Date of Award

Summer 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Kay A. Keiser, Ed. D.

Second Advisor

Jeanne Surface


Group associations are a fundamental aspect of the human condition, facilitating the most basic as well as more complex needs for survival. Tajfel’s research outlines the impact that such associations have on how humans create identities for themselves. Providing pride or shame, organizations have a profound opportunity to shape its members’ senses of self-efficacy. Organizations, therefore, need to be mindful of their group identity and image to positively influence the self-esteem of those members. Nowhere is this as important as secondary schools where students are not only at a formative age, but also are often assigned to their school based on geography and socio-economic status rather than preference. The purpose of this study was to uncover the ways urban high schools develop these organizational identities and images, either intentionally or unintentionally, in addition to the effect school identity and image has on its members’ perceptions of their individual self-efficacies. Using Borman and Deal’s Symbol Framework, this study profiles four high schools. Three of the schools are housed in the same school district and have similar student populations in diversity and in socio-economic levels. The fourth school (from the same school district) closed in 1984 and provides a historic perspective of organizational identity-making. Using three types of data (interview, observations, and historical research), this qualitative study found that organization identity is formed through symbolic actions, such as storytelling; heroes and heroines; physical artifacts; and traditions and rituals. These symbolic forms clearly communicate the identity and image of the school by emphasizing its values and beliefs. Without mindful attention to these symbols, schools run the risk of creating an identity that not only derails the mission of their organization but hinders the self-efficacy of its members. Through the careful analysis of the data collected, this grounded theory study posits steps that education leaders can take to intentionally and affectively cultivate an organizational identity and image that truly reflects an organization that all members are proud to belong to.


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