A typology of organizational culture in primary schools: Productive, shaky, conservative or hindering?

Wai Ming Frank TAM, Yin Cheong CHENG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of the present study was to understand the characteristics of types of organizational culture in Hong Kong primary schools by employing the K-mean cluster analysis and ANOVA method. The conceptualization of organizational culture was based on multimodels of school quality (Cheng, 1990; Tam, 1998) and the school effectiveness literature. Based on this concept, school quality was divided into five domains: goal achievement, client satisfaction, process smoothness, problem prevention, and continuous learning, and each domain was described by a variable bearing the same name. The study was a cross-sectional survey, involving 60 aided primary schools and 389 teachers in Hong Kong. By using the K-mean cluster analysis and ANOVA method, it was found that the school organizational culture could be classified into four distinctive types. These four types were productive, shaky, conservative, and hindering. Each of these types exhibited a distinguishable set of organizational characteristics with contrasting organizational profiles. Schools with a productive culture were strong in the five domains. They may have a good organizational support system and the capacity for educational innovation. Schools with a shaky culture were positive in goal achievement and continuous learning domain, but rather weak in the problem prevention domain. These schools may be aggressive in terms of trying to improve, but have neglected many of their organizational problems. Schools with a conservative culture were moderate in the problem prevention, but very weak in the continuous learning domain. Teachers in these schools may think that since there are no apparent problems in the school, there is no need to try new things. Schools with a hindering culture were weak in the five domains. These schools were characterized by lack of goal, dissatisfied members, stormy organizational process, and frequent problems. The study also showed that teachers in schools with productive and shaky culture have significantly higher levels of commitment than schools with conservative and hindering cultures. Finally, we found that two factors, namely, capability to deal with internal problems and reaction to change, may be accountable for the development of the four culture types. Copyright © 2003 Rowman & Littlefield Education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-25
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Reform
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


Tam, F. W.-M., & Cheng, Y.-C. (2003). A typology of organizational culture in primary schools: Productive, shaky, conservative or hindering? International Journal of Educational Reform, 12(1), 2-25. doi: 10.1177/105678790301200101


  • Primary Education
  • Educational Policy and Management


Dive into the research topics of 'A typology of organizational culture in primary schools: Productive, shaky, conservative or hindering?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.