Date of Award


Degree Name

EdD Doctor of Education

Dissertation Committee

Joseph C. Rost, PhD; Edward Kujawa Jr., PhD; William E. Elliott, PhD


adolescents, beliefs, Catholic secondary schools, education, Ethnography, religious cultures, shared meanings, symbols, values


The culture of a school includes the values, symbols, beliefs, and shared meanings of members of the school community. Catholic high schools have features which are distinctly Catholic, such as programs, personnel, and religious activities. As a result, religious cultures quite distinct from those of public schools exist in Catholic schools. This study investigated strong religious cultures in six selected west coast Catholic secondary schools selected through a reputational analysis survey. Schools were selected to include representation from six major groupings using the criteria of (a) type, of school (diocesan and private), (b) student body (coeducational and single sex), and (c) status of the principal (diocesan priest, religious, and lay). Ethnographic methods including interviews, behavior observation, and evaluation of school documents were used' to determine distinctive characteristics of the religious cultures, the administrative structures, practices and procedures used to develop and foster the religious cultures, and whether the status of the principal and size and type of the school made a difference in the strength of the religious culture. The study concluded that Catholic high schools with strong religious cultures have certain common characteristics including strong religious values such as faith development, and a sense of community, programs which provide knowledge and experience to students, people who are deeply concerned about the total wellbeing of students, and a climate which establishes norms for behavior. and a structured environment. Cultural elements are similar to those previously identified in schools with strong cultures, but have a religious emphasis. Administrators enhance the religious culture through programs, curricula, hiring practices, and opportunities for the spiritual development of faculty. The leadership ability and charisma of the principal influence the strength of the culture more than does the clerical or religious status of the principal. Boys' schools emphasize peer bonding; girls' schools stress the role of women in the world and church. The presence and sponsorship of a religious community strongly influences the religious culture, but size of the school does not.

Document Type

Dissertation: Open Access