Schools are unique places, where different cultures exist. While students have their own cultures within the class or school community, there are also several forms of culture among teachers. Hargreaves (1994) highlights four forms of teacher culture: individualism, collaboration, contrived-collegiality and balkanization. Each of these types is quite different from each other and have different impact on teachers’ practices.
Collaborative culture is a goal that all educators attempt to establish, as it brings positive changes to teacher and school community (Hargreaves, 1994). It serves as a “bridge between school improvement and teacher development” (p.186). Teachers are engaged in an open exchange of experience through team work, coaching and other activities. In this type of culture it is much easier to make changes to improve the school outcomes.
On the other hand, the rest three are less favorable for change. They are the cultures that are considered to have negative affect on teachers: individualism, contrived-collegiality and the most extreme one is balkanization. Contrived collegiality is a form of teacher culture in which the schools or external authorities impose their ideas to schools. As an example of contrived-collegiality can be set of activities such seminars, coaching, group works, in which teachers are engaged. The difference between contrived-collegiality and collaborative culture is that the former is administratively regulated and mandatory.
Individualism, as the title says, is about isolation among staff. This culture does not facilitate school development as collaboration does.
The last one is balkanization. It is to say when teachers create isolated subgroups within a bigger community, for example primary teachers’ groups or subject based groups. It is not to mean that individual work of separate groups leads to balkanization. Balkanization causes negative consequences for students’ and teachers’ development. Teachers within balkanized culture are strongly isolated and do not usually participate in other groups. Here, teachers’ professional development occurs within the limits of the cultural group.
All these give me food for thought. The standing out one is how can we change cultures in our schools, which are predominantly individualistic or balkanized to collaborative?
Hargreaves, A. (1995). Changing teachers, changing times: Teachers’ work and culture in the postmodern. London: Cassell.