An examination of the links between the pedagogical culture of primary schools, school effectiveness and school improvement
This study examines the proposition that values and beliefs about teaching and learning are of critical importance in determining pupil outcomes. Using a sample of teaching staff from 32 primary schools, I attempt to identify these beliefs and their links with school effectiveness and school improvement. School effectiveness is measured in terms of pupil progress on Suffolk Reading Tests taken at 6+ and 8+ from 1994-6. Data about pedagogical values and beliefs were collected using interviews, questionnaires and Ofsted reports. An outlier framework was used to analyse effectiveness and improvement, and to determine if either was associated with a pedagogical culture based upon the ideology of progressivism which the work of Plowden and Piaget supposedly spawned during the early 1970s. It has been argued that this ideology still continues to influence primary practice and has been largely responsible for a perceived decline in standards of literacy. The results of this study suggest that differences in pedagogical culture between outlier groups are not nearly as wide ranging as some critics of primary practice suggest. However, although the differences may be few, they may still explain the apparent divergence in effectiveness since they appear to relate to pedagogical goals, methods, and certain leadership strategies. Differences between schools in which the rate of pupil progress improved substantially between 1994-6 and those in which it declined, appeared even less marked. This study also explores the challenges involved in linking research into school effectiveness with school improvement, and suggests that the lack of synergy between the two, particularly in the sphere of teaching and learning, can be partly transcended through the concept of pedagogical culture which is common to both fields of enquiry. The study concludes by positing a model that uses pedagogical culture to link both the school effectiveness and school improvement paradigms.