Friday, May 23, 2014

Put on your red shoes and dance the blues (David Bowie)

Each Friday the male teaching staff at Woodford House provide some intellectual stimulus for the female contingent by wearing something alike.

It's our version of casual Friday I guess (we don't get out much). The students try to guess what the link is each week - a bit of harmless fun!

This week it was very subtle -  pink shirts and black ties. 

The boys to entertain you: Greg, Ian, Andrew and Wozza

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems (Murphy's laws)

Time in my inquiry to explore the school’s intangibles (core values, philosophy, ideology)?

The core values (desirable qualities), philosophy (key guiding principles), ideology (beliefs) of the school are set out in a number of ways in a number of places (staff handbook, school prospectus, web site, senior course information booklet, an Educational Positioning Survey (EPS), the hall banners, dining hall posters, classroom posters, are some).

Core values - there are purpose and vision statements: extraordinary learning; extraordinary school -  extraordinary women; guiding values uses words like: aim high, inclusive, collaborative, culture of excellence, respect, integrity, honesty, trust, service to others; our core values - Attitude, Family and Heritage (school website).

Ideology - there is a school maxim: challenge the future, embrace the present, cherish the past; and a school mottonow is the acceptable time.


Philosophy - a special character statement outlines the school as a caring and secure Christian environment. The founding Principal’s holistic philosophy was that “the hand, body and brain must be trained and developed together” (school prospectus). E raka te maui, e raka te katau (a community can use all the skills of its people) (senior course booklet). The concept of four cornerstones; sporting, cultural, academic and spiritual (Principal’s message in the prospectus) is spoken of regularly. The four have been extrapolated from the eleven points made in the special character statement.

It's also interesting to think about the results from an Educational Positioning Survey (EPS) that indicates the perception of Woodford House from the students, parents and staff perspective.

Words like Family, Fun, Friendly, Friendships, Excellence, and Environment were used to describe 'the Woodford Experience'. 

With all this in mind my next task is to analyse the current organisational culture in the school.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Well versed in etiquette (Queen)

What are the key ingredients of organisational culture?

The following diagram outlines some of the key ingredients that make up the organisational culture.


Everything begins with the core values, philosophy and ideology. These intangibles influence the symbolic outward expressions, which in turn have a number of effects on the school. This is not an exclusively one way process, as the diagram shows.

The intangibles are influenced by National values and priorities. The new priority purpose of school boards – enshrined in the Education Act (amendment 2012) – that a school board will be required to perform its functions and to exercise its powers in ‘such a way as to ensure that every student at the school is able to attain his or her highest possible standard in educational achievement’ is a case in point. This sets the emphasis directly on academic achievement.

The following definition of culture seems to sum up many of the threads and will be used during my inquiry of Woodford House's organisational culture:

Culture is ‘that system of shared meanings, cognitions, symbols, and experiences which are expressed in the behaviours and practices of the members of an affiliated group (a ‘tribe’) and which give them both social definition and a sense of association’ (Beare, Caldwell, Millikan, Creating an excellent school, 1989)

In broad terms school culture is most clearly seen in a variety of tangible contexts:
  • The ways people relate to and work together
  • The management of the school’s structures
  • The systems within the school
  • The physical environment


Features of a strong culture:
  •        A strong relationship between the intangible, foundation elements and the tangible manifestations.
  •     Gaps between espoused values, philosophy and ideology and the actual manifestations and practices may result in a weak culture.


A strong culture has
  •        Shared values via ceremonies and rituals
  •      Widely shared beliefs reflected in distinctive practices or rituals bind the culture
  •      Situational heroes or heroines who represent core values
  •     Rituals for ‘acculturation’ and cultural renewal
  •     Widespread participation in rituals

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Dynamite with a laser beam (Queen)

What does ‘organisational culture’ mean?

Organisation - The mode in which something is organised; systematic arrangement for a definite purpose

Culture – an ephemeral term which defies definition but we know what culture is. Culture just happens to a large extent – the formation of a culture is not a conscious action. Culture evolves over time depending on the people within the organisation.

Placed together it creates an oxymoron. Culture defies a systematic arrangement for a definite purpose because it is a totality unto itself to a large degree.

At Woodford House there is a multiplicity of sub cultures. Each curriculum department has its own culture (Interesting how each department uses Woodbook – the English department uses it as a social message board space whereas science use theirs for resource notification); each of the four Houses has its own culture; each year level dean will develop their own culture as well.

There is no universally acceptable map of what is entailed in an organisational culture but for the purposes of this inquiry it is necessary to consider the basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of the school – the driving energy behind the organisation.

There are tangible and conceptual levels to culture. The tangible includes symbolic outward expressions of the culture. The intangible comprises the values, philosophy and ideology of the school.

Basically culture is ‘the way we do things around here’. To understand what a culture of a school is, one must live in it for a period of time and observe what goes on. After a year in the school I feel like I now have a greater understanding about what goes on at Woodford House.


It’s around this time (up to a year to eighteen months) that the school’s unique cultural qualities are most apparent, before the process of immersion in the culture ends with someone becoming the culture.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spread the word around, tell everybody the news (Headband)

A person, whose judgement I value, thought my last post was a tad grumpy. Hmm - that wasn't exactly my intention. I forget sometimes that tone is always a tricky thing on the printed page. But - point taken.

I aim to be positive, rather than cynical or grumpy, and I do have a genuine interest in the concept of organisational culture. 

I do like the idea of an inquiry method and I want to enter into the spirit of the thing with the hope that I can unpack some positive outcomes which can be rolled out going forward. I do have some skin in the game after all. And there's bananas still hanging about.

Ahem. Can't help myself can I.

As I promised - here's the blueprint to my impending look at the school's organisational culture:

General area of interest:
The organisational culture within the school
Specific questions for deeper understanding:
What does concept of ‘organisational culture’ mean?
What are the key ingredients of organisational culture?
What is the current organisational culture?
What does it align with?
What are the school’s core values, philosophy, ideology?
How does the organisational culture reflect these core values?

Links to appraisal goals or RTC if relevant to inquiry
Staff inquiry of the school’s organisational culture  


Pathways for collection of information?
A literature search
A survey of staff and students (and parents if possible)
A focus group made up of staff and students (and parents if possible)


After intro session what do you want to have done before the 1st PLG?
Literature search to answer as many of my research questions as possible.


On completion of 1st PLG
Goal for 3rd  PLG
Completion of survey


On completion of 4th PLG
Goal for 5th PLG
Focus group completed
Recommendations/ Action plan for 2015


Key points for report:
A summary of findings and a proposed action plan for 2015.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

I don't want isolation but the air it makes me cold (Prince)

I struggle a bit with holidays. Really.

I get into working routines at school that get blown out of the water during the holidays, so I'm looking forward to Monday and getting back into stuff for term 2. Really. No irony. No sarcasm.

One of the things I'm looking forward to is the cold nights doing football practice and games each Tuesday and Wednesday after school. No - not really! Just testing. 

But I am looking forward to Friday mornings and PLD (pretty sure that stands for professional learning development but it could be something else like profound literacy discussions or...).

Or maybe - I was looking forward to it.

A couple of caveats have emerged.

As I mentioned in my last edition - five weeks of scoping and other reconnaissance activities without an action is a worry.

Secondly the title for this activity is Staff Inquiry into Teaching and Learning to Empower Learners (or SIT A LETL  for short). Again with the passive emphasis.

I'm keen to invest in the inquiry/ action research model but this is input without the transformation. 

Hard to expend a huge amount if there's little chance of grabbing those bananas. Let's hope it's not a banana peel.

On the positive side I will get to do that further deeper research into organisational cultures each week and that will bring a steady stream of blog posts.

Here's to looking forward!