Understanding Educational Leadership: People, Power and Culture

By Hugh Busher | Go to book overview

8 Developing cultures of
learning in subject areas

The core of leadership in schools: creating cultures of
learning

People are not islands in institutions but part of collectivities (Lukes 1974), such as schools, school subject departments or year groups of students, which have their own particular sub-cultures or small cultures that reflect the norms, beliefs and values supported by members of such groups and to which their members are expected to subscribe. Such sub-cultures, especially those in secondary schools in England, may also be in conflict with the wider institutional culture, as Siskin (1991) has shown. Cultures establish norms and expectations for action and decision-making for each department, group or community which are as binding on their leaders as they are on other members of the department or community – see Figure 8.1 (page 121). This coincides with Lukes' (1974) view of the importance of collective power that exists alongside the power and influence of individuals. The cultures that leaders create with their colleagues become symbols of collective identity for the members of each collectivity, in this case their pastoral and academic departments of secondary schools which are normally led by people who are often designated as subject or middle leaders.

Organizational sub-cultures are manifested in various ways: through the ways in which middle leaders make available to departmental colleagues knowledge and resources; through the language they use when speaking to colleagues, students and other people; through the ways in which they demonstrate their own concern, or lack of it, for being well organized and prepared for teaching the students; through the ceremonies of formal meetings they hold; through the ways in which they involve colleagues, or do not involve them, in decision-making – making manifest the extent to which colleagues' views are valued. When successful these cultures help teachers develop an attachment to their departments even though teachers and support staff will always disagree to some extent with the cultures and policies being created by middle leaders when these do not fit their own preferred views.

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