A case study of the effects of school culture on a positive discipline program

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Eubank, Heather R.
Patterson, Jean A.

This qualitative case study examined the school culture of an urban elementary school and the implementation of a school-wide positive discipline program. Focus groups, interviews, observations and document review were used to understand the existing culture and gather perceptions from staff members and students regarding their opinions of the adopted program. The study used Schein’s (2004) theory of organizational culture and Nodding’s (Noddings, 2005) theory of educational caring as the theoretical framework. The staff members and principal desired to implement a positive discipline program in order to find a better way to discipline students that would preserve student dignity and teach students alternatives to inappropriate behavior. The Effective School Discipline program was chosen to be implemented schoolwide, and all staff received training in the use of this program. Although teachers cared about students and voiced their desire to respond to student misbehaviors in a positive manner, the implementation of Effective School Discipline was not successful due to a school culture which did not allow for professional dialogue or risk-taking to occur. A significant level of distrust existed between the principal and the teachers which hindered the program’s effectiveness. Although the implementation of Effective School Discipline did improve some teacher/student interactions on a limited scale, the programs misuse or nonuse by most staff members reflected the underlying assumptions which existed at the school’s deepest cultural levels. The findings of this study suggest that a healthy school culture is cornerstone to successful school reform. School leaders should work towards creating schools which have collaborative professional learning communities, distributed leadership models, and a high level of trust among all stakeholders in the organization.

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Thesis (Ed.D)--Wichita State University, College of Education, Dept. of Educational Leadership