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Naturalistic study of how selected school contexts adapted roles and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic phases: A cultural theory perspective

Walker, Catharine Elizabeth
The purpose of this naturalistic study is to explore, through the lens of cultural theory, how selected school contexts adapted roles and responsibilities in educational processes during three of the COVID-19 pandemic phases: (a) infection, (b) social distancing, and (c) management. The COVID-19 pandemic forced educators and the districts in which they serve to make significant changes to how they educate students. Schools had to adapt to different roles as well as meet state practices and mandated standards (OSDE, 2020; Rauf, 2020; Schwartz, 2020b). While all districts were forced to make significant changes in their roles and responsibilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic, research indicates that some school contexts adjusted to these changes more readily than others (Gewertz, 2020; Kunichoff, 2020; Peroff, 2020; Reuters, 2020; Schleicher, 2020; Turner et al., 2020). One explanation for these differing adjustments can be found in the tenets of cultural theory, which explain how members’ roles, values, beliefs, and behaviors in an organization, along with the rules that govern the organization, are important in understanding how contextual meaning is constructed and transposed when implementing change (Harris, 1995; Harris, 2015). This study used naturalistic inquiry methods (Erlandson, Harris, Skipper & Allen, 1993), which allows the researcher to understand the everyday life of the people involved in the educational environment. The naturalistic inquiry method was chosen to provide a holistic picture of what the impact is on the lives of the teachers, school culture, and the principal, within the school context.