reading
(Reglin et al. 2010). Failure to read during the elementary and middle school
years has long-term consequences for children. This results in a lack of selfconfidence and motivation to learn, frustrations, which lead to problem
behaviour, dropping out of school, and an increase in engaging in delinquent
acts. One of the factors that lead to this is the educational level of the parents
(Reglin et al. 2010). Larocque et al. (2011) further indicate that parents who
do not feel adequate to support their children because of their low level of
education should be reassured that they are not expected to understand the
content in order to support their children academically. The support can be in
the form of non-academic tasks such as providing a regular place and time to
complete home-work, or contacting the teacher if the child is struggling with
school work. According to Morewood and Bond (2012), the educational level
of parents is not the only factor that hinders parental involvement; there are
other factors that have a negative effect on the involvement of parents in the
education of their children. Morewood and Bond (2012) believe that some
parents feel intimidated by school personnel. Others are discouraged because
they experienced many failures and bad experiences during their own school
going.
Cultural and language barriers between a school and the parents, and the
economic circumstances of families can also be a barrier to parents because
parents direct most of their energies towards providing basic needs, leaving
little time for their involvement in school activities (Farrel, Henry, Mays &
Schoeny, 2011). Altschul (2011) believes that the above difficulties can be
addressed and resolved through school based programs and can ultimately
connect parents with the school to support the functioning of the school.
Morewood and Bond (2012) further argue that sometimes it is not the above
factors that hinder parental involvement, but rather teachers’ view of parents
as threats.
43
Epstein (2008) indicates that parents must not be seen as threats to teachers,
but rather as willing and capable partners who want their children to be
educated. Epstein (2008) further states that many teachers feel that parents
are not willing to become involved in their children’ education, and on the
other side, parents are not aware of opportunities for involvement. Morewood
and Bond (2012) state that this can only be resolved if teachers work
collaboratively with parents towards a common goal regarding childrens’
success. Morewood and Bond (2012) further indicate that the more
information teachers have about the children’s home environment, the better.
This will help teachers to accommodate the needs of the parents and the
children. Once the parents and teachers realise their capabilities and roles,
they can work together effectively in helping their children further, especially
during a transition period.
According to Nadeau and Scaramella (2012), greater assistance is needed
from parents when children transition from elementary school to secondary
school. This is the stage where parents must have a close relationship with
their children’s teacher(s) in order to help the child cope with a new
environment. De Fur (2012) indicates the following strategies that contribute
to collaborative transitions: there must be student and parent centeredness
throughout the transition process; developing a shared vision for learners for
transition outcomes; being culturally responsive and recognising that families,
learners and service providers have complementary expertise to contribute to
the transition process; communicating pro-actively; being caring and
committed; giving choice and voice to all parties involved in the transition
process; facilitating creative problem solving; offering helpful connections for
families and learners and reflection on and celebrating accomplishment during
transition. All these strategies offer an opportunity to improve the quality of
relationship between parents and teachers.
44
However, Altschul (2011) believes that parental involvement declines as
learners grow older. By the time a child reaches secondary school, few
parents remain active in the educational process. Altschul (2011) further
indicates that the decline in parental involvement may occur for a variety of
reasons, including the structure of the school and the increased difficulty level
of a secondary curriculum.
In conclusion, for the effective functioning of a school and positive school
culture, parental involvement is needed in the whole life (and educational)
process of raising a child.
2.5.4 The influence of learners in determining the school culture
Principals and teachers must create a positive environment for learners and
hold all learners to the same high standard (Sirin & Roger-Sirin 2005). Sirin
and Roger-Sirin (2005) further indicate that a positive environment is a safe
environment, and a safe school environment has been identified as a key
factor in improving learners’ learning. Juvonen, Nishina and Graham (2000)
concur with the statement above in that it is important for the school to
create an environment that is welcoming, active and well organised which
will result in a feeling of belonging for the learners, as most of them are
needy and seek attention, love and guidance. Learners’ feelings of
belonging in a school setting make them value the school (Sirin & RogerSirin 2005). Nurturing staff, basic services and consistent classroom
routines within the school create settings that are more stable and safe than
learner home environments (Sirin & Roger-Sirin 2005).
According to Daniel and Steres (2011), learners need to feel safe and
accepted in their learning environment. Daniel and Steres (2011) believe
45
that in cases where adolescents are bullying other learners, teachers
should apply school rules. This builds positive and personal relationships
amongst learners and teachers that will result in motivation and
engagement. This relationship will help learners feel like important
members of the school community (Hayes, Ryan and Zseller 1994).
Daniels (2010) states that the activities in which learners are engaged in,
the interactions they have with their peers and adults, and the physical
characteristics of their learning environment contribute to their motivation to
learn and their desire to engage with others and their environment.
Motivation and engagement are recognised as important for all learners,
therefore the school needs to create a motivational learning environment
(Daniels & Steres 2011). According to Daniels (2010), one of the elements of
motivation is autonomy. Autonomy is defined as something being independent
or uncontrolled by others. Daniels (2010) further states that learners are
humans that need to feel that they are in control of their actions and decisions
as they believe that they are able to determine for themselves the course of
their lives. When they feel that what they do is in someone else’s control, they
lose motivation. This is supported by Wigfield and Eccles (2002), who explain
that when learners realise that they can control how they react to the process,
they feel empowered and in control of their reactions and attitudes. Daniels
(2010) believes that teachers should apply an understanding of autonomy in
the school environment to include learners in class or school decision-making.
These learners are more likely to work diligently if they see that their voices
are valued and incorporated into what happens during the school day, and in
this way they will not feel as if things are being done for them. This increases
their motivation, which improves the culture that exists in the school.
Cressy (2011) also believes in learner engagement support learning as it
involves everything in the school, that is, curriculum, educationally purposeful
46
activities, support services and so forth. He defines learner engagement as
the effort interest and time that a learner invests in a meaningful educational
experience inside and outside the classroom. Conner (2009) defines
engagement as a multidimensional construct consisting of three distinct
factors that are: an affective or emotional factor, a behavioural factor and a
cognitive factor. These three factors pertain to what learners feel, do and think
and form an integrative interaction that takes place between the learner and
the school, and links learner behaviour and learning (Cressy 2011). This
integrative interaction forms a sense of belonging or cohesion. As learners
form relationships with peers, the school and the teachers develop a sense of
belonging that is integrated with school culture. These relationships are a
major source of happiness that promotes learning. This is supported by
Daniels and Steres (2011) in that the activities in which learners are engaged
such as interactions that they have with peers and adults and the physical
characteristics of their learning environment all contribute to their motivation to
learn.
Conner (2009) further states that engagement arises from three feelings,
which are: autonomy, belonging and competency. Learners who do not feel a
sense of autonomy, a sense of belonging and a sense of competency are
reluctant to learn. These three contextual elements create a supportive
learning environment that enables the learner to act in accordance with his or
her personal goals, values and interest. This will lead to positive learning
outcomes, performance, and acquisition of new skills, long term learning and
motivation (Conner, 2009).
However, Mc Clure, Yonezawa and Jones (2010) believe that there are other
factors that impact learners’ level of engagement. Those factors are class and
school size. They believe that if teachers and policy makers can reduce class
and school size, the engagement of learners will increase. This can lead to
47
improvement of relationships and an overall feeling of connectedness among
learners, teachers and the school.
According to Mc Clure et al. (2010), a feeling of connectedness among
learners, teachers and the school is called personalisation. A key component
of improving school culture is improving personalisation, which is, tightening
the connection between learners and their learning environment. Learners
who are connected to their school become motivated, and this is linked to
good attendance of school and learning. Wigfield and Eccles (2002) add that
learners’ cognitive skills lead them to crave decision-making opportunities.
They believe that learners are social beings and are learning to navigate
among their peer, academic and home worlds. The social aspect of a school
is an integral part of the learners’ lives and one in which many learners feel
autonomous because they choose with whom to associate and how to
interact. In this way, learners’ motivation will be emphasised and this will
create a culture of learning.
However, there are learners who experience problematic behaviour that
affects their learning and affects the school culture. According to Marchant
and Anderson (2012), learners who frequently engage in problematic
behaviour tend to disrupt teacher instruction and impede others’ learning.
These learners could seriously limit their own opportunities for academic and
social success. Conroy, Sutherland, Snyder, Al-Hendani and Vo (2009)
further indicate that a positive and engaging culture is one of the most
influential tools teachers have to support learners’ learning and prevent
problematic behaviour. Again, the creation of a positive classroom
environment can limit the inappropriate behaviour of learners (Marchant &
Anderson, 2012). To create a positive environment, teachers must
communicate
clear expectations,
teaching
classroom
rules
explicitly,
acknowledging appropriate behaviour through specific praise, intervening
48
early with inappropriate behaviour and provide consistent consequences for
desired and undesired behaviour (Marchant & Anderson, 2012).
Boyd (2012) believes that learners’ problematic behaviour can be solved by
applying the school discipline system. The school discipline system has the
potential to make learners enjoy and love their school through being
physically and psychologically safe. Boyd (2012) indicates that there are false
statements that relate to learner discipline such as if teachers believe that
their lessons are engaging, they will not have discipline problems. Learners
are not only disengaged by lessons but there are other factors that contribute
to their disengagement during lesson presentation. Boyd (2012) further
indicates that teachers need to find their own style of discipline. The
disciplinary procedure of the teacher must motivate and encourage learners
through positive classroom management. Effective teachers do not have
power struggles with learners. It is more important for every learner to get
what s/he needs including discipline, than for the teacher to feel loved and
accepted by the learners (Boyd, 2012).
However, Sterrett (2011) disagrees that the success of the school is to build
an effective relationship with learners. If the school shifts from discipline to
relationships, the school culture will improve. Building positive relationships
means that the school’s vision is promoted, which is to build teacher-learner
relationships and support, create classroom communities where learners are
connected to their fellow learners and to learn interesting facts about their
classmates. This will improve communication, which results in a positive
school culture.
49
2.6 Conceptual framework
The conceptual framework of this study draws on critical theory as the
theoretical lens and there are two models presented that depict how the
culture of a township primary school needs to be improved. The two models
are the Input-process-output (Bushnell, 2003) and the School improvement
model (Cavanaugh & Deller, 1997) also influence how I looked at school
culture.
2.6.1 Critical theory
Sim and Van Loon (2001) define critical theory as an amalgam of
philosophical and social-scientific techniques that have wide ranging
applications. They further explain it as an innately pluralist exercise which
presents a range of possible methods and perspectives by which to analyse
not only cultural artifacts, but also social and ethnic contexts. It fosters debate
between various readings and multiple interpretations. In that sense, critical
theory helps to promote the cause of democratic pluralism and is therefore an
intergral part of current science. Higgs (2007) also defines critical theory as a
positive utopianism and optimism towards a possibility of revolutionary
change.
The application of critical theory into this study addresses the concept of
cultural hegemony. According to Sim and Van Loon (2001), cultural
hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society. Sim and Van Loon
(2001) further indicate that cultural hegemony proposes that the prevailing
cultural norms of a society must not be percieved as natural and inevitable,
but must be recognised as an artificial social construct that must be
investigated to discover their philosophical roots as instrument of social- class
dominations. This knowledge can guide society to create their own workingclass culture which addresses social and economic needs.
50
Humphrey and Brown (2002) also indicate that hegemony uses different
methods to influence the organisation to conform or emulate the ways in
which the organisation is viewed and how the organisation carries out
policies, functions, and its approach to the political and economic system.
Critical theory in this study addresses the concept of hegemony in that the
negative culture that exists in the township schools is not permanent and
natural, it is the sterotyping that exist within members of the organisation.
2.6.2 Models of school culture
Models of school culture, which are the Input-process-output model and the
School improvement model of school culture is used to
demonstrate the
school culture of a township primary school and as a guide to my research.
2.6.2.1 Input-process-output model (Bushnell, 2003)
Miller and Wiener (2003) indicate that the Input-process-output model is an
interelated system that controls the flow of information from one unit to
another. Robbins (1989) also views organisations as operating within a
symbiotic relationship with their environment because the survival of any
environment depends on what they draw from their environment (input), how
to use the input (process) and the benefits of all the processes for their
environment (output). This is an educational environment which is creative,
stimulating, and appropriate for the developmental interest of learners (Miller
& Wiener 2003).
According to Bushnell (2003), the Input-process-output model enables
decision-makers to select from several options the package that will optimise
the overall effectiveness of the school. This model can assist the school to
determine whether the functioning of a school is achievable. It also enables a
school to detect the type of changes that they should make to improve the
51
overall culture of the school. The input stage contributes to the overall
effectiveness of the school and falls into categories such as human resources,
qualifications and experience, instructional material, equipment and training
facilities (Bushnell 2003). The input, as depicted in this study, include the
principal, teachers, parents and learners.
The process stage involves all the factors mentioned above. In this stage,
teachers need to specify their teaching objective, develop design criteria, and
select teaching and assessment strategies. At this stage, teaching and
learning must take place. The principal must control discipline, communicate
effectively with all stake holders, promote team work and develop teachers
and parents. There must be effective involvement of parents in the education
of their children. Effective home-school interaction through teacher-parent
conferences should also take place. Learners must attend classes so that
learning can take place, and the role of dicipline in the classroom should be
emphasised.
The last stage is the output stage which is the outcome/result after the entire
process has taken place. In this study, the output result indicates a positive
school culture. During this stage, the school meets the state of academic
standard, behavioural expectations and adherence to the social norms
established by the school whereby everyone is adopted by the school culture
(Bushnell, 2003). The output stage can assist the school with the decision
making process regarding the culture that exists in the school. This approach
is operational because it allows the school to be seen in totality with their
independent parts (see figure 2.1)
52
INPUT
PROCESS
Principal
Effective leadership
Teacher
Curriculum delivery
Parent
Involvement and participation
Learner
Learning process
OUTPUT
Positive School culture
LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Figure 2.1 : Input-process-output Model
53
2.6.2.2 School improvement model of school culture (Cavanaugh and
Deller, 1997)
Cavanaugh and Deller (1997) introduceD the school improvement model of
school culture which depicts the relationship between the six cultural elements
and their effects on the overall school culture. According to Cavanaugh and
Deller (1997), the six elements that relate to school improvement include
teacher efficacy, emphasis on learning, collegiality, collaboration, shared
planning and transformational leadership. Teacher efficacy concerns the
value which teachers place on the social institution of education and the
application of pedagogical principles in their work. An emphasis on learning
concerns individual school s’ learning programme including the learning of the
teachers
and
the
learners.
Colllegiality
includes
propositions
about
interpersonal relationship amongst members of the school organisational
structures. Collaboration is the interaction of the school structures and also
focuses on the discourse of a more formal nature which is related to the
operation of the school. Shared planning is a school-wide construct which
assumes that teachers have a mutual understanding of their school’s goals
and also participate in programmes to evaluate and implement the goals. The
last element is the transformational leadership which concerns the role of the
school administration in supporting teachers and school programmes.
This model views school culture as an open-systems structure in which
equilibrium is maintained between interactive internal elements and external
factors. This model also embodies the fact that school culture involves cultural
elements that facilitates cultural maintenance and growth. Cultural elements
are vehicles for improving the effectiveness of schools. When the school’s
cultural elements are well developed, cultural growth and school improvement
occur. This model is dependent on the utilisation of culturally oriented
planning and implementation strategies as seen in figure 2.2 below. The
above-mentioned theory and the two models guided the analysis of school
culture to promote the functioning of the school as depicted in chapter 4.
54
Teacher Efficacy
Shared
planning
INDIVIDUAL
NORMS &
VALUES
Emphasis on
learning
collaboration
collegiality
Transformational
learning
Figure 2.2 : School Improvement Model of School Culture
(Cavanaugh & Deller,1997, pg10).
55
2.7 Conclusion
In chapter 2, the concept of school culture was comprehensively explored as
the insights of different writers were gathered. Firstly terminology, definitions
and the clarification between school culture and school climate were
conceptualised as people tend to view the two concepts as the same. South
African school culture was also conceptualised and special emphasis was
placed on the South African township primary school. The following factors
were discussed: The principal s’ role in determining school culture, teachers’
influence on school culture, parental involvement in the education of their
children and the role of learners in school culture. For example the principals’
role in determining school culture was defined as referring to the leadership of
the principal in order to ensure the functioning of a school, whilst teacher
influence on school culture was viewed as an emphasis on effective
curriculum delivery through team work, willingness to exchange and share
ideas and working together for the benefit of learners. Parental involment was
conceptualised as referring to the school-home relationship. The school must
understand learners’ background and work with parents to assist one another
for the well-being of learners. The last factor, learners’ role in the culture that
exists in a school, was conceptualised as referring to the commitment of
learners to their school work. This involves discipline, behavioural
expectation, ability to adhere to social norms and ability to meet the learning
standard.
A summary view of critical theory and the two models of school culture, which
include the Input-process-output model and School improvement model of
school culture, were given. Critical theory is concerned with the social and
cultural transformation that contributes to overcoming social injustices and
inequalities within schools. The Input-process-output model is an interrelated
system which controls the flow of information from one unit to the other. The
56
School improvement model of school culture depicts the relationship between
the six cultural elements and their effect on the overall culture of the school.
Chapter 3 provides the design and methodological strategies for this study by
outlining the research approach, specific research questions, population and
sample, instrument, data collection, data analysis and limitations of the study.
57
CHAPTER 3
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
______________________________________________________________
3.1 Introduction
In the previous chapter, the literature was used to validate the research and I
explained my decision to work within the parameters of the theoretical
framework of critical theory and models of school culture. Critical theory
concerns social and cultural transformation within the organisation and it is
also explanatory, practical and normative (Higgs 2007). The principles of
critical theory explain the wrongs within current social reality. This theory
provides norms for criticism and achievable practical goals for social
transformation (Higgs 2007). The two models of school culture, which are the
Input-process-output model and the School improvement model of school
culture, were also considered. The Input-process-output model interrelates
systems that control the flow of information from one unit to another. This
model assisted in determining whether the functioning of a school is
achievable (Miller & Wiener 2003). The School improvement model of school
culture depicts the relationship between the six cultural elements and their
effects on the overall school culture (Cavanaugh & Deller 1997). The six
cultural elements are: teacher efficacy, emphasis on learning, collegiality,
collaboration, shared planning, and transformational leader
This chapter provides details of the research design and methodology which
were used as a blue print to translate the research from general to specific so
that the research questions could be answered in a specific, concrete way
(Schofield 1993). This chapter also gives an account of the data collection
procedure, and provides information on addressing issues in practice.
58
The research question, “How does school culture impact on the functioning of
a township primary school?” was answered using a qualitative methodology
and yhe use of multiple data collection methods. In order to answer the
research questions of this study, a schematic diagram of the research process
is shown in figure 3.1.
Literature study done
Write up literature study
Qualitative content analysis:
Focus group discussion (pilot)
Interviews
Classroom observation
Focus group discussion
Learners’ drawings
Qualitative data analysis
strategy utilised
Learners made drawings
Chose a case study design
Decided on data collection
Interviewed the principal and
teachers
Held pilot focus group
di
i
il t
Did classroom observation
Held focus group discussion
Figure 3.1: Schematic representation of the research process
The schematic representation in figure 3.1 indicates the research steps
undertaken in order to provide answers to the research questions, which
address the impact of school culture on the functioning of the school.
59
In this chapter, I present my epistemological and ontological stance based on
an interpretive paradigm. I further present an explanation of how important
issues relating to trustworthiness and credibility are addressed. The ethical
considerations of the research are presented according to the regulations of
the University of Pretoria and general ethics in educational research. In order
to explain and describe the research process for this study, a holistic picture is
created in table 3.1 to illustrate the research design, research methodology,
quality criteria of the research and ethical considerations.
Table 3.1: Research process
RESEARCH DESIGN
Research type
Phenomenological research
Interpretive paradigm
Ontological and epistemological models
Methodological model
Qualitative approach
Research strategy
Case study
METHODOLOGY
Sampling site
School A Primary School
Sampling
Convenient and purposive sampling
Data collection method
Individual open-ended interviews, non-participant
observation, focus group discussion and learners’
drawings
Data Analysis
Content analysis
QUALITY OF CRITERIA OF THE RESEARCH
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS OF THE RESEARCH
Informed consent, anonymity, safety considerations and confidentiality
CONCLUSION
60
3.2 Research Design
3.2.1 Interpretive Paradigm
This study is positioned in the interpretive paradigm. Cohen, Manion, and
Morrison (2005) state that an interpretive paradigm is characterised by a
concern for the individual. The central endeavour in the context of the
interpretive paradigm is to understand the subjective world of human
experience and it lends itself to the interpretation of phenomena through the
eyes of the people involved. The interpretive paradigm also focuses on
actions that are meaningful to ascertain the intentions of actors in sharing
their experiences. A large number of our everyday interaction with one
another relies on such shared experiences (Douglas, 1976). The shared
experiences by the researcher draws meaning from the findings of data
analysis which may result in information that can be compared with the
literature or personal experiences (Cresswell 2009).
There are three basic assumptions that are generated from the interpretive
paradigm (Lincoln & Guba 1994). Firstly, interpretivists assume that the
purpose of educational research is to understand the meaning which informs
human behaviour. Secondly, interpretivists assume that there is no single
reality but that there are multiple realities, which are local, specific, historical,
and non-generable. Lastly, they assume that research findings do not come
from the researcher, but are created through the interpretation of data (Lincoln
& Guba 1994).
According to Cohen et al. (2005), there are challenges within the interpretive
paradigm. They argue that although the interpretive paradigm focuses on
understanding the actions of our fellow-beings to acquire knowledge of their
intentions, it also presents incomplete accounts of social behaviour because
interpretivists neglect the political and ideological contexts of educational
61
research. However, the focus of this research is not social behaviour, but
mainly acquiring an in-depth understanding of how participants experience a
situation or phenomenon.
The integrity of the phenomenon being investigated is retained if efforts are
made to understand the meaning created by the participants. There is a range
of different viewpoints or ways of understanding the world and this study
focused on understanding the views and perspectives of the participants,
rather than my own. I propose to study constructed school culture and the
functioning of the school holistically (Lincoln & Guba 1994), to try to achieve a
high level of understanding, since paradigms "represent a distillation of what
we think about the world" (Lincoln & Guba 1994:15) and influence the actions
of
researchers. The
interpretive
paradigm
involves
assumptions
on
determining meaning and understanding through the views and perspectives
of participants. These assumptions are our ontological and epistemological
assumptions. Table 3.2 provides
a summary of the assumptions in the
interpretive paradigm and specifically in this study.
Table 3.2: Interpretive paradigm (Adapted from Van der Westhuizen and
Maree 2009 ).
Paradigm
Ontology
Epistemology
Data collection
Determining meaning
Reality can be
Knowledge is gained
Non-participant class
and understanding
understood and
through observation
observation,
through the views
interpreted, but not
and interpretation.
interviews, focus
and perspectives of
controlled.
The researcher is
group discussions as
participants
Participants' internal
empathetic and
well as learners’
and subjective
subjectively involved,
drawings
experiences are
as knowledge is
important, as many
personal, subjective
realities exist.
and unique
62
According to Lichtman (2010), ontological assumptions are concerned with
what is real regarding the nature of the social phenomenon being investigated
or researched. Reality is socially constructed, can be understood and
interpreted and is also contextual in nature. There is no single reality, but
multiple realities exist which the researcher needs in order to understand the
phenomenon under scrutinity, which in this study is the culture that exists in
the township primary school.
Epistemological assumptions are concerned with how individuals come to
know or how knowledge is acquired. It informs methodologies about the
nature of the knowledge acquired in a research study. In this study, I used a
method that enabled direct interaction with participants because I believe that
knowledge is created by the knower based on experience. This assumption
further influenced the methodological preferences of this study (McNiff &
Whitehead 2009).
3.2.2 Qualitative research
This study used a qualitative research approach to explore and understand
how participants make meaning of a situation. The central focus of this
research was to provide an understanding of a social setting as viewed from
the perspective of the research participants (Gay, Mills & Airasian, 2009).
According to Creswell (2009), qualitative research is a means for exploring
and understanding the meaning individuals or groups ascribe to social or
human problems. It involves emerging questions and procedures, collecting
data in the participants’ setting, analysing data inductively, building from
particulars to a general theme, and making interpretations of the meaning of
data. Cohen et al. (2005) further the notion of qualitative research as an
approach concerned with an in-depth, complex, and detailed understanding of
behaviour; meanings; phenomena; actions and attitudes. Thus, for the
63
purpose of this study, the qualitative research approach was chosen to
address the culture that exists in the sampled township primary school.
The qualitative research approach helped me as a researcher to explore the
research questions in order to understand and make sense of the
phenomenon under scrutiny. The detailed recording of the processes
occurring in their natural setting provided the basis for understanding the
setting, the participants and their interaction (Gay et al. 2009) as they exist.
This study sought a detailed engagement with the participants of a township
primary school, which includes teachers, a principal, the parents of a selected
Grade 7 class, and the learners of that selected Grade 7 class to generate
rich and deep data in the form of text, and commenced inductively to establish
a theory. In order to gain an in-depth understanding of the context of the
study, multiple sources of data were essential. I used face-to-face openended interviews with teachers and the principal, focus group discussions with
parents of the selected Grade 7 class, non-participatory observation in the
Grade 7 class and the Grade 7 learners’ drawings of their perception of
school culture as added information to address the research question.
There are advantages and disadvantages to conducting qualitative research.
Creswell (2009) indicates that the advantages of qualitative research are that
it emphasises the importance of the participants’ views, stresses the setting in
which the participants express their views, and highlights the meaning people
hold about educational and social issues. Furthermore, Potter (2002)
indicates that the disadvantages of qualitative research is that it cannot be
done in an objective, neutral and disengaged manner if it is to yield any
worthwhile insight into the informant’s world, and it has the potential to
become one-sided if the researcher is either narrow minded or prejudiced. To
guard against these challenges, I attempted to be as authentic as possible,
and to declare my subjectivity, and that I am aware of the fact that multiple
realities exist (Cohen et al. 2005).
64
The quantitative research method would not have worked well in this study
because, as Creswell (2007) explains that it is a type of research that asks
specific, narrow questions using instruments with pre-set questions and
responses. It also collects quantifiable data from a large number of
individuals. Quantitative research analyses numbers using statistics and the
data analysis tends to involve describing trends, comparing group difference
or relating variables which was not the thrust of this study.
3.2.3 Research design
The research method adopted for this study was a single in-depth case study
because I was concerned with the complexity and particular nature of the
case in question. It was useful to consider a distinction between the different
types of cases and then to select the most suitable case for this study.
Different researchers indicate that there are different types of case studies.
Yin (2003) distinguishes three types of case studies, namely, the critical case,
which allows a better understanding of the circumstances; the unique case,
which focuses on clinical studies, and lastly the revelatory case, which exists
when an investigator has the opportunity to observe and analyse a
phenomenon previously inaccessible to scientific investigation.
There are advantages and disadvantages to using a case study design in a
research project. Its strength lies in its attention to the subtlety and complexity
of the case in its own right (Cohen et al. 2005). Gray (2009) also indicates that
case study research focuses directly on a case study topic and provides
original and illuminating data. He further indicates that a case study covers
the events in real time as well as the context of the events. It also provides
insight into cultural features and technical operations.
65
There are also limitations with regard to the use of case studies. The
disadvantages of the case study design are that it has a problem with regard
to confidentiality in many organisations (Gray, 2009); it is also biased due to
poorly constructed questions used in interviews (Yin, 2003). However, I
guarded against such limitations during my study by considering ethical
issues and constructing good interview questions.
3.3 Research methodology
3.3.1 Research sites and participants
The research site for this study was a rural primary school. The school is
situated next to a main road, community hall, and mini shopping complex. The
mentioned places provide many disturbances from outside the school. The
school is fenced, with few sporting activities because of limited space.
The school was chosen because it is a primary school in a township. This site
was conveniently chosen. I used convenience sampling because the
participants were able and willing to participate on the set date. Convenience
sampling does not represent any group apart from itself and also does not
seek to generalise to the wider population (Cohen, et al., 2005). As I was a
township primary school teacher who used to be affected by the culture that
exists in the township schools, it was also convenient for me to conduct the
research at this school.
Purposive sampling was also used because it is the type of sampling that
represents a particular group (Cresswell, 2008), and it was chosen for a
specific purpose. I determined the sample by selecting one Grade 7 class that
was taught by the teachers who participated in the interviews, again, they
were the last grade of the primary school. These learners understand the
culture in their school more than any of the other grades. I chose the learners
66
in order to observe their behaviour during their contact time with their teachers
and also to observe their drawn pictures.
I also selected four out of a possible seven grade 7 teachers. Two are male
teachers with more than five years’ experience in teaching the Grade 7 class,
and the remaining two are female Grade 7 teachers with fewer than five years
of experience. The teachers were chosen because they witnessed the
behaviour displayed by the Grade 7 learners during teaching and learning and
they also teach major subjects which are Maths, English, Home language and
Natural science.
Five parents, three females and two males, of the selected Grade 7 class
were also selected on a voluntary basis to participate in a pilot focus group
discussion in order to try to understand the learners' home backgrounds.
Another four parents were also selected on a voluntary basis to participate in
a focus group discussion. The parents were community members within the
area where the school is situated. The focus group was conducted in mother
tongue so as the parents can understand.
The principal of the school was also sampled as the manager and leader of
the school. The reason for this was that, as a manager, he was in a position to
offer the an excellent picture of what transpires in the school with regard to
school culture. The sampling selection helped me to get acquinted with the
different stakeholders and developed an understanding that provided useful
information. The data were captured over three months and I used the same
participants during this time. With the help of the principal, I designed a
management plan that indicated dates for data collection so as to avoid
inconveniences and so as not to disrupt the smooth running of the school.
67
3.3.2 Researcher’s role
As a primary instrument in qualitative research, Merriam (2002) holds that the
researcher can influence the data collection process. I explained to the
participants that my role in this study was as a non-participating observer and
interviewer in order to avoid any bias in my interpretation with regard to school
culture. On the other hand, being a researcher, close interaction with the
participants was necessary (Creswell, 2007). I also focused on each
participant’s perspectives and subjective meaning. I did not interfere in the
progress of the lessons during the contact time with learners unless an
arrangement was otherwise made with the teacher concerned prior to the
lesson. My study constituted an observation of one Grade 7 class, interviews
with the principal and teachers, a pilot focus group and a focus group
discussion with the parents of the selected Grade 7 class and the use of
learners’ drawings of their perception of school culture in order to add more
data about school culture.
The collected data were analysed and coded, and the codes that emerged
formed the categories, which resulted in themes. Further functions performed
were the designing of interview schedules, observation sheets, and leading
questions for the focus group used to gather data. Finally, my research results
required that I should report multiple and complex perspectives of the culture
that exists in a primary school.
3.3.3 Data collection
3.3.3.1 Introduction
The process of data collection was conducted in a township primary school
over a period of three months. Interviews with the principal and teachers,
68
focus group discussion with parents, observation of learners during lessons
and learners’ drawings were used as data collection strategies.
3.3.3.2 Data collection strategies
In qualitative research, the researchers are primary instruments for gathering
and analysing data (Cohen et al. 2005); therefore, interpretations of reality
were accessed directly through different data collection tools. These data
collection tools allowed me a deeper understanding of the challenges with
regard to the existing culture in township schools. A comparison of the
following data collection methods enabled a reflection on the functioning of
the school.
3.3.3.3 Face to face open ended interviews
Face to face, open-ended interviews with the teachers and the principal were
conducted. An interview is the most prominent data collection tool in
accessing people’s perceptions, meanings, definitions of situations and
construction of reality (Punch 2009). The interview provided a potent way of
understanding others, according to Jones (1985:46)
In order to understand other persons’ construction of reality, we would do well
to ask them… and ask them in such a way that they can tell us in their terms
and in a depth which addresses the rich context that is the substance of their
meaning .
The interviews allowed for sequential interaction between the participants and
I as the researcher. It allowed all the parties involved to deliberate on their
views regarding their interpretation of their social context in relation to the
culture that exists in a township primary school (Cohen et al., 2005). Hence,
face to face open ended interviews were a relevant choice for this study as
they provided in-depth information from which I was able to see the
69
phenomenon of school culture through the eyes of the participants (Barker &
Johnson 1998).
As a researcher, I ensured that attention was given to the participants during
the interviews. I became focused, a good listener and non-judgemental
(Nieuwenhuis 2007). The individual face-to-face open-ended interviews
allowed me to probe the participants in order to access details and acquire a
more elaborate explanation of details. The interview schedules (Appendix F &
G) were used for four Grade 7 teachers and the principal of the school. I
interviewed the participants in a quiet, organised deputy principal’s office to
avoid disturbances. During the introductory stage of the interview process, I
was able to explain to the participants the importance of this research. This
explanation assisted me in winning their confidence during their participation
in the study. The vital data provided by the participants in the interview
sessions determined their perspective on the degree of influence that the
school culture had on the functioning of the school (Yin 2003). The principal
was the first to be interviewed about school culture, followed by the four
Grade 7 teachers. The interviews were recorded on audio tapes to provide an
accurate record of the conversations. Brief notes were also taken to reflect on
what was said during the interviews. This data collection strategy made
participants extremely responsive, and they expressed themselves freely in a
distinctive way. Their responses provided useful and important information to
answer the research question.
Interviews in qualitative research have both advantages and disadvantages.
Some of the advantages are that they provide useful information when one
cannot directly observe participants, and they permit participants to describe
detailed personal information (Creswell 2009). During the interview, the
interviewer has better control over the types of information received, because
the interviewer can ask specific question to elicit the information (Punch
2009).
70
Some of the disadvantages of interviews are that interviews provide only
information filtered through the views of the interviewees (Lichtman, 2010).
Also, similar to observation, interview data may be deceptive and provide the
perspective the interviewee wants the researcher to see (McMillan &
Schumacher 2010). Creswell (2008) indicates that the presence of the
researcher can affect how the interviewee responds during interviews.
However, as a researcher I ensured that I guarded against such limitations.
3.3.3.4 Focus group discussion
Another strategy used to collect data was a focus group discussion. A focus
group discussion is the interaction within a group such that the views of the
participants can emerge through the discussion of a topic supplied by the
researcher (McMillan & Schumacher 2010). According to Cohen et al. (2005),
a focus group is a planned setting, bringing together a specifically chosen
sector of the population to discuss a particular given topic where the
interaction leads to an outcome. The focus group discussion allowed me to
obtain a better understanding via the parents’ personal opinion of the culture
that exists in a primary school.
a. Piloting of the focus group discussion
A pilot study was first conducted to see if a focus group discussion would be a
suitable data collection tool to be used in this study. Five parents of the
selected Grade 7 class from another school formed a voluntary pilot focus
group. They were chosen out of convenience, but also because they could
give insight about the learners’ backgrounds. The focus group consisted of
three women and two men who were parents of the learners. The focus group
discussion was conducted in a staffroom in a semi-circular seating
71
arrangement that allowed participants to freely interact not only with me as a
researcher, but particularly with one another.
b. Focus group discussion
Four parents of the selected Grade 7 learners formed a voluntary focus group.
The parents who participated in the focus group discussion were not the ones
who participated in the pilot study. Four of them were women, three parents
and a grandparent who serve as a guardian. The discussion was also
conducted in the staff room in a semi-circular seating arrangement that
allowed interaction between the participants as well as with me as the
researcher.
During the pilot focus group discussion and the focus group discussion, the
aim of the discussion was to gather in-depth information about the influence of
school culture on learning; I was able to bring out important information from
the group through presenting questions based on codes. During the
introductory stages of the process, I was able to explain the purpose and the
scope of the discussion to the participants in order to win their support. I
requested the participants to give me their names and used nametags to
remember their names. This was useful because it enabled me as the
researcher to call participants who were shy to express their opinions. To
keep the session on track while allowing participants to talk freely and
spontaneously, I used a discussion guide (Appendix H) that listed questions
that served as a road map. The discussion guide allowed me to obtain a
better understanding of school culture through parents’ personal opinions. In
order to facilitate the discussion, I used probe questions without leading the
participants. During the discussion, all the participants were given an
opportunity to participate. An audiotape was used as a resource to record the
data during the focus group discussion, not the pilot study, in order to give an
accurate record of the data presented. I also captured the discussion in
72
writing during the pilot focus group discussion and during the focus group
discussion. It was important to exercise some form of control as a researcher
to ensure that I was attentive to the discussions and that I could access the
data that was relevant.
A focus group discussion, as with any source of data collection tool, has
advantages and disadvantages. It was imperative to take into consideration
that group dynamics and group interactions can influence the facts acquired
because the participants feel free from anxiety in disclosing information as
they were in a group situation (Cohen et al. 2005). Gay et al. (2009) indicate
that one of the disadvantages of focus group discussions is that they are time
consuming. I allocated more time to this in order to get shared understanding
that emerged from the discussion.
3.3.3.5 Observation
According to Creswell (2007), observation is the process of gathering openended, first-hand information by observing people and places at a research
site. Observation as a source of data collection gave me the opportunity to
gather live data because I looked at what was taking place in a specific
situation. The goal of observation in qualitative research is to assist the
researcher in learning different viewpoints held by a target group (Creswell
2009). This enabled me as a researcher to understand the context of the
programme and to see things that might be unconsciously missed, as well as
to record interesting aspects of the session on an observation sheet as they
occurred.
In this study, non-participant observation of the selected class of grade 7
learners was used to assist in understanding and interpreting cultural
behaviour during teaching and learning at a distance. The observations
occurred in four different sessions during the Maths, Home language, English,
73
and Natural Science periods. These were learning areas taught by the
participating four teachers in the study. Each observation session was
recorded on the designed observation sheet (Appendix I) to help determine
the behaviour of the learners by focusing on actions, dialogue, the work given
and how they interacted with the teacher. During and after the observation, I
recorded descriptive and reflective field notes. This assisted me as a
researcher not only to record what I saw during the observation but also to
give my reflection on what had occurred.
As a form of data collection, observation has both advantages and
disadvantages. The advantages of observations include the opportunity to
record information as it occurs in a setting, to study actual behaviour, and to
study individuals who have difficulty in verbalising their ideas (Punch 2009).
Creswell (2009) indicates that the disadvantage of observations is that
sometimes you will be limited to the sites and situations, and have difficulty in
developing a rapport with the participant. Observation in a setting requires
good listening skills and careful attention to visual detail (Mouton 2001).
Observations also require management of issues such as the potential
deception created by people being observed. The initial awkwardness of
being an outsider without initial personal support in a setting (Hammerly &
Atkinson 1995) is a challenge with regard to observation. However, with
regard to my study, I was able to conduct observations in such a way that I
recorded information as it occurred.
3.3.3.6 Learners' drawings of school culture
While language-based strategies have long dominated the spectrum of
communication research, a new range of non-textual strategies is gradually
emerging as an alternative and highly versatile way of collecting data
(McMillan & Schumacher 2010). According to McMillan and Schumacher
(2010), artifact collection is a non-interactive strategy for obtaining qualitative
74
data with little or no reciprocity between the researcher and the participants.
In this study participatory drawing was used as another method of collecting
data. According to Singhal and Rattine-Flaherty (2006), participatory drawing
is a quality visual research method that is authentic, non textual, and one that
activates the performative dimensions of image making. Through the process
of visual conceptualisation, and the reflective discussion of these images in
the context of their production, participants were given an expressive channel
to voice their inner stories as well as an active and empowering stake in the
research study (Literat 2013).
In this study, the selected Grade 7 class was given 30 minutes after normal
contact time with their teachers to make drawings. In order to obtain the best
information, learners were asked to draw things that make them happy and
also sad about their school. The drawn images served as a metaphor for
complex emotions, perceptions and identities (Gauntlett 2007) and depicted
internal realities. A drawing guideline (Appendix J) with instructions was used
to guide the learners when drawing. Learners were requested to make use of
a pencil, eraser and a clean page when drawing. No restrictions on the
number of pictures were given. The drawings served as additional information
in order to enrich the understanding of the central phenomenon and to provide
information about school culture as experienced by the learners.
One of the greatest advantages of drawings is their playful nature,
inexpensiveness and the ease with which this strategy can be implemented.
This data collection tool is suitable to work with children and youth across a
variety of backgrounds and cultural contexts (McMillan et al. 2010). The other
advantage of drawings is that they enhance the communication between the
researcher and the learners by providing further insight into the children’s
perspectives. This method also describes people’s experience, knowledge,
actions and values. The disadvantage is that it is less reactive in that the
researcher does not extract the evidence.
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3.3.4 Data analysis: Qualitative content analysis
According to Mc Millan and Schumacher (2010), qualitative data analysis
involves working with data, organising it, breaking it into manageable units,
synthesising it, searching for patterns, discovering what is important and what
is to be learned and deciding what, as a researcher, you will tell others. In this
study, qualitative content analysis was used as an approach to analyse and
interpret data inductively. There are numerous interpretations and definitions
regarding content analysis. Different authors define content analysis as
follows:
Content analysis is a method used to determine the content of written,
recorded, or published communications via a systematic, objective procedure.
Thus, it is a set of procedures for collecting and organising information in a
standard format that allows analysts to draw inferences about the
characteristics and meaning of recorded material.
Bryman (2001) defines content analysis as a technique for making inferences
by objectively and systematically identifying specified characteristics of the
message. Mayer (2002) defines qualitative content analysis as an approach
that is empirical, methodological, controlled analysis of texts within their
context of communication, following content analytical rules and systematic
models, and without rash quantification. All the definitions emphasise the
objective, systematic inferences of content analysis. Content analysis was
used to analyse the transcribed data from the individual interviews with the
teachers and the principal, observation of the learners, the focus group
discussion with the parents and the learners’ drawings of their perception of
school culture. In table 3.3, the demographic information of the participants’ is
summarised:
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Table 3.3 Demographic information of the participants
Principal
Principal (P)
- Male
- 25 years of
experience
Teachers
Teacher 1 (T1)
Female, teaching Natural
science with 4 years’
experience
Teacher 2 (T2)
Male, teaching Home
language with 11 years’
experience
Teacher 3 (T3)
Female, teaching First
Additional Language
(English) with 5 years’
experience
Parents
Parents:(pilot)
P1 - female
P2 – female
P3 - male
P4 – female
P5 - male
learners
68
Grade
learners
33 – boys
35 - girls
7
Parents (FGD)
P1 - female
P2 - female
P3 - female
P4 - female
Teacher 4 (T4)
Male, teaching
Mathematics, with 7 years
of experience
Table 3.3 represents the demographic information of the participants of the
study. The information of participants include gender and teaching experience
as well as the speciality areas of the teachers.
To enable a comprehensive analysis of the data during this study, it was
necessary for manual procedures to be executed since the data analysis was
an on-going process. I started with qualitative content analysis at an early
stage of data collection. This early involvement in the analysis phase assisted
me in moving back and forth between concepts in order to guide my data
analysis, which addressed the research questions (Miles & Huberman 1994).
This assisted me during the initial interviews with less experienced teachers. I
realised that both teachers were often hesitant to mention certain aspects.
Creswell (2007) calls this a Data Analysis Spiral. It enabled me to move in
77
analytic circles in order to identify gaps that had to be filled later on in the
analysis of the data.
The transcribed data from the interviews, pilot and focus group discussions,
observations, and learners’ drawings of their perception of school culture were
analysed inductively. The data were read and reread in order to make sense
out of them. I identified text segments, key words, phrases and sentences
from the data that transmitted the same meaning and assigned the code word
or phrase at the margin of that word or phrase. According to Creswell (2007),
coding is the process of segmenting and labelling text to form categories.
Codes are assigned to specific areas of interest in the transcribed data that
appear to give answers to my research question. After coding all the data, I
collapsed the codes to form categories. The categories resulted from groups
of codes that were assigned to different parts of the transcriptions to reveal
symbols, descriptive words, or unique names relating to broad themes. After
identifying the themes, I analysed them considering all the transcribed data
from the different data collection tools. It was during this stage that the data
were interpreted.
Content analysis has advantages and disadvantages. According to Mouton
(2002), content analysis is advantageous because it is a very transparent
method that can be referred to as an objective method of analysis. It also
allows the researcher to make track changes frequently over time and has no
reactive effect. It is a highly flexible method as it can be applied to a wide
variety of unstructured information. Lastly, it also allows information to be
generated about social groups that are difficult to access. Mouton (2002) also
points out a number of disadvantages regarding content analysis, namely:
that it poses reliability and validity problems and that it can be challenged as
too subjective. It can be also costly and time consuming. Cohen and Manion
(1995) indicate that another disadvantage of content analysis is that it is
78
limited to the examination of recorded communications which can be oral,
written and graphical.
3.4 Ethical Issues
The study did not commence until permission was granted by the Ethics
Committee of the Faculty of Education, University of Pretoria. I adhered to the
University of Pretoria’s policy on ethical issues. The Gauteng Department of
Education was also contacted to seek permission to conduct research at the
research site. Consent was received from the school governing body,
principal, teachers, parents and the Grade 7 learners. (Appendix A, B, C, D
and E).
I respected the participants and the research site and ensured that the
research I conducted was not harmful to the participants. Any individual
participating in the research had a reasonable expectation of privacy and
anonymity. In this study, no identifying information about the participants was
revealed in written or verbal communication. The information provided during
this study was treated with confidentiality and the participants were assured
that any information given during this study would not be given to anyone else
but would only be used for the purpose of the research.
At the beginning of each data collection session, the purpose of conducting
the research, the processes to be carried out when conducting the research
and the assurance that strict confidentiality were applied to protect the
anonymity of the participants were explained. I also ensured that there was no
intrusiveness with regard to their time, their space, and their personal lives
during the research.
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3.5 Quality criteria of the research
In this study, the quality of data was measured by the trustworthiness of the
research,
member
checking,
triangulation,
and
dependability.
These
qualitative concepts assisted throughout the process of data collection and
data analysis to ensure that the findings and interpretations were accurate.
3.5.1 Trustworthiness
According to Boudah (2011), trustworthiness is how the researcher convinces
the audience that the findings described are credible and provides findings
and conclusions that are appropriate and fully developed. The emphasis of
trustworthiness is on the concept of credibility, which is establishing the truthvalue of the study. In this study, in order to determine credibility, I sought to
investigate what the study was designed to study. According to Gay et al.
(2009), the concept of credibility ensures the ability to take into account all of
the complexities that present themselves in the study and to deal with
patterns that are not easily explained. Boudah (2011) explains that the
credibility of qualitative research depends on the credibility of the researcher
and the credibility of the methods and the findings.
3.5.1.1 Credibility of the research
To ensure the credibility of the research, I entered the research site
respectfully, made participants feel comfortable, collected, and analysed data
meticulously, and provided the findings and the recommendations (Patton,
2002). I also considered all personal and professional information that may
have affected data collection, data analysis, and interpretation either
negatively or positively. Credibility was also ensured by taking the diverse
realities and subjective experiences of the research participants into
80
consideration. The next section provides a discussion of the credibility of the
methods and findings.
3.5.1.2 Credibility of methods and findings
Once the credibility of the researcher is established, the credibility of the
methods chosen must be addressed. The research methods chosen for the
study must fit the research question (Lincoln & Cuba 1985). In order for the
research methods to fit the research question, the following four aspects were
considered as mentioned by Boudah (2011).
a. Truth value
The first item of concern regarding the credibility of methods and findings is
that of truth-value. One question may be asked, “how does a researcher
establish that the description given is one of truth” (Marshall & Rossman
1995: pg 95) To address this question as a researcher, I ensured that multiple
perspectives were used over a period. Multiple perspectives are a prolonged
engagement, where as a researcher I stayed in the context of the study for an
extended period. The other perspective is persistent observation where I
conducted observations consistently and of sufficient duration. The last is
peer debriefing where as a researcher I always reviewed data with
participants to fill the identified gaps.
b. Applicability
Another way that the credibility of methods and findings can be enhanced is
by applicability. In qualitative research, researchers do not generally conduct
research for the purpose of broad generalisation. Therefore, in this study, I
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included rich description of every aspect of the study to understand the
situation in detail.
c. Consistency
Boudah (2011) indicates that consistency also enhances the credibility of
methods and findings. In qualitative methodology, consistency means that the
researcher could come to conclusions similar to those of the original study of
the culture that exists in the primary school even, if the means by which they
do so are not identical. For me as a researcher giving consistency, a rich
description of the data collection and analysis was required to evaluate the
consistency of the study.
d. Conformability
Conformability takes place when the researcher has identified an acceptable
process of conducting the inquiry so that the findings are consistent. In this
study, to determine conformability, I was neutral and objective when collecting
(Punch 2009).
3.5.2. Dependability
Dependability was also considered in this research to determine quality.
Dependability is when one looks to see if the researcher has been careless or
made mistakes in conceptualising the study, collecting data, interpreting the
findings and reporting the results.
A major technique for assessing dependability is the dependability audit, in
which the data is recorded as an audit trail in field notes to see how well the
82
techniques for meeting the credibility and transferability standards have been
followed. If the researcher does not maintain any kind of audit trail, the
dependability cannot be assessed and therefore the dependability and
trustworthiness of the study are diminished.
As a researcher, I ensured that I was logical in selecting participants and
events and used audio taping to observe, interview, and discuss. My
supervisors also assisted in making sure that I conceptualised the study,
collected data, interpreted the findings, and at the end, gave the results. I also
used triangulation to determine quality.
3.5.3 Triangulation
Another way of determining quality in this study is the use of triangulation.
Cohen and Manion (1994) define triangulation as the use of two or more
methods of data collection in the study of some aspect of human behaviour.
In this study, the type of triangulation used was methodological triangulation
where different data collection tools were used to determine the culture that
exists in the township primary school. I used triangulation since it is at the
heart of the intention of the case study worker to respond to the multiplicity of
the perspectives present in a social situation. One of the greatest
disadvantages of triangulation in qualitative research is that there is no
absolute guarantee that a number of data sources that purport to provide
evidence concerning the same construction can do so. Member checking is
the last quality criteria used in this research.
3.5.4 Member Checking
Boudah (2011) defines member checking as a potent way to establish
credibility. In member checking, I as a researcher reviewed the patterns,
characteristics, analysis, interpretations, and conclusions. I also checked with
83
my supervisors to confirm or deny any ideas that emerged in this study.
Again, I consulted with the participants to see if there was a portion where I
needed clarity. Of course, there are difficulties experienced in member
checking. Participants may be wary of how interpretations are to be used or
about what they may say. However, these situations maybe overcome by
prolonged engagement.
My research strived to present an accurate illustration of the culture that exists
in a township primary school and was enhanced by the use of audio
recordings of individual interviews and focus group discussions, observation
notes, and learners’ drawings of their perception of school culture.
3.6 Conclusion
Throughout this chapter, the research design and research methodology used
were outlined. The study was underpinned by an interpretivist paradigm in
order to understand subjective world of human experience. The research
strategy chosen for this study was the case study design.
A qualitative research approach was chosen and together with this approach,
phenomenological research was employed. The research techniques used for
this study were individual interviews with the teachers and the principal,
observation of a selected Grade 7 class, a pilot focus group discussion, and a
focus group discussion with selected Grade 7 class parents, and the learners’
drawings. This ensured the trustworthiness of the study. Ethical guidelines
were also adhered to in order to ensure the confidentiality of the participants.
The next chapter deals with the analysis of the results.
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CHAPTER 4
DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS
______________________________________________________________
4.1 Introduction
In chapter 3, I clarified the research design for this empirical study on the
culture that exists in a township primary school. I explained how the research
design was used to provide answers to the research questions and explained
the important features related to the design and the methodology employed.
In this chapter, I offer a description of the data that I collected during the
fieldwork at a township primary school in the Gauteng province of South
Africa. The data were collected using
interviews with the principal and
teachers, a pilot focus group and a focus group with the parents, class
observations, and learners’ drawings of their experience of the school culture.
Three levels of analysis were used to answer the research question: How
does school culture impact the functioning of a township primary school and
the sub-questions, determining how the principal's, teachers’, parents' and
learners' perceptions, beliefs and attitudes of the school culture influence the
functioning of the school.
4.2 Levels of analysis
The main findings of the study were reached using three levels of analysis.
The results of the findings showed a negative culture existing in the school.
The first level of analysis addressed the themes and categories that were
derived from the codes and which indicated how each participant viewed the
culture of the school. The second analysis compared the categories or
85
themes against what can be found in the literature The last level of analysis
considered the results of the study in light of the conceptual framework. The
conceptual framework was informed by critical theory, and two models of
school culture (Bushnell 2003; Leithwood et al. 2006).
4.2.1 First level of analysis: Categories
In order to respond to the research question, I utilised a process of coding and
collapsed all the codes into categories or themes. This process allowed me to
create defining patterns from the transcripts of the data collection tools: the
interviews with the principal and the Grade 7 teachers, the focus group
discussions with the parents, the observation of the learners during teaching
and learning, and the learners’ drawings of the culture of their school. The
categories that were identified were (i) leadership of the principal, (ii) the
roles of teachers in teaching and learning, (iii) the role of parents in the
education of their children, (iv) social factors, and (v) learner behaviour. The
following abbreviations will be used to refer to the participants: Principal is
represented by P, teachers are represented by T1,T2,T3 and T4 and parents
are represented by P1, P2, P3, and P4.
4.2.1.1 Category 1: The leadership of the principal
This category is based on how the principal leads and manages the school.
During the interview with the principal, he described his leadership as one that
promotes good working relationships within all the structures of the school: “A
good working relationship is one that promote team work, where teachers are
encouraged to work as a team to promote teaching and learning” (P). The
principal also indicated that he usually motivates and supports the teachers
who work under stressful situations: “Teachers work under stressful situations.
I always motivate them to boost their morale” (P). Lastly, the principal
explained the importance of effective communication among all members of
86
the school organisational structures. He highlighted that he promoted
teamwork, motivation and effective communication as part of his leadership.
4.2.1.1.1 Team work
Regarding teamwork, the principal viewed himself as one who promotes
teamwork among teachers in order to achieve a common goal. He gave an
example where teachers worked as a team to register the learners with a
radio programme called Rhivingo. He stressed that such radio programmes
motivated learners to express themselves in English and promoted teamwork
among teachers. He commented:
I always motivate teachers to work as a team… this helps teachers to know
that any achievement is for the whole team, not for an individual. It also
reduces competition amongst teachers.
There was no consensus in the teachers’ responses on the issue of
teamwork. T1 and T3 who are less experience teachers viewed teamwork as
ineffective: “Teamwork is not effective as some of the teachers who have
been in service were not willing to help, especially with the resources needed”
(T1). On the other hand, T2 and T4, who are experienced teachers,
highlighted that they worked as a team with their colleaguesas they planned
for lessons and class activities: “… there is team work among us as teachers,
we plan and share the ideas together” (T4). Although T4 indicated that
teamwork existed amongst teachers, his main concern was teamwork
between management and teachers. He indicated that there was no team
work between management and teachers as the former often took decisions
without informing the teachers: “I do not have a problem in working together
with other teachers, my problem is with the management of the school.
Teamwork does not exist among us as teachers and management as they
take decisions without even involving teachers” (T4).
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4.2.1.1.2 Motivation
Another factor that the principal described as promoting work relationships
was motivation. The principal indicated that he motivated the learner’s parents
by allowing them to take part in their children’s education through attending
meetings and volunteering in whatever activity they could help with, for
example helping in sports, assisting in the feeding scheme, cleaning classes
and most importantly, assisting learners with their school work. He added, “I
always motivate parents to take part in the education of their children, but they
are not willing to do what is right for their children” (P). However, during the
focus group discussion with the parents, none of them mentioned ever being
motivated by the principal. The principal also mentioned that the teachers
seemed motivated since they worked very hard. He mentioned that even if
there were no incentives given to them, gestures like appreciation through
talking to the teachers was positive motivation, “teachers need to be
motivated, to say a word like thank you really motivate the teachers” (P). He
believed that his motivational talks kept the teachers going and served as
support in the production of good results. Again, none of the teachers
mentioned ever being motivated by the principal.
During the class observation of the Grade 7 learners, T4 motivated learners
on the importance of doing their Maths homework: “It is important to do
homework in order to excel in the subject” (T4). He mentioned the importance
of doing homework because there were learners who had not done their
Maths homework in his class. The teacher motivated the learners in a way
that their reaction towards him appeared positive. I observed that the learners
all listened attentively when he was teaching. Such learner motivation did not
only serve to inspire the learners but also displayed the teacher’s leadership
qualities (observation of T4 lesson).
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4.2.1.1.3 Effective communication
The principal described effective communication as another way of promoting
working relationships within the school. The principal explained that he
communicated effectively with all school stakeholders, for example teachers,
parents, the Department of Education and Non-governmental organisations,
to promote effective teaching and learning in the school. He mentioned, “As a
principal I promote effective communication with all stake holders which are
the parents, the department, and non-organisational structures to promote
teaching and learning” (P). However, he complained that when he
communicated with parents, they remained unresponsive. The teachers also
complained about the communication between themselves and the parents.
All the stakeholders, which is, the parents, teachers, and the principal blamed
each other for the lack of communication. All the four teachers mentioned that
when they communicated with the parents, the parents were unresponsive.
Parents who participated in the pilot and focus group discussions complained
about the lack of teacher-parent communication, which they believed was
caused by the negative attitudes displayed by teachers, “Sometimes as
parents we are afraid to communicate with the teachers because of their bad
attitude that they displayed to us” (P2 and P3). None of the parents from the
pilot and focus group discussion mentioned the principal as a promoter of
effective
communication
as
they
focused
more
on
parent-teacher
communication. The next category discusses the role of teachers in teaching
and learning.
4.2.1.2 Category 2: The roles of teachers in teaching and learning
During the interviews with the teachers, they identified their roles as teachers
very clearly: “My role as a teacher is to teach learners” (T1, T2, T3, and T4).
The four teachers mentioned that their primary role was to teach learners.
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This was also supported by most of the learners’ drawings in which 48 out of
61 learners’ drawings showed the pictures of teachers teaching. The learners’
pictures indicated that teaching and learning were taking place.
Teachers believe that their role is to prepare learners for a better future. T3,
one of the Home Language teachers, mentioned that most of the township
school learners experienced problems in reading and writing, especially in
their mother tongue: “Most of our learners do not know how to read and write,
my aim is to help learners develop writing and reading skills in order to
become better citizens of their country” (T3). T4 suggested that teachers
should not allow bad behaviour displayed by learners to disturb them while
teaching: T4 also viewed discipline as the most important factor in teaching
and felt that all teachers should have strong disciplinary methods. This was
evident during my classroom observation of T4 as he exercised discipline in a
way that made learners very cooperative. In most of my observation sessions
with the other teachers, a lack of learners’ discipline was evident. Figure 4 is
a learner’s drawing showing teaching and learning in the classroom:
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Figure 4.1: Learners’ drawings of teaching and learning
The drawing included as figure 4.1 is an example among many drawn by the
learners of an indication that teaching and learning are taking place, and
learners appreciated work done by their teachers. The picture shows learners
listening attentively during a Maths lesson by T4. Even though the drawing is
about the Maths classroom, the learner wrote on the drawing that the teacher
91
taught them how to write and read. Literacy skills, such as writing and
reading, normally occur in other learning areas as well. This is an indication
that the drawing acknowledges teachers in all learning areas.
Generally, when teachers are appointed, it is assumed that they will carry out
the duties that they are appointed for, namely, to teach the learners. However,
one of the parents who participated in the study was unsure whether teaching
was actually taking place in the classroom, as naturally they were unable to sit
in during the lessons to see the classroom process for themselves: “I do not
believe teachers are teaching our children because of their attitude” (P1).
Other parents believed that teaching was taking place, despite the lack of
communication between them and the teachers. One of the parents explained
it as follows: “We assume that teachers are doing their job because we are
not with them when they are teaching our children” (P2). Again, this was
evident during the Maths period where the learners were disciplined and
focused. When the teacher asked questions, they responded by raising their
hands. There was teacher-learner interaction and the learners were motivated
to take part in the class discussion. However, during the English and Natural
Sciences periods, the same learners who behaved during the Maths period
now behaved differently as they made a lot of noise during the lessons.
Teacher-learner interaction was limited in T3
class room and she
kept
cautioning the learners by saying “You are making noise, hey! Keep quiet”
(T3) which did not yield a positive response.
The principal further explained the importance of other roles such as teaching
learners outside the classroom: “A teacher’s role is to teach, give pastoral
care, motivate learners in and outside the class, mentor and develop them
with regard to extra-mural activities and lastly equip learners with skills of life”
(P). However, P3, during the focus group discussion, was concerned about
the extra-mural activities that took place on Wednesdays. She explained that
92
teachers were not playing any role during these activities; instead learners
roamed freely around the playground without any supervision which resulted
in the learners hurting each other:
“I have got a problem with the sports day, according to my experience
teachers are doing nothing, learners are playing by themselves and they hurt
one another. They waste our children’s time of teaching and learning” (P2).
The principal felt strongly that, although the role of teachers is to teach
learners, teaching learners morals is not the role or responsibility of the
teachers and the principal, but the sole responsibility of the parents. He posit
that:
Parents must teach learners morals. We teach learners how to read and write
but teaching learners morals is the responsibility of parents. Learners must
understand from home that they are not supposed to steal or damage
property… they must respect other learners, the school property and their
teachers.
Although there is an assumption by parents that learning is taking place, the
type of learning may not be effective. This is due to disturbances in the
classroom where learners make a lot of noise, or disturbances from outside
the classroom where for example, the principal calls an urgent meeting during
the learners’ contact time:
“When we teach, there are many disturbances, for example the principal can
call a so called urgent meeting and, again learners who are problematic
cause the disturbance during teaching” (T2).
This forms part of the challenges faced by teachers, which is discussed in the
next section.
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4.2.1.2.1 The teaching challenges faced by teachers
This category is based on the challenges faced by Grade 7 teachers during
teaching and learning. The challenges mentioned by the teachers who
participated in this study were lack of support from management and the
department with regard to curriculum knowledge, lack of formal training,
limited allocation of time, lack of resources, and learners with learning
barriers.
During the interview with the principal, he mentioned that most of the teachers
needed counselling because they worked under stressful circumstances: “You
know what Mam, most of our teachers need counselling, they work under
stressful situation, and they need to be supported” (P). The teachers also
provided reasons for the stressful circumstances that included lack of support
from management and the Department of Education. Despite the fact that the
principal described his leadership style as motivating and communicative, the
teachers complained about lack of motivation and support from the
department and the principal to assist them in the delivery of the new
curriculum. The teachers mentioned this in all of the interviews. They
complained that since 1994, the curriculum has been changed many times
and this has caused confusion in their teaching. T2 was of the opinion that
changes in the curriculum de-motivated them, as they were not sure what was
expected of them in conveying the curriculum to learners:
As teachers we are confused in the delivery of the curriculum. First it was
OBE then it was RNCS 2 and now CAPS 3… changing the curriculum every
time is a problem because at the end of the day you know nothing … (T2).
2
3
RNCS - Revised National Curriculum Statement
CAPS - Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement
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The teachers also complained about changes in the curriculum and also felt
that the non-availability and limited resources contributed toward the
ineffective implementation of the curriculum. Their experience with regard to
curriculum implementation was that there were not enough resources to assist
them during teaching and learning: “All of the language resources were
written in English, not in Venda” (T3). T3 indicated that it was the neverending responsibility of the teacher to convert the content from English to
Venda and this was time-consuming and frustrating. T2 indicated that the lack
of resources forced teachers to combine classes in order to use available
resources to help learners: “As teachers we experience shortage of resources
and this forced us to combine classes in order to use available resources”
(T2). The combination of classes resulted in over-crowding of learners, which
made teaching and learning ineffective: “The non-delivery of other resources,
delayed the use of available resources, for example learners cannot use
workbooks if there is no teachers’ guide to assist the teacher” (T4).
A lack of formal training in the teaching of the curriculum is another challenge
faced by the teachers: “If the department and the principal had organised
enough time for workshops and in-service training, the teachers could have
acquired the necessary knowledge and skills to implement the curriculum”
(T4). All the teachers expressed concern that adequate time was needed for
workshops and training in order for them to be conversant with the curriculum:
“… as a teacher you cannot excel in the delivery of a new curriculum if you
have only attended a 3 days’ workshop” (T1); “we have been trained as
professional teachers for three years but the department wants to train us for
3 days! That is impossible” (T4).
Although the teachers did not directly link learner behaviour to their stressful
circumstances, it may be a strong contributing factor as all of the teachers
complained throughout their interviews about the bad behaviour displayed by
the learners: “Learners with learning barriers are learners with behavioural
95
problems” (all teachers). All four teachers blamed management for not
channelling learners who experience learning barriers to special schools. T2
indicated that most of the learners experience problems in reading and
writing. T3 agreed with T2 by stating that 75% of the Grade 7 learners showed
behavioural problems during teaching and learning: “Referral of learners with
learning barriers should take place when learners are in lower grades” (T3
and T2).
4.2.1.2.2 Teacher behaviour and attitude within the school
The attitude of teachers towards their work, colleagues, learners, and parents
is another contributing factor that influences school culture negatively.
Although learners’ drawings showed that teachers are working, and some
parents believe that teachers are doing their work, the principal’s view on this
is that not all teachers are committed to their work: “Teachers are salary
collectors since teaching is not a priority to them but only a second career
option” (P). The principal also complained that most of the teachers were
latecomers who showed no passion for their work. The principal felt so
strongly about this that he suggested the retrenchment of teachers who are
not committed to the profession: “… train young and committed teachers who
are willing to work… retrain teachers who are employable and who have
passion to work as a teacher and give voluntary packages to those who are
unwilling to work” (P). T2 agreed with the principal that some teachers were
always late for school. It became a problem in learner discipline because both
learners and teachers are always late.
Another concern, which emerged from the interviews, was that the teachers
did not support one another as colleagues:
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“There are teachers who are more informed than others (especially those
with more teaching experience), however, they are selfish and do not want to
share useful information that they had attained” (T1).
She specifically referred to their teaching materials and resources, which had
been accumulated over time. T4 was concerned about discipline in the
classroom. He indicated that collegiality should have been seen the
willingness for teachers to help one another, for instance in the event where a
teacher is absent from school. He however revealed that teachers would
rather have conversations in the staffroom than add value to the disciplinary
system of the school: “When a teacher is absent, it is important for other
teachers to keep discipline in that class” (T4).
“Teachers’ behaviour contributed towards a poor teacher-parent relationship”
(P1, P2, P3, P4). The parents indicated that teachers utter statements that
affected learners’ emotionally. Another alarming consensus point was
complaints about corporal punishment. Most of the parents’ views and the
learners’ drawings confirmed that the antiquated system of corporal
punishment was still being used as a means of discipline in the school, which
is reflected in figure 4.2:
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Figure 4.2: Corporal punishment of learners by teachers
98
The drawing in figure 4.2 shows that teachers at the sampled school still
used corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure. From the learner’s
drawing it is clear that teachers disciplined learners using corporal
punishment. Some of the parents and learners even reported teachers to the
police. One of the parents felt strongly about the use of corporal punishment
and she suggested that they are other ways of disciplining: “As parents we do
not have any problem with disciplinary action by the teachers, but not corporal
punishment” (P3). However T3 and T4 complained about the behaviour of the
parents: “Parents do not understand their parental role as they (parents) only
come to school if something bad had happened to their children” (T3 and T4).
The next category considers the role of parents in the education of their
children.
4.2.1.3 Category 3: The role of parents
This category is based on the role of parents in the education of their children
and how parents could support the school through involving themselves in
school activities. Parents said, “Our responsibility as parents is to support and
assist our children with their school work” (P1 and P3). Despite knowing the
responsibility of assisting their children with their homework, the parents
admitted that they experienced challenges in doing that.
4.2.1.3.1 Challenges faced by parents
While the teachers complained about parents who were not responsive, the
parents responded by indicating the challenges that they experienced which
affected their participation in the education of their children. Curriculum
knowledge was not only a problem to the teachers, but also to the parents.
P3, during the focus group discussion, explained that teachers should not
blame them if they did not assist their children with schoolwork. She was of
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the opinion that the school should train them as parents so that when they
assist their children, they know as parents what is expected of them:
I always wanted to assist my child with schoolwork, but I do not know where
to start. I need teachers to train us as parents first before I can assist my
child. I do not understand the curriculum. My child will never believe in me if
he performed poor from the work I assisted him with. Please let teachers
assist us first so that we will be in a position to assist our children.
This was supported by P1 (a grandparent): “It is difficult for me as a
grandmother to assist my child because I do not understand the learners’
work.” The only support that she gave her grandchild was to sit with her at the
table when she did her homework. This was also confirmed by the previous
drawing where the learner explained that there was no one at home to assist
him with his schoolwork.
Some of the parents complained about lack of resources: “I can read and
write but the school do not provide us with resources to support our children”
(P2). She explained that sometimes learners shared the workbook (activity
book), and they stay far away from one-another. If the child did not finish
his/her homework at school, s/he would be forced to complete it the next
morning when the learner who had the book arrived at school with the
workbook. She further explained about projects that needed resources. As
parents, they are expected to buy the resources in order for their children to
do the project: “The resources are expensive and most of us as parents, we
are unemployed” (P3). P4’s concern was about the amount of homework
given to learners: “Our children are doing more than six subjects and each
teacher gives them homework every day. Children were unable to finish all
the homework” (P4). She suggested that teachers should reflect on the
amount of homework to be given to learners per day.
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P4 was concerned about her child who is a slow learner a situation that she
has accepted. She noted that “As a parent, the problem that I am faced with is
that the teacher always requested “clever” learners to teach my child” (P4).
She explained that this resulted in competent learners teasing her child for not
being able to read and write. She suggested that teachers should have time
for remedial programmes for slow learners: “Teachers must organise remedial
classes to assist slow learners and not to allow other learners to teach
learners with learning barriers” (P4).
P3 also complained about the monetary contributions they made toward the
purchase of cleaning materials. She explained that during parents’ meetings,
the principal requested parents to contribute R10.00 every month for the
purchase of cleaning equipment. Her concern was that the teachers also
requested money for cleaning equipment from their learners. She explained
that they were frustrated with the way they were required to contribute money:
“The money for the cleaning equipment do not reflect in the annual financial
statement of the school” (P2). Her advice was that all of the money
contributed by the parents must appear on the financial statement so that they
would know how the money was utilised.
P4’s concern was about stationery, he explained that throughout the year, the
school requested stationery from the parents:
As parents, we do not have a problem in buying the stationery required by the
school. My problem is, in the middle of the year there are no shops around
the location that sell stationery. Let the school request us to buy the stationery
that will be used for the whole year at the beginning of the year.
Another challenge experienced by the parents was their own work situation.
Three of the parents explained that a contributing factor to their poor
relationship with the teachers was their own time-consuming work that
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resulted in insufficient time to visit the teachers. They described their work as
a challenging factor that sometimes prevented them from attending parents’
meetings. However, P3 indicated that in spite of the work demands of most
parents, they were still unwilling to attend meetings organised by the school
because of an uncaring and irresponsible attitude stemming from the belief
that the school carried the sole responsibility for the education of their
children. She mentions that:
I always attend parents meeting. Most of the parents did not attend parents
meetings even if the school organise the meetings on Saturday or at night.
They do not care about the education of their children. The only time for the
school to see parents is at the end of the year when they collect learners’
reports.
This was supported by P2, who added that she had developed a good
relationship with her child’s teachers. Working together with the school and
with the teachers helped her to understand her child’s progress: “I always
communicate with the teachers about my child’s progress. The teacher-parent
contact is effective and this helps me as a parent to have time to help my
child with her school work” (P2).
“Teachers are not doing their job because they are affiliated with unions
(South African Democratic Teachers Union)” (P3). The parent believed that
teachers who were affiliated with unions are at times involved in strike action.
The parent furthered her argument that the teachers’ children are attending
former model C schools which are not affected by strike action, resulting in
teaching that is more effective. She emphasised that teaching is a calling not
what she sees with most teachers who are only concerned with the raise in
salary and not with teaching the learners. All five parents were of the opinion
that the Department of Education should organise school inspectors to come
and visit the teachers during class hours to check if teaching and learning
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were effective: “If teaching at a township school is effective, the teachers
would allow their own children to attend township schools” (P2 and P3). They
believed that this would force them to teach because they would be teaching
their own children. Teachers also had the experience of working with parents,
which is explained in the next section.
4.2.1.3.2 Experience of the teachers and the principal with regard to
parental involvement
According to the teachers and the principal, most of the learners’ parents
were hardly involved in the education of their children. The principal explained
that the absence of parents in their childres’ education meant that there was
no one at home monitoring their progress. The principal described the
involvement of parents as minimal and that most parents shifted their
responsibilities as parents to teachers in the school:
…there are parents who care about their children and those who do not care
at all. Most parents come to school at the end of the year to collect their
children’s reports. Once they sent their children to school, they believe it is
the responsibility of the school to take over. Most parents do not care about
the development of their children. When you call them to discuss the progress
of their children, they just disappear.
All four teachers agreed with the principal that, from their experience, most of
the learners’ parents were not willing to work with them to promote the
education of their children. The teachers believed that learning takes place at
home and at school, and that the teachers must work with the parents. When
teachers assign homework, they believe that it is the responsibility of the
parents to make sure that they assist the learners at home. “Sometimes as a
teacher, one realises that the learner needs support” (T2). Despite teacher
support, parents were reluctant to actively create learning opportunities for
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their children. “It is impossible for me to present extra lessons to help learners
as the parents did not organise transport for learners” (T2).
Most of the teachers agreed that the lack of relationship and trust between
teachers and parents results in bad behaviour of learners: “There is no
mechanism in place to solve the problem between the parents and the
teachers” (T4). Instead, the parents criticized the teachers in front of the
learners or reported the teacher to the police. This corresponds with the
principal’s view that learners’ primary education should start at home with
parents teaching and taking responsibility for the morals.
During the interviews with both the principal and the teachers, it was
mentioned that most of the parents did not attend parents’ meetings
organised by the school. The principal confirmed that even after trying to use
different communication techniques most of the parents still did not attend the
meetings. T2 described the communication between parents and teachers as
one-sided and he commented:
“We communicate with them through letters, invite them to school, and give
them their school reports at the end of the term. The problem is that learners’
parents always have excuses to attend the meetings.
The principal, teachers and parents confirmed that there was no working
relationships among them, they all voiced a strong need to meet regularly to
discuss the progress and the challenges experienced by their children. They
believe that such meetings may result in fewer behavioural problems and, as
a result, there might be an improvement in the learners’ academic
performance. However, there are social factors that prevent the parents from
getting involved in the school.
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4.2.1.4 Category 4: Social factors
The principal mentioned that social factors such as illiteracy and
unemployment sometimes deprived parents from being involved in the
education of their children: “As parents we are unable to assist our children
with their homework because we are not educated” (P1, P3, and P5). The
parents’ unemployment status resulted in them being unable to buy resources
needed by the school. One of the parents was very concerned about the
money needed for the resources, as most of them were unemployed. Another
alarming social factor is families headed by older children because of parent
mortality. The principal explained that there are families in which both parents
had passed away because of HIV/AIDS. In such situations, older children
were responsible to take care of their siblings: “The responsibility that they
carry, deprive them from concentrating on their own school work. This results
in poor learner performance. Poor learner performance resulted in negative
behaviour and attitudes of learners” (P). The next category is based on the
behaviour displayed by the learners.
4.2.1.5 Category 5: Behaviour displayed by learners
Both the teachers and the principal were concerned about learners’
behaviour. According to T2, learners’ problematic behaviour was experienced
in and outside the classroom. T2 mentioned that older learners mostly
disturbed younger learners during learning. Learners’ drawings also showed
that learners’ bullying was a reality. Learners’ drawings showed that older
boys had already started smoking. Almost half of learners’ drawings showed
that littering around the school was a general problem. This indicated that
learners were not taking ownership of their school. Parents were also
concerned about their children’ behaviour as one of the parents during the
focus group discussion indicated that her child was problematic at home and
she believed that the child is a problem at school as well:
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Our children at home do not respect us as parents. For them to be better
citizens of this country we need them to be respectful. We cannot assist them
with schoolwork because they are not willing to work. Our children are
disrespecting us as parents.
All of the categories explained above were merged into themes; these
themes are discussed in the second level of analysis below.
4.2.2 Second level of analysis: Themes
The themes that are discussed in this section emerged from the collapsed
categories. These themes were analysed against views expressed in the
literature. The themes that emerged are insufficient leadership, lack of teacher
professionalism, low level of parental involvement, socio-economic factors,
and behavioural learners’ problems. These are discussed in detail below in
sections 4.3.1-4.3.5.
4.2.2.1 Theme 1: Insufficient leadership
Although the principal believes that his leadership promotes a good working
relationship among members of the school community, it seems as if this is
not a reality because, during the interviews and focus group discussion, all of
the teachers and the parents complained about the poor working relationship
that exists within the school. The poor working relationship resulted in
everyone within the school shifting his/her responsibility by blaming others.
The teachers blamed the principal for not assisting them to refer learners with
barriers to special schools. The parents blamed the teachers for the attitudes
they display and the principal and the teachers blamed parents for their noninvolvement in the education of their children. At the end, there is no culture of
passion between the principal, teachers, and parents. The blame-giving and
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lack of passion impact negatively on the school culture and is in contrast with
Engels et al. (2008)
who indicate
that school culture is the basic
assumptions, norms, values and cultural artefacts shared by all school
members.
The culture of no passion between the stakeholders is addressed in Critical
theory where the concept of cultural hegemony refers to what a community
accepts as normal; all stakeholders in this school have accepted the status
quo of a dysfunctional school. Through the principal’s effective leadership
the school should create their own culture, which addresses the social and
economic needs and improves the motivation and commitment level of
everyone involved (Freiberg, 1998). Salfi and Saaed (2007) add that good
principal leadership does not only improve motivation and commitment levels
of everyone but also improves the physical facilities, learning environment,
teachers’ individual attention to learners and teacher-parent interaction. In
order for the school to function well, the role of the principal and his
managerial style is a crucial factor in encouraging collective responsibility
among staff, as well as a sense of commitment among learners, teachers,
and parents (Van der Westhuizen et al. 2008).
Leadership within the school is not a reserve of the principal but also of the
teachers. Teachers are leaders within the school and in their classroom. T2,
during the interviews, complained about some teachers’ late coming. Maja
(1995) explains that the teachers must serve as examples to the learners by
being
punctual,
organised,
and
understanding
the
importance
of
professionalism. This is supported by Hammon (1989) who claims that
teachers should take a leadership role with respect to classroom
management,
subject
planning,
and
establishment
of
a
classroom
environment that stimulates positive learning and active engagement of
learners in the learning process.
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Parents are also leaders at home. They must play a leadership role through
motivating learners on the importance of education. Even if they are illiterate,
their interest in the education of their children can commit their children to do
their schoolwork. Altschul (2011) adds that home-based involvement includes
assisting children with homework, discussing school related matters with
children, and engaging with children in intellectual activities. Parents’
leadership may also motivate learners if they see that their parents and
teachers work together towards their education (Altschul 2011).
4.2.2.2 Theme 2: Lack of teacher professionalism
Based on the information gathered during the interviews with the teachers and
the principal, it became clear that teacher development is needed. All of the
teachers requested capacity building with regard to curriculum knowledge.
Even though the principal was of the opinion that he indeed supported the
teachers, the data showed that more support is still needed for the teachers
because they did not know the curriculum expectations. Teacher support is
located with the school principal and also the Department of Education who
must provide enough time for workshops and in-service training and
resources needed for the delivery of the curriculum. The Education Labour
Relation Council (1998) indicated that an integrated quality management
should be introduced in schools and applied to teachers in order to facilitate
personal and professional development that may improve the quality of
teaching practice and education management.
From the data set, a clear pattern emerged that responsibilities are shifted
among the stakeholders. Parents shift their responsibilities to teachers and
the principal, and teachers blame parents, and the principal blames the
parents. It is easier to assign blame to others than to accept responsibility for
one’s own role in a situation. Teacher support and development should start
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from teachers themselves before they expect it from the principal and the
Department of Education (Maja 1995). Teacher development occurs if
teachers promote teamwork, motivate one another, and share information;
few of these traits were observed in the data set as indicated by T2, who
noted that information sharing is a problem among teachers. Flores (2004)
explains that teachers can be supported and developed in schools through
the encouragement of teamwork with the intention of
producing quality
teaching. Fataar and Patterson (1998) add that teachers often employ
discourses that diffuse moral responsibility, minimum participation, and
decreased commitment. This is evident in the data when teachers expect the
Department of Education to deliver the resources in order for teaching and
learning to take place. The teachers are not creative enough to make use of
available resources in their surroundings; instead, they represent a range of
attitudinal and behavioural responses as a defence reaction (Hammon 1989).
All four teachers complained about learners with learning barriers. It became
clear that the teachers did not want to take responsibility for supporting
learners through remedial programmes. This can be seen in the teachers’
responses in that they were unwilling to deal with, or support, learners with
learning barriers. Their responses indicated that they preferred these learners
to be sent away to a special school rather than to provide remedial support
themselves. Teachers are the ones who should identify the barriers
experienced by learners during teaching and consult with the school-basedsupport team to assist them with the development of the remedial support
programme. As Kohl (1986) explains, one of the characteristics of a good
teacher is to nurture, love and observe growth in the life of the learner and a
belief that all learners can develop and learn no matter what disabilities they
appear to have. Development of teachers can only occur if the teachers are
willing to be developed.
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4.2.2.3 Theme 3: Low level of parental involvement
Parents need to be involved in their children’s lives and in their school and
can only do their best if they raise their children in a healthy and normal
manner and create a loving, supportive living environment. This should start
from teaching their children morals at home at an early stage as the principal
explained. Instilling respect and discipline at home will assist in creating a
better, safer, and more disciplined school environment (Van Jaarsveld 2011).
This could limit peer pressure and behavioural problems as parental
involvement has a protective effect against the development of problematic
behaviour (Farrel et al. 2011). From the data, it became clear that there is a
lack of parental involvement which can be attributed as a contributing factor to
the negative school culture. Although there are parents who have a protective
effect on their children, the data indicate that they are the exception rather
than the rule.
When the parents have a good relationship with the school, there is an
increase in learner achievement, attendance and improvement (Farrel et al.
2011). During the pilot and focus group discussion with the parents, most of
them explained their poor relationship with the teachers. If parents and the
school work as partners, a positive difference in the education and transition
outcomes of the learners occurs (De Fur 2012). As partners, they work
collaboratively towards the realisation of a mutual goal of the learner, and the
teachers would gain insights in how to meet the educational needs of the
learners (Farrel et al. 2011). Morewood and Bond (2012) add that teachers’
attitudes and actions greatly influence how parents perceive the school and
affect their relationship with the parents. Morewood and Bond (2012) further
explain that schools are becoming more diverse with regard to cultural
background and language. One of the parents during the pilot focus group
discussion explained that he was forced to allow his child to attend the Venda
110
school while he is actually a Zulu speaking person. The reason for this is that
the school is closer to his home. Larocque et al. (2011) explain that teachers
should gather more information about learners’ backgrounds so that they can
know how to deal with cultural conflict that result in teachers punishing the
learner for something that the learner (culturally) believes is right. Larocque et
al. (2011) indicate that some parents’ non-attendance of meetings is the result
of unmanaged diversity where parents and teachers have little information
about the cultural background of one another. One of the parents during the
focus group discussion complained that sometimes teachers punish their
children for cultural practices.
Parents’ meetings are vital, as this is when parents are given an opportunity
to meet with their children’s teachers. According to Morewood and Bond
(2012), some parents feel intimidated by the school since they had
experienced many failures and negative experiences during their own
schooling days. This poor interaction between the parents and the teachers
may affect the ways in which teachers perceive parent involvement. In the
end, this can influence negatively on the school culture.
Another noteworthy factor is the learners’ commitment at home especially
those that have to do with house chores. Most of the learners’ drawings gave
an indication that learners did a lot of house chores after school and by the
time they did their homework, they were tired. During the interview with the
principal, he indicated that learners were forced to perform house chores, as
they were heads of their families. Altschul (2011) argues that there are
parents who introduce their children to life lessons, which include early
introduction to hard labour that they believe demonstrate the value of
education. Their involvement means that they keep telling their children to do
well in school so that they do not end up working in low wage, manual work
(Altschul, 2011). This is an indication that contrasting beliefs between the
school and home impact negatively on school culture. Teachers believe that
111
parents’ assistance in their child’s homework supports learners; parents on
the other hand believe that involving their children in hard labour is a way of
motivating them to do well in their schoolwork. Other factors that contributed
negatively to the school culture were socio economic factors that are
discussed below.
4.2.2.4 Theme 4: Socio-economic factors
It was evident from the data that social factors negatively affected school
culture but it also seems as if parents use these factors as an excuse to
relegate the responsibility for the education of their children. Larocque et al.
(2011) indicate that parents who feel inadequate to support their children
because of a low level of education should be reassured by the school that
they are not expected to understand the content but to give their children
support in the form of non-academic tasks. Such support includes providing a
regular space and time to complete homework, or make contact with the
teachers when learners experience problems with their schoolwork.
Another socio-economic factor that impacts on the involvement of parents is
unemployment that results in hunger and poverty. The principal described the
rate of unemployment as high and offered it as the reason that discouraged
some parents from attending school activities. However, the principal
indicated that he advised the parents to cultivate a vegetable garden and sell
vegetables for a living. The issue of hunger and poverty was also evident in
the learners’ drawings. Almost all learners’ drawings were positive about the
feeding scheme programme at school. This is an indication that learners leave
home hungry when they come to school. It was also evident during my
classroom observation of the Grade 7 learners as during the first period, half
of the learners looked tired and hungry and were not concentrating. After
lunch, most learners looked active and energetic even if most of them were
still not concentrating because of ill behaviour.
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Another socio-economic factor is child-headed families. Considering grade 7
classes, 18 learners out of 61 learners of the Grade 7 class are orphans and
most of their parents died of HIV/AIDS related diseases. The principal linked
the learners’ bad performance to their responsibility to their siblings as
headed their families. The principal explained that after school, the child
embarks on house chores, does his/her schoolwork, and assists his/her
siblings with their schoolwork. This logically results in poor performance. The
principal explained that all the socio-economic factors stated above, influence
learners’ behaviour negatively.
4.2.2.5 Theme 5: Behavioural problems of learners
The negative behaviour displayed by most of the learners does not only affect
the teachers, but also affects their parents and peers. Rossouw (2003) states
that the most prominent factor that influences the learning environment in
South African schools is learner conduct. Learners’ bad
behaviour was
evident during my classroom observation. Oosthuizen et al. (2003) furthers
this as they explain that the breakdown in discipline in South African schools
is due to learners disrespecting their teachers, refusing to obey commands,
making comments during lessons, skipping classes and having an overall
carefree attitude about the school. Such an attitude impacts negatively on the
functioning of the school and necessitates that the parents and the teachers
working together towards raising and building up a child in terms of education
and self-esteem. Both parents and teachers complained about ill behaviour,
but no one is taking action to change the situation.
As mentioned by all interviewed teachers, learners with behavioural problems
might be learners with learning barriers. Andrew and Taylor (1998) claim that
learners who misbehave tend to perform poorly in school and tend to be
113
absent from school frequently. The teachers were unable to discipline
learners in front of me during the classroom observations, except for T4, who
was in control throughout the lesson. Learners’ bad behaviour is proof that
they are failing to understand what is being taught and they resort
to
disturbing the teacher and the other learners. This is in agreement with
Marchant and Anderson (2012) who state that learners who engage in
problematic behaviour tend to disrupt teacher instruction and impede others’
learning. Such disruptive behaviour can be minimized by the teacher
managing to create a positive environment through communicating clear
expectations, classroom rules and acknowledging appropriate behaviour.
Fellow learners were also affected by this behaviour. Again, 21 out of 61
learners’ drawings showed that older learners were bullies. However, during
the interview with teachers and parents, neither the teachers nor the parents
mentioned bullying among the learners. According to Govender and Dlamini
(2010), bullying can become dangerous as it can promote school violence.
Daniels and Steres (2011) believe that in cases where older learners bully
others, teachers should apply the school rules. The data indicate that the
teachers and the parents may not be aware that bullying is taking place
because the learners who are bullied might be afraid to report the bullies to
their teachers and parents.
Furthermore, 31 out of 61 learners’ drawings indicated concern about a lack
of cleanliness in the classrooms and school surroundings. Their drawings
showed littering of papers and food from the feeding scheme. They wrote
vulgar words on the toilet walls and sullied the toilets. This refers back to
earlier statements by the principal that parents should teach learners morals
at home. It also seemed as if the school did not identify learners that needed
food from the school. The school should only feed learners who are in need of
food. Those whose parents can afford food should not be served because
they are wasteful. Another factor that learners revealed was about learners
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Figure 4.3: Littering, bullying and smoking of learners
115
who are smoking. The learners indicated through their drawings that during
break, the older learners smoke. The learners can not report them to the
principal because they are afraid of being bullied. Figure
4.3. serves as
evidence that learners’ behaviour is a major problem in the school. The
drawing in figure 4.3. shows older learners bullying younger learners, littering
by learners around the school premises, defaced toilet walls, and learners
who are involved in drugs use. The drawings show behavioural problems
displayed by learners which impacts negatively on the functioning of the
school. All the themes discussed above are further dealt with in the third level
of analysis.
4.2.3 Third level of analysis: Theories
From a Critical theory perspective, there are real problems with the culture
and climate of the school that was investigated. Critical theory’s assumes that
if one looks beyond the surface, one will find the need for social and cultural
transformation is applicable here (cf section 2.3:17). It is indeed clear that the
“wrongs within the current social reality” have to be addressed (cf 2.3:17).
Critical theory further advocates overcoming injustices and inequalities and
provides a vision of “positive utopianism” (Higgs 2007). The data indeed
indicate the necessity for change in this township school. In this study, the
learners are the victims of an unjust and unfair organisational culture.
Learners are extradited to a school that does not offer them more than just a
feeding plan; dilapidated classrooms and teachers who are not motivated to
teach them. This school can be categorised as a dysfunctional school as it is
characterised by a poor culture of teaching and learning, disorderly
environment and intermittent interruptions in the school’s daily programme
(Fataar & Patterson 1998).
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The school stakeholders must work together to change this dysfunctional
school into a resilient school. Being resilient is the ability of the school to
survive and develop in contexts of extreme adversity (Christie & Potterton,
1997). Even if this primary school is situated in a community that is racked by
poverty, unemployment, and socio-economic influences there should be a
sense of responsibility that goes beyond accountability in order to create a
positive school culture (section 2.4). In this way the school could manage to
provide a purposeful and supportive framework for teaching and learning for
its learners and become a learning organisation (section 2.4). To convert the
school to a learning organisation, all its structures should work together to
build organisational capacity which develops knowledge and positive
behaviour that support and value personal learning and school culture
(section 2.4).
The school improvement model as an open system maintains and interacts
internal elements (teachers and the principal) with the external elements
(parents and the department) to improve school effectiveness (Cavanagh &
Deller, 1997). The teachers, the parents, and the Department of Education
must work closely with the principal to create a positive school culture that
enhances teaching and learning, and enables learners to acquire a learning
experience The Input-process-output model will also interrelate the flow of
information from one unit to the other (section 2.6) in order to enhance school
culture. This will happen when the principal involves the teachers in the
decision making process, updates the parents with all activities of the school
and disseminates all information from the department to the relevant people.
In this way, the school culture has the potential to improve.
Table 4.1 summarises the themes which emerged from the collapsed codes
as well as literature control which emerged from the collapsed categories.
117
Table 4.1: Codes, categories and themes
Codes
Categories
Themes
Literature control
Research question and
sub question
•
Dissemination of
Category 1
The leadership of the principal
Leadership and
How does the principal's
management of the school
perception of school
information
•
Motivation
•
Approach
•
Team work
culture influence the
•
Problem solving
•
Effective communication
functioning
•
Planning
•
Support
of the school?
•
Organisation
•
Control
•
Involvement of different
•
Challenges faced by
Teacher support and
How do teachers'
teachers
development
perceptions, beliefs and
committees
•
Respect
•
Working relationship
•
Comfort
•
Openness
•
Teaching and learning of
Category 2
learners
•
•
The role of the teachers
Work of teachers
-
-
Lack of support by
attitudes of school culture
management
influence the functioning of
Lack of curriculum
the school?
118
•
Responsibility of teachers
•
Curriculum content and
knowledge
-
resources
training
•
Curriculum changes
•
Time management
•
Knowledge of curriculum
•
Teaching curriculum
•
Use and access of
Lack of training, time,
-
Learners learning
barriers
resources
•
Behaviour of learners
•
Corporal punishment
•
Overcrowding
•
Communication with the
Category 3
•
teachers
•
The challenges faced by
Parental involvement
How does parents'
parents
involvement impact school
Teachers and principal
culture
•
The role of parents
•
Support of children
experiences with regard
•
Knowledge of curriculum
to parents
•
Behaviour of parents
•
Non-involvement of
parents
•
Parents meetings
•
Working relationship
119
•
Working of parents
•
Teacher attitudes and
behaviour
•
Parents attitudes and
behaviour
•
Lack of information
•
Lack of knowledge
•
Learner performance
•
Illiteracy
•
Learner problems
•
HIV/AIDS
•
Parents problems
•
Child-headed families
•
Affordability of parents
•
Unemployment and
•
Parents mortality
•
Hunger
•
Fighting of learners
•
Learning of learners
•
Bullying
•
Discipline
•
Lack of concentration
attitudes of school culture
•
Learner performance
•
Ill-disciplined learners
influence their behaviour?
•
Littering
•
Isolation
•
Use of drugs
Category 4
The role of socio economic
Socio economic factors
factors
How does parents'
involvement impact on
school culture?
poverty
Category 5
Learner behaviour
Behavioural problems of
How do learners'
learners
perceptions, beliefs and
120
The analysis of categories and themes as shown in table 4.1 assisted me in
answering the main research question and the sub questions.
4.3 Summary of the chapter
The discussions in this chapter explored the perceptions and interpretation of
the participants with regard to the culture that exists within the school. The
findings emerged from the data collected from the interviews with the principal
and four of the Grade 7 teachers, a pilot, and a focus group discussion with
the parents, classroom observations of the sampled Grade 7 class, and the
learners’ drawings of their perception of school culture. The results were sifted
through three levels of analysis. The main findings that emerged from the
analysis are insufficient leadership, lack of teacher professionalism, low level
of parental involvement, challenging socio-economic factors and behavioural
problems of learners. The negative school culture is resulting in a
dysfunctional school. In chapter 5, recommendations from this study, as well
as a summary of the responses discussed in chapter 4 are presented. These
culminate in answering the main research question as well as the sub
questions.
121
CHAPTER 5
OVERVIEW, SYNTHESIS OF FINDINGS, RECOMMENDATIONS
AND CONCLUSION
______________________________________________________________
5.1 Introduction
In the previous chapter, I presented the analysed data from interviews, a
focus group discussion, observations and learners’ drawings of the school
culture of one township primary school in Gauteng Province, South Africa.
The responses from the participants were coded and categorised to form
themes that focused on the research question. The research findings were
discussed and contributed to a better understanding of the relationship
between the functioning of the sampled school and the culture in the school.
The data confirmed that the culture within this particular school negatively
affected the functioning of the school.
In this chapter, I present a summary of the research aimed at exploring the
effects of school culture on the functioning of a township primary school as it
relates to the research questions that I posed in the first chapter. Secondly,
the findings are synthesised. The synthesis was done to answer the main and
secondary research questions. Thirdly, the recommendations from the study,
limitations of the study and the need for further research are presented.
5.2 Overview of the chapters
An overview of each chapter is highlighted below.
Chapter 1
In this chapter, I introduced the study by explaining the need for this research
and presented the main research question and sub questions. The rationale,
problem statement and aim of the research were then discussed. A
preliminary literature review, conceptual framework and the methodology
provided an orientation and background of the study. The clarification of the
122
concepts school culture, school climate and school organisational structures
directed the study. The lenses of critical theory and two models of school
culture were introduced. The two models are the Input-process-output model
(Bushnell, 2003) and the School improvement model (Leithwood et al., 2006).
The research methodology and how the data would be analysed were briefly
discussed in order for the reader to understand the nature of the research and
to establish a foundation on which the next chapter could build.
Chapter 2
The literature review of my study examined scholarly work on the impact of
school culture on the functioning of the school. The aspects covered in the
literature included the principals, teachers, parents and learners who are
important elements in the formation of any school culture. It emerged from the
review of literature that school culture is influenced by the beliefs, perceptions
and values of stakeholders of the school. Principals, teachers and parents
have different leadership roles that impact not only on learner's well-being, but
also on the school culture. Included in this chapter is also an expansion of the
conceptual framework, mentioned in chapter one. I have unpacked Critical
theory and the two models of school culture in relation to my research.
Chapter 3
This chapter discussed the paradigms and methodology that guided the
study. As the interpretive paradigm aims to understand the subjective world of
human experience, this paradigm guided me in understanding the
organisational structures of the school in terms of the values, beliefs,
knowledge and attitudes underpinning the school culture. The implementation
of a qualitative case study design enabled me to collect data that informed the
research questions. Open ended individual interviews with the principal and
the teachers, a focus group discussion with parents, class observations and
learners’ drawings of the school culture were the data collection strategies. I
123
adhered to the ethical standards of the University of Pretoria by ensuring
confidentiality and by obtaining the right to engage with the stakeholders
mentioned.
Chapter 4
Data analysis and interpretation were presented in chapter 4. Data were
analysed on three levels of analysis. The first level of analysis was dissecting
the raw data to obtain different codes and to eventually form categories. In the
second level of analysis, the five themes that emerged from the codes and
categories
were
discussed,
insufficient
leadership,
lack
of
teacher
professionalism, low level of parental involvement, challenging socioeconomic factors, and behavioural problems of learners. These five themes
were then linked to the literature on school culture as well as the conceptual
framework.
Chapter 5
In this chapter the synthesis in terms of the research findings was linked to
the main research question and the sub-questions in order to facilitate a
meaningful discussion of the key findings. The study had limitations which do
not in any way diminish the significance of the study but serve as parameters
for future studies in the same field. The strengths and recommendations were
also presented in this chapter.
124
5.3 Synthesis of the findings in terms of the research questions
In order to facilitate a meaningful discussion of the key findings of the
research, the synthesis was chronologically presented according to the main
research question and the research sub-questions.
Main research question
How does school culture impact on the functioning of a township primary
school?
Research sub-question 1
How do the principal’s perception, beliefs and attitude regarding the
school culture influence the functioning of the school?
According to Van der Westhuizen (2008), the principal plays a decisive role in
initiating and maintaining a positive school culture. His/her management and
leadership style can improve the motivation and professionalism of teachers
and influence discipline, collaboration and teamwork within the school. In this
study, there is a discrepancy between the perception of the principal of his
role in the school and the reality of the school culture. The principal reflected
on his own managerial style by pointing out his endeavour to motivate and
support teachers who work under stressful circumstances. He gave examples
of how he motivated parents and teachers, but in that, especially parents,
stayed unresponsive. Despite the fact that the principal views himself as
motivating and communicative, there seems to be no corresponding evidence
from neither the teachers nor the parents to support his claim. There was one
instance where a teacher complained about lack of support from
‘management’, but nowhere in the data set was the influence of the principal
even mentioned. Also, in the drawings of the learners the role of the principal
125
was not evident; he featured in none of the drawings. Teachers were not
motivated by the principal. Teamwork was also a problem amongst teachers
as information sharing was problematic, even non-existent. Overall, effective
communication amongst all members of the school structure was problematic.
Both teachers and parents complained about the ‘poor working relationship' in
the school, although they did not specifically refer to the principal. The
literature clearly indicates that the culture of the school is to a large extent
determined by the effective leadership of the principal to promote good
working relationships amongst all organisational structures of the school
(Chapter 4:3-4) and that paying attention to the culture of the school is the
most important action a leader can perform (Macneil et al, 2009). It, therefore,
seems that the principal does not positively impact the school culture.
Research sub-question 2
How do teachers’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the
school culture influence the functioning of the school?
Teachers are appointed in their position to teach learners and promote a
culture of teaching and learning in a school. This assumption is challenged by
the findings of this research. The negative attitudes of teachers and how they
perceive their work, their colleagues, learners and parents are a contributing
factor that impact on school culture (Chapter 4:10).
The findings of this study showed that a lack of supportive team work exists
amongst teachers. Experienced teachers were not willing to assist and work
with the newly appointed teachers with regard to planning of lessons and the
resources that were accumulated by the experienced teachers over a period
of time (Chapter4:84). This is further demonstrated by the behaviour
126
mentioned by one of the teachers (T4) that teachers would not stand in for
each other when one of them is absent. They would rather sit in the staffroom
and ignore the fact that a class is without a teacher. Lack of collaboration
amongst teachers seems to be one of the symptoms of a negative school
culture. Negative attitudes and behaviour of teachers affects the functioning of
the school.
Teacher professionalism implies a full acceptance of moral responsibility
(chapter 2: 36). The findings of this study, however, showed lack of
professionalism by most of the teachers as many of them came to school late
(Chapter 4: 84). Some of the teachers were not committed to their work to
such an extent that the principal suggested the retrenchment of teachers who
were not committed to do their work (Chapter 4: 84). Lack of commitment also
became evident when the teachers did not want to assist learners with
learning barriers (Chapter 4: 83). They insisted that the school had to refer
learners with learning barriers to special schools.
Professionalism goes hand in hand with discipline. The findings showed that
the majority of teachers did not know how to discipline themselves, let alone
the learners. The fact that they still believe that the administration of corporal
punishment is the only means of disciplining learners (Chapter 4: 85), was
one of the worrying findings that emerged from the data. Three of the four
interviewed teachers were unable to discipline their learners in order for
teaching and learning to take place. This became evident during the lesson
observations of four teachers teaching a grade 7 class.
All the sampled teachers complained about the curriculum changes and how
this impacted their teaching. They blamed the Department of Education for
not training them thoroughly enough to implement the curriculum (Chapter 4:
74) and for not delivering resources that could assist them in teaching and
127
learning. They even went so far as to point out that the lack of resources
resulted in learners sharing workbooks and classes being combined so that
the available resources could be shared. Teachers showed no creativity to
utilise the resources around them; instead, they expected the Department of
Education to provide them with everything. It is clear that teachers act as
victims instead of agent (Morrow, 1994).
One of the characteristics of a good teacher is the nurturing love and
observation of growth in the life of the learner (Chapter 2: 35). However, the
findings of this study indicate that teachers constantly displayed a negative
attitude towards the learners and the parents. This especially became evident
from learners' drawings. Many teachers were portrayed as hostile, using
corporal punishment (Chapter 4: 81) and showing no empathy for the
sometimes atrocious circumstances the learners live in. These attitudes
displayed by the teachers resulted in poor teacher-parent relationships.
Ineffective communication between school and home is the result and in the
end it is the learner who is the victim. Maths teachers were the exception to
the rule. When teaching and learning in these classes were portrayed, it was
positively portrayed and I could sense that the learners experienced that
teaching and learning did take place (cf. Figure 4.1).
Research sub question 3
How do parents’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the school
culture influence the functioning of the school?
In the literature scholars (Epstein, 2005; Fan, 2001 & Kruger & van
Schalkwyk, 1997) agree that parental involvement has a positive effect on
learners’ grades, attendance, attitudes and motivation and subsequently on
the school culture (Chapter 4: 89). The findings from the data show that the
parents faced many challenges in this regard, such as their own work
128
situation,
inability
to
academically
support
their
children
and
poor
teacher/parent relationships.
Firstly, parents indicated that their own work prevented them from supporting
the school and assisting their children with homework. They do not have the
time to attend parent meetings. Both the principal and some of the teachers
disregarded this argument. They were of the opinion that parents have an
uncaring and irresponsible attitude towards the school. The principal also
believed that parents see the education of their children as the sole
responsibility of the school.
Another major problem was the inability of many parents to assist their
children with homework. They do not know how to assist them because of a
high level of illiteracy in the community (Chapter 4: 90). Added to this is the
socio-economic phenomenon of child-headed families where children not only
have no adult to assist them, but also have to take care of siblings and help
them with their schoolwork. One of the drawings showed a submissive learner
explaining to the teacher that his homework was not done because "there was
no one to help me" (Fig 4.2).
Parents also indicated that they felt unsure of how to help their children
because they do not understand the curriculum (Chapter 4: 86). They also
complained about the lack of resources and financial contributions they have
to make to the school for cleaning purposes.
The relationship between the parents and the teachers is not conducive for
the learners’ education. In the sampled school poor teacher-parent
relationships resulted in lack of trust, which resulted in negative attitudes that
affect the school culture (Chapter 4: 89). Instances were reported of parents
129
and teachers shouting at one another in front of learners and even of a parent
reporting a teacher to the police (Chapter 4: 86; 89).
Parents who participated in the study were aware of the fact that non-parental
involvement affects negatively on their children. They ascertained that
unemployment is a contributing factor as parents suffer to assist their children
financially (Chapter 4: 90). According to the principal, parents even refrained
from attending school meetings as they know that the school needs money
and will ask for contributions from them.
The findings further revealed that diversity affected the non-involvement of
parents. Cultural differences sometimes inform misunderstandings (Mc
Naughton, 2010) Parents perceive teachers displaying a negative attitude
whilst it has more to do with cultural background. One parent gave an
example of her child being punished for something he had done, whilst his
behaviour was accepted in their culture.
Not all parents were unsupportive to the education of their children, but it
seems that the majority, although they admit to the need for parental
involvement, were not involved and did not make any contribution towards
establishing a positive school culture. All of the parents who participated in
this study were aware and agreed that their non-involvement in the education
of their children affected the existing culture of the school.
130
Research sub question 4
How do learners’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes regarding the
school culture influence the functioning of the school?
Learner conduct is one of the most prominent factors that influence the
learning environment in South African schools (Chapter 2: 47-48). All of the
teachers complained throughout their interviews about the negative behaviour
displayed by the learners and the impact that it has on the culture of the
school. Some of the parents also indicated that there is a lack of respect for
elders at home.
Only one teacher, who is adamant about discipline in his classroom because
he applied rules and regulations consistently, did not experience disciplinary
problems. During his class observations, I experienced the only incident of
successful teaching and learning, where learners were not only listening, but
also taking part in class discussions because of the disciplined teacher. One
of the learners drew the classroom as one of the things that he liked about his
school (Figure 4.1). While the teacher explains something on the blackboard,
the
learners
are
attentively
engaged.
During
the
other
classroom
observations, learners were playing and talking whilst the teachers teaching
and the teachers were unable to discipline those learners. My observation
was that the bad behaviour of learners was almost proof of the fact that
learners do not understand what had been taught. The teachers did not
succeed in creating a positive learning environment (Chapter 4: 108). Clear
expectations and goals were not expressed, classroom rules were not evident
and teachers did not acknowledge positive behaviour of learners (Maja,
1995).
From the drawings of the learners, it became clear that teachers at the
sampled school still use corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure.
131
Learners’ artefacts clearly showed teachers scolding them about homework
that was not done. In Figure 4.2 the teacher’s body language is threatening
and he is portrayed with a long stick in his hand. The learner wrote under the
drawing that he/she didn’t like all the fighting between teachers and learners
and that a teacher should understand what learners go through (Fig 4.2).
One of the worrying factors of negative learner behaviour is the existence of
bullying in this township primary school. It became clear from the data that
bullying is a severe problem, especially since most learners cannot report
bullies to their teachers or their parents because of fear for the bullies
(Chapter 1:8). Older learners bullying younger learners on the school
premises were one of the themes that emerged from the artefacts of the
learners, but it also seems as if teachers and parents are oblivious to the
bullying that is taking place, since they did not mention anything in the
interviews or the focus group discussion.
Another theme that emerged from the interviews with the teachers was the
problematic dealing with learners who experience learning barriers such as
difficulty with reading or concentrating (Chapter 4: 101). One teacher
indicated that most of the learners experience problems in reading and writing
and another agreed by stating that 75% of the Grade 7 learners showed
behavioural problems during teaching and learning generally.
All of the teachers were of the opinion that learners with learning barriers are
learners with behavioural problems. Some of the teachers openly admitted
that they cannot handle learners with learning barriers and that they should be
identified at an earlier stage so that they can be sent to ‘special’ schools. They
also admitted that they just ignore these learners in class and that this
resulted in these learners disturbing other learners in class.
132
Lastly, 31 of the 61 learners’ drawings indicated concern about a lack of
cleanliness of classrooms and school surroundings. Almost half of the
drawings showed that littering around the school was a general problem (See
Figure 4.3). Their drawings showed littering of papers and the food from the
feeding scheme at the school. They also showed that vulgar words were
written on the toilet walls and doors and that the toilets had been sullied. It
further seems as if older boys smoked in the toilets.
5.3.1 Conclusion
The key findings of the research was chronologically presented to answer the
main research question and the research sub-questions. The next section
deals with the limitations and strengths of the study.
5.4 Limitations and strengths of the study
5.4.1 Limitations
The study had limitations which do not in any way diminish its significance but
serves as parameters for future studies on the same topic:
•
The research focused on the micro-level of education (one primary
school) and did not include the macro level, which includes
departmental policies and other legislative frameworks on the impact of
school culture on the functioning of the school. The findings and
conclusions of this study relied solely on the information provided by
the participants.
•
Another limitation is that the findings is context-specific and can,
therefore, not be generalized.
133
•
Lastly, the learners' sample consisted of only one grade 7 class.
Findings pertaining to other age groups might have differed from the
findings of this study.
5.4.2 Strengths
The study had the following strengths:
•
The study focused on gaining an increased understanding of whether
the impact of school culture played a significant role in the functioning
of a township primary school.
•
A second strength lies in the literature and conceptual framework that
informed the research question. Critical theory and the two models of
school culture were used as a theoretical lens. The literature on the
different stakeholders were discussed, interpreted and used to obtain a
clearer picture of the research. Findings were linked to the literature
throughout the dissertation.
•
This case study contributed to the body of knowledge on school
culture.
•
As I previously taught at the sampled school, but since 2012 had taken
up a position at the Department of Education, I literally changed from
an insider to an outsider research position, which benefited the study in
terms of objectivity.
5.5 Aspects for future research
The study focused only one the perspectives of stakeholders in one
sampled school. The following are suggested for further research:
•
Further research is recommended to investigate deeper into the school
culture, not only in one primary school in Gauteng Province but also
across all provinces in South Africa. More schools could be included,
depending on the scope and coverage of the research question.
134
•
The inclusion of more stakeholders, such as the Education department,
when investigating school culture, is recommended. Such stakeholders
could be consulted with regard to school culture. Research could also
be conducted in urban schools, farm schools and rural schools in order
to understand the complexity of this problem in South Africa.
Comparative studies in this regard seem to be a natural outflow from
this research.
5.6 Recommendations
Based on the study, I recommend that:
•
The Department of Education should consider training for principals
and teachers on positive school culture. In the teacher training
curriculum there should be a module on school culture that prepare
student teachers for the possible scenario of a negative school culture.
•
The Department of Education should also conduct teacher training to
enhance the delivery of the curriculum. This could be done through
workshops, in-service training and other related services to support the
effective implementation of the school curriculum. The school should
also consider training parents about the curriculum offered in the
school so that the parents will be able to assist learners with homework
and feel involved in the education of their children.
•
There should be a forum where principals of different schools can
share their experiences and learn from one another.
•
Schools should identify learners with learning barriers and where
necessary consult with the district inclusion team to assess learners.
This will assist in the correct placement of learners.
•
The principal should organise workshops or motivational talks for
parents and teachers on the issue of diversity so that ignorance in this
regard can be curbed .
135
5.7 Conclusion
This chapter has provided a synopsis of the content of the different chapters
and of the findings of this research by answering the research questions that
directed the study. The study probed into the perceptions and beliefs of the
four main stakeholders (the principal, teachers, learners and parents) in a
township primary school in the Gauteng province of South Africa. The findings
emerged through analysing relevant interviews with these stakeholders as
well as expressions of learners' perspectives through their artwork. Through
these encounters, I investigated the research problem presented in the first
chapter, which pertains to many South African schools characterised by
irregular school attendance by learners and teachers; poor performing
schools; low morale; general demotivation; conflicts and violence around the
school. The learners seem to be the victims in the scenario of this particular
school, while the other stakeholders blame each other and in doing so, add to
the negative school culture, rather than trying to improve the school culture.
This chapter has completed the full circle by returning to the three subquestions and answering them with the findings of the study. Furthermore, the
strong points, limitations and recommendations of the study were discussed.
It is my hope that this research will enrich our understanding of these
problems in (especially) township schools in South Africa.
136
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Appendix B: Letter of informed consent: educators and principal
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education, Groenkloof Campus, University of Pretoria, PRETORIA, 0002
Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 420 5639 Fax: +27 12 420 5637
………………………………………………………………………………………………………
30 October 2012
Dear participants (educators and principal)
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RESEARCH PROJECT ON THE
EXISTING CULTURE IN A TOWNSHIP PRIMARY SCHOOL
You are invited to participate in a research project on the school culture in a township
primary school. The aim of my study is to gain an understanding of the relationship
between school culture and its functioning in a South African primary school.
The main question driving this research is:
How does school culture impact the functioning of a township primary school?
The following sub questions will further guide the study:
•
How does the principal’s perception of school culture influence the functioning of the
school?
•
How does parents’ involvement impact school culture?
•
How do learners’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence their
behaviour?
•
How do teachers’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence the
functioning of the school?
As a participant, you are requested to take part in an open-ended interview of approximately
45 minutes after the contact time with the learners. To ensure accuracy of responses, the
interview will be recorded using an audio recorder. The researcher will conduct the
interviews with individual teachers and the principal and will comprise questions that deal
with your views regarding the culture that exists in a township primary school. The interviews
will then be transcribed and participants who wish to view the transcripts before they are
included in the study are welcome to do so. It might also be necessary for a follow-up
interview to clarify or expand on certain aspects that may be identified by the researcher.
Participation is entirely voluntary and no one will be coerced or manipulated in any way to
participate or provide certain information. You may at any time decide to withdraw if you no
longer wish to be part of the study and your wishes will be respected. The information
provided by you will then also be withdrawn from the study.
All information gathered during the interviews and audio recordings will be kept in the
strictest confidence and will only be used for the purposes of the research. You will not be
required to provide personal details and you will remain anonymous as you will be referred
to using a pseudonym or a number.
The findings of this study will be presented in a master’s dissertation, articles and
conference presentations. The dissertation will, therefore, become public domain for scrutiny
by examiners and other academics. However, I am bound by rules of integrity and ethical
conduct as prescribed by the University of Pretoria and promise to abide by those rules. I will
thus use the data collected for the purposes of research only.
If you are willing to participate in this study, please sign the accompanying letter as a
declaration of your consent indicating that you willingly participate in this project and that you
understand that you may withdraw from the research project at any time. Participation in this
phase of the project does not obligate you to participate in follow-up individual interviews,
however, should you decide to participate in follow-up interviews, your participation is still
voluntary and you may withdraw at any time. You will also have the opportunity to view the
findings prior to publication and be able to provide advice on the accuracy of the information.
Yours sincerely
M K Lebesa
Master’s student
Tel: 011 746 8164
Cell: 0827671340
Dr A Engelbrecht (Supervisor)
Letter of informed consent
I, ……………………………………………. have read the information contained in the
Invitation to participate and would like to voluntarily participate in this research study. I am
aware of what is expected of me and that I have the right to withdraw at any time should I
wish to do so without having to provide a reason.
By signing this form, I give consent to the audio recording of the interview that I will partake
in. I acknowledge that I am participating of my own free will and have not in any way been
forced, manipulated or coerced into taking part.
…………………………………………..
…………………………..
Signed: participant
Date
Appendix C: Letter of consent: parents
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education, Groenkloof Campus, University of Pretoria, PRETORIA, 0002
Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 420 5639 Fax: +27 12 420 5637
………………………………………………………………………………………………………
30 October 2012
Dear Parent/Guardian/Caregiver
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RESEARCH PROJECT ON THE
EXISTING CULTURE IN A TOWNSHIP PRIMARY SCHOOL
I am conducting research on exploring the school culture in a township primary school.
The aim of my study is to gain an understanding of the relationship between school culture
and its functioning in a South African township primary school.
The main question driving this research is:
How does school culture impact on the functioning of a township primary school?
The following sub questions will further guide the study:
•
How does the principal’s perception of school culture influence the functioning of the
school?
•
How does parents’ involvement impact school culture?
•
How do learners’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence their
behaviour?
•
How do teachers’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence the
functioning of the school?
I am requesting you to participate in a focus group discussion that will be audio recorded.
The discussion will include your views regarding the culture that exists in your child’s school.
Participation is entirely voluntary and no one will be coerced or manipulated in any way to
participate or provide certain information. A participant may at any time decide to withdraw if
he/she feels they no longer wish to be part of the study.
All information gathered during the focus group discussion will be kept in the strictest
confidence and will only be used for the purposes of the research. Participants are not
required to provide their names or contact details and will remain anonymous throughout
the study by choosing a pseudonym.
The findings of this study will be presented in a master’s dissertation, articles and
conference presentations. The dissertation will, therefore, become public domain for scrutiny
by examiners and other academics. However, I am bound by rules of integrity and ethical
conduct as prescribed by the University of Pretoria and promise to abide by those rules. I will
thus use the information for the purposes of this study only.
Yours sincerely
M K Lebesa
Master’s student
Tel: 011 746 8164
Cell: 0827671340
Dr A Engelbrecht (Supervisor)
Letter of informed consent
I, ……………………………………………. have read the information contained in the
Invitation to Participate and would like to voluntarily participate in this research study. I am
aware of what is expected of me and that I have the right to withdraw at any time should I
wish to do so without having to provide a reason.
By signing this form, I give consent to the audio recording of the interview that I will partake
in. I acknowledge that I am participating of my own free will and have not in any way been
forced, manipulated or coerced into taking part.
…………………………………………..
Signed: Parent/Guardian/Caretaker
…………………………..
Date
Appendix D: Letter of consent: parents
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education, Groenkloof Campus, University of Pretoria, PRETORIA, 0002
Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 420 5639 Fax: +27 12 420 5637
………………………………………………………………………………………………………
30 October 2012
Dear Parent/Guardian/Caregiver
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RESEARCH PROJECT ON THE
EXISTING CULTURE IN A TOWNSHIP PRIMARY SCHOOL
I am conducting research on the school culture in a township primary school. The aim of
my study is to gain an understanding of the relationship between school culture and its
functioning in a South African township primary school.
The main question driving this research is:
How does school culture impact on the functioning of a township primary school?
The following sub questions will further guide the study:
•
How does the principal’s perception of school culture influence the functioning of the
school?
•
How does parents’ involvement impact school culture?
•
How do learners’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence their
behaviour?
•
How do teachers’ perceptions, beliefs and attitudes on school culture influence the
functioning of the school?
I am requesting you to allow your child to draw anything that makes him/her happy and sad
about the school. As I am not professionally trained to interpret children’s pictures, I will only
use their pictures as an added instrument for the purpose of corroboration and credibility of
data. No judgement will be made from the picture, but it will only be used to get a general
sense of the culture that exists in a school. This will be done outside of contact time between
the teacher and the child.
I will also be observing the children in class during teaching and learning to see their
interaction with their teacher. I will study facial expressions and gestures, behaviours as
well as verbal responses as the children relate to the teacher and learning takes place in
the classroom. These observations and recordings will be done in a non-disruptive way in
order not to interfere with classroom practice.
Participation is entirely voluntary and no one will be coerced or manipulated in any way to
participate or provide certain information. A participant may at any time decide to withdraw if
they no longer wish to be part of the study and their wishes will be respected. The
information provided by the child up to that point will then also be withdrawn from the study.
All information gathered during observations and from the drawings will be kept in the
strictest confidence and will only be used for the purposes of the research. Participants are
not required to provide their names or contact details and will remain anonymous
throughout the study as pseudonyms will be used to refer to the participants. Permission will
be requested from you and your child.
The findings of this study will be presented in a master’s dissertation, articles and
conference presentations. The dissertation will, therefore, become public domain for scrutiny
by examiners and other academics. However, I am bound by rules of integrity and ethical
conduct as prescribed by the University of Pretoria and promise to abide by those rules. I will
thus use the information for the purposes of this study only.
If you are willing to allow your child to be present in class during the observation and to
draw, please sign the accompanying letter as a declaration of your consent and that you
allow your child to be present as part of this project willingly and that you understand that
you may withdraw your child from the research project at any time.
Yours sincerely
M K Lebesa
Master’s student
Tel: 011 746 8164
Cell: 0827671340
Dr A Engelbrecht (Supervisor)
Letter of informed consent
I, ……………………………………………. have read the information contained in the
Invitation to Participate and give permission for my child to participate in this research study.
I am aware of what is expected of him/her and that I, or my child, have the right to withdraw
at any time should we wish to do so, without having to provide a reason.
…………………………………………..
Signed: Parent/Guardian/Caretaker
Name: ………………………………….
…………………………..
Date
Appendix E: Letter of assent: learners
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education, Groenkloof Campus, University of Pretoria, PRETORIA, 0002
Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 420 5639 Fax: +27 12 420 5637
………………………………………………………………………………………………………
30 October 2012
Dear Learner
LETTER OF INVITATION TO PARTICIPATE IN THE RESEARCH PROJECT ON THE
EXISTING CULTURE IN A TOWNSHIP PRIMARY SCHOOL
Sometimes when we want to find out something, we ask people for information to help us
explain what we need to know. We then do what is called a project. I would like you to take
part in this project so that you can help me find out what I need to know.
Let me tell you about the project first. This project will give me the chance to find out what
kinds of behaviour happen in schools and what the possible reasons for them are. To help
me do this I need to observe you when your teacher is presenting a lesson and I will also
ask you to draw things that make you happy and those that make you sad in your school.
I would like to ask you to be part of this project. The project has been explained to your
parents/guardians/caregivers and they have already agreed that you may be part of this
project if you want to. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. You can talk to them or your
teacher or any other adult you trust first before you decide if you want to take part or not.
This is what will happen: I will ask you to draw anything that makes you happy and
everything that makes you sad in the school in order to get a general idea about what you
feel about your school. I will also observe your behaviour when your educator is teaching
you. If you wish to, you may choose a false name or pseudonym and I promise not to tell
anyone your real name. You can also decide to let me use your real name if you want to.
Just tell me.
If you do decide to take part, all of your drawings will be kept private. No one, not even
someone in your family or any of your teachers will see your drawings.
You can ask any questions about this project at any time. If you agree to take part and you
have questions later that you didn’t think of now, you can phone me at 082 767 1340 or Dr
Engelbrecht at 012 420 5629, or you can ask me when I visit your school next time. No one
will be upset or angry if you don’t want to do this. If you don’t want to be in this project you
just have to tell me. You can say yes or no and if you change your mind later you can quit at
any time. It’s up to you.
Yours sincerely
M K Lebesa
Master’s student
Tel: 011 746 8164
Cell: 0827671340
Dr A Engelbrecht (Supervisor)
Letter of informed assent
By writing your name here it means that you agree to take part in this project and that you
know what will happen during the project. You also agree that I will do observations during
the project and use your drawings for discussions as well as reports that I write about the
project. If you decide to quit the project, all you have to do is tell me 1.
Learner’s signature: …………………………..
Date: …………………
Learner’s name: …………………………………………..
Name of parent/guardian/caregiver: ………………………………………………
Appendix A: Permission: access to schools
Department of Humanities Education
Faculty of Education, Groenkloof Campus, University of Pretoria, PRETORIA, 0002
Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 420 5639 Fax: +27 12 420 5637
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………
30 October 2012
Dear Principal and SGB
ACCESS FOR CONDUCTING RESEARCH AT YOUR SCHOOL
Thank you for allowing me access to your school to conduct research on the culture that
exists within the school.
As stated in our informal meeting, the learners and parents in the classes involved have all
received letters of information and letters of consent/assent. As soon as all these signed
letters have been received, I will start with the research.
Please be assured of my ethical conduct at all times. If you require further information,
please contact me or my supervisor.
Yours sincerely
M K Lebesa
Master’s student
Tel: 011 746 8164
Cell: 0827671340
Dr A Engelbrecht (Supervisor)
Appendix G: Interview schedule for educators
1.
Experiences within the school
•
What are your experiences based on the culture that exists in the school?
•
Have stakeholders of the school complained about the culture that exists within the
school?
•
Do you experience behavioural problems of learners during teaching and learning?
How do they behave?
•
What disciplinary measures do you apply when learners do something wrong?
•
Does a culture of effective teaching exist in the school?
2.
Expectation in terms of educators in the school
•
What are your current and future expectations as a teacher in school?
•
Do you work as a team with other educators?
•
Do you communicate with learners’ parents? How and how often?
•
How well do your learners perform in their school work?
•
What difficulties do you experience in terms of supporting your learners?
3.
Curriculum development
•
Do you have knowledge of the curriculum that is delivered to learners?
•
Is the curriculum content adequate for the needs of the school?
•
Have you identified any gaps or limitations in the curriculum?
•
Do you attend workshops and in-service training on curriculum matters? How often
do you attend?
•
What limitations have you encountered in your efforts to implement the curriculum?
•
What processes do you use to ensure alignment of the curriculum to the needs of the
school?
•
Do you prepare lessons individually or as part of a team? Why?
•
How often do teachers at your school support one another on curriculum issues?
•
Does the principal play a part in planning of the curriculum and assessment of the
school?
Appendix F: Interview schedule for the principal
1.
Management and leadership
•
How do you manage your school?
•
What leadership qualities do you apply in your school and how?
•
How effective is the school management team and what is their duty?
•
What development opportunities does your school organise in learners’ academic
education?
•
What support mechanisms and strategies does your school have in place to sustain
an effective school climate?
2.
Parental involvement
•
Do parents contribute to the education of their children?
•
Which part of children’s education do you think should be the sole responsibility of
parents and why?
•
What mechanisms and options do you use to communicate with parents for the
benefit of the school?
•
What obstacles do you experience in promoting parental involvement in supporting
learners’ academic learning?
•
What do you think are the causes of those obstacles?
•
How do you overcome those obstacles?
3.
Educator involvement
•
What role do educators play in the education of learners and how?
•
How do you support educators in the delivery of the curriculum?
•
Is there any team work that you promote among educators and how do you promote
this?
•
4.
How do you involve all organisational structures in the activities of the school?
Are there any other comments that you would like to share with me in relation to
educators’ involvement in learners’ academic education?
Appendix H: Focus group interview protocol (parents of selected
grade 7 class)
Interviewer: You are all welcome to this focus group discussion session. I would like to
thank you for participating in this research. Questions will be asked and I will require
responses from all of you, one after the other on your and your children’s experiences
regarding the culture that exists in the school.
Question 1: Experiences within the school
•
What are your experiences regarding the culture that exists in the school?
•
What about the school does your child or children complain about?
•
Why are your children attending this school?
•
Would you have preferred them to attend a different school? If, so, why?
Question 2: Expectation in terms of schooling
•
What are your present and future expectations for your children in this school?
•
Do you assist your children with their school work? If yes, why? And if no, why not?
•
Do you advise your children to behave well at school? Why?
•
How do your children perform at school?
•
Do you communicate with the educators regarding the progress of your child?
•
If you are a working parent, how do you schedule your time to assist your child?
Question 3: Language issues
•
Which language do you speak at home and why?
•
Is your home language taught at your child’s school?
•
Do your children experience difficulty in speaking English at home and at school?
•
How do you assist your children with the language of instruction?
•
What else would you like to ask or say that we have not discussed that you think will
help me understand the education of your children?
Appendix I: Classroom observation schedule
Date:
Subject:
Number of learners present:
Number:
Boys:
Girls:
Number of learners absent:
Number:
Boys:
Girls:
Time of day:
Before break
After break
First period
Time:
Period number:
Time
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
Observation description
7th
9th
Teacher
Learners
Talks
Listens
Asks leaners questions
Thinks
Waits
Answers teacher’s questions
Answers own questions
Listens
Demonstrates
Observes
Asks any question
Responds
Writes on the chalkboard
Talks to others
Dictates
Copies from the chalkboard
Marks exercise books
Makes noise
Not in classroom
Plays around
Disciplines learners
Responds
Appendix J:
Guidelines for learners’ drawings
Provision of materials
•
Drawing books
•
Pencils
•
Erasers
Instructions for drawings
•
Make use of the material provided to you
•
Your drawings must be clear
•
Draw neatly
•
Time allocated for you to draw is 30 minutes
•
Draw anything that makes you happy in your school
•
Draw anything that makes you sad in your school
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Thank you for your participation!

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