murphyBook Author: Joseph Murphy and Daniela Torre (2012)

Following up on previous work on school improvement that stresses the importance of academic press and school culture (Murphy, 2010), Murphy and Torre's Creating Productive Cultures in Schools illustrates the role of leadership and community in the pursuit of strengthened school culture. This book starts with the characterization of a model for building a personalized community within and around schools that emphasizes a leadership engine that both overcomes liabilities and builds on assets. The book then turns to practices of collaboration in professional culture and analyzes successful frameworks and models for creating communities of teacher professionals. For readers, Murphy and Torre split attention between the "'what'— ingredients that define professional learning culture" (p. viii) and the 'how'—dimensions of capital (knowledge and cultural) that deepen professional norms and attitudes (Murphy and Torre, 2014).

Inside Creating Productive Cultures in Schools, the authors define the essence of educational leadership as "1) having a sense of where an organization needs to get to, or what it needs to achieve, and 2) creating the capacity and deploying that capacity to reach desired ends" (p. 4). Further, Murphy and Torre hold that school leadership rests not just in the administrative title, but also in a reciprocal model in which a principal is "both directed by antecedents, environmental and school contexts, and school conditions and outcomes, and influences these factors" (p. 9).

The model for the Dimensions of Instructional Leadership promoted by Murphy and Torre suggests that a leader:

  • Defines the Mission as framing school goals and communicating them;
  • Manages Instructional Programs by supervising instruction, coordinating curriculum, and monitoring student progress; and
  • Promotes School Culture through supportive learning communities for students, communities of professional practice for teachers, and communities of engagement for parents.

The authors remind us that school leadership practices must be characterized by quality, frequency, scope, intensity, range, and integration.
As the initial sections of the book connect to leadership, the remaining share of text is centered on the components of building productive school cultures. Within these particular chapters, readers will examine what Pastoral Care looks like and how it functions, and explore elements of practical professional communities and the impact they can have on school culture. Readers will also assess barriers associated with existing school cultures, review strategies aimed at addressing those barriers and supporting productive teacher communities, and consider an action plan that principals can enact toward strengthening engaged parent communities.
More specifically, in Chapter 4—"Supportive Communities of Learning for Students," Murphy and Torre delineate a framework and model for establishing and harnessing the power of community in promoting student achievement. In a community of Pastoral Care for Students, norms include: care, support, safety, and a sense of membership. By incorporating these norms into the school culture for all students, educators can expect intermediate outcomes of social integration, sense of self, and improved learning dispositions. These intermediate outcomes lead students to become more engaged and precede end outcomes such as academic and social learning (Murphy and Torre, 2014). Later in the chapter, the authors take a richer look at what a pastoral care community looks like and how it functions.

Creating Productive Cultures in Schools is a comprehensive look at school improvement through the lens of leadership and school culture. By concentrating on the function of leadership and school community, Murphy and Torre's model focuses due attention on relationships and organization. Readers will learn strategic and practical applications for facilitating student, teacher, and parent and community engagement. This book supports school leaders in making sense of the economic, cultural, and social issues that influence instruction and student learning. It also suggests strategies for cultivating relationships, creating communities of professional learning, and fostering an intensified sense of caring within a school.


Murphy, J. and Torre, D. (2014). Creating productive cultures in schools: For students, teachers, and parents. Corwin Press. Thousand Oaks, CA.

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