Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

James Sweeney


As part of a case study of a large comprehensive high school, this study was designed for four purposes: (1) to identify and describe the common ways of thinking and their relative strength within the student culture, (2) to determine the extent to which school membership and authentic work are present within the student culture, (3) to describe the student culture, and (4) to determine the extent to which organizational systems factors influence the student culture;Primarily qualitative methods were employed, but quantitative research and triangulation were used. Small group and individual interviews involved 259 students in 17 days of on-site research. A survey was given to 132 students. Findings were derived by coding, categorizing, analyzing, quantifying, summarizing, and synthesizing all the data collected;The most pervasive and strongest ways of thinking, listed in descending order, are: (1) Having friends at school is important; (2) Getting involved in school makes a difference; (3) We have a reason to come here; (4) Our school pride, traditions, and school spirit make us unique; and (5) Supporting each other makes a difference;The extent of school membership ranges from "strongly disconnected" to "strongly connected." Over 70 percent of students report they feel "connected." The extent of authentic work ranges from strongly involved in "contrived" work to strongly involved in "real world" work. Over 60 percent of students report they do real world work;The student culture's most significant characteristics--stability, strength, positive nature, supportiveness, involvement, purposefulness, pride, loyalty, and tradition--parallel those of a nurturing and supportive family. If the school wants to promote excellence, the student culture--conceptualized as a web--needs to add a thread representing the importance of student learning, engagement, and achievement;Seven organizational systems factors influence the student culture: (1) peer influence; (2) teacher influence; (3) involvement opportunities; (4) student leadership; (5) the school's mission; (6) the school's negative public image; and (7) the goal of improving student attendance through implementing a new attendance policy.



Digital Repository @ Iowa State University,

Copyright Owner

Jan Westerman-Beatty



Proquest ID


File Format


File Size

199 pages