Rational and open system theories offer divergent sets of tactics on how best to deal with factors outside the boundary of the school. This study compared two competing strategies that emerge from these theories: bridging and buffering. The impact of how schools interact with their environments was examined in relation to student achievement.
The competing theories were operationalized into two survey measures that tapped teacher perceptions of their schools’ orientations toward the environment. Using schools as the unit of analysis, two competing perspectives were contrasted together with their relative impact on student achievement on standardized tests.
Multiple regression was used to assess the relative weight of each of these constructs in explaining the variance in student achievement. Bridging strategies explained a greater proportion of the variance than buffering.
Data were limited to teacher perceptions of the strategies employed by their schools to relate to the external environments. Enactments of these strategies are generally conceived and initiated by school administrators. Schools are dependent on their environments for survival. If the community is perceived as a threat, school leaders will attempt to insulate the technical core of teaching by buffering teachers from environmental disturbances. If, however, the community is perceived as a potential resource, school leaders will attempt to build bridges and create a symbiotic interdependence. Findings suggest that the latter is a more productive strategy for school administrators to employ.
To date, little research has been done on these competing strategies that would guide the practice of school leaders in how to best invest their energies in relation to their external environments.
DiPaola, M.F. and Tschannen‐Moran, M. (2005), "Bridging or buffering? The impact of schools’ adaptive strategies on student achievement", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 43 No. 1, pp. 60-71. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230510577290Download as .RIS
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