A case study of the prevailing and preferred cognitive frames of campus plan goals in two West Texas schools



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Texas Tech University


Instructional planning and decision-making serve as important links between the educational organization and the public venue. The focus of the Texas district and campus planning and decision-making teams is to improve the performance of all students. The ultimate purpose of planning and decision-making in schools is to attain the state's educational goals of equity and excellence in achievement for all students.

The purpose of this study was to analyze goals and objectives of current campus plans to identify which cognitive frames these goals had been predominantly written in as identified by the work of Bolman and Deal (1997). Teaching school leaders how to write more symbolically framed goal statements would allow for administrators to focus on the more inspiring, creative aspects of school goals. Based on a pilot study, it was determined that many of the current district and campus plans were developed and written in such a manner as to meet the requirements of the state mandates, a very structured process. It was anticipated that from such a structured set of rules, structured goals and plans would be produced.

This study was based on the work completed by Bolman and Deal (1984, 1992, 1997). They identified four frames of cognition in the framing and reframing process in which leaders engage. Those frames are the structural, the human resource, the political, and the symbolic frames. This study investigated campus goals, the predominance of the frames in these goals, and the public preference of a particular frame choice related to campus goals.

This case study utilized three methods of data gathering and analysis. An archival retrieval and analysis was completed on two elementary school campus plan goals using an open-coded system of analysis. A survey that allowed the participants to select between either structurally or symbolically framed goals was administered to a target population of administrators, teachers, and selected parents to determine the preference of these three groups. Also, personal interviews were conducted to confirm the responses in the survey and to triangulate the findings from the three methods utilized in this study.

The results of the study indicated that the structural frame was the predominant frame in the campus goals with only slight evidence of the symbolic frame. There was no evidence of the human resource frame or the political frame. The study also revealed that when administrators, teachers, and parents were given a choice between the structural frame goals and symbolic frame goals, all three groups exhibited a strong preference for the symbolical framed goals.

This study indicated that administrators and members of the instructional planning and decision-making teams may want to become more knowledgeable in the frames of cognition with regard to the writing of campus goals. Administrators who utilize the findings of this research will develop more symbolically framed goals.