A Study of the Organizational Climate of
High and Low Adopter Elementary Schools in Saskatchewan
By Orest P. Ochitwa
SSTA Research Centre Report #R27: 20 pages, $11.
|Introduction||The thesis is concerned
with relating the characteristics of elementary schools to their likelihood to adopt
innovations. It considers organizational climate, leadership traits of the principal,
attributes of the staff and such characteristics as size of school and system, its
location and such.
One section of the thesis reviews opinions and studies on the process of adoption and implementation of change. This is a matter of deep concern to the SSTA Research Centre. Supporting research and having it conducted is much easier and less costly than having change implemented.
|Objective of Study|
|Research on Organizational Climate|
|Discussion of Results|
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A study of Organizational Climate of High and Low Adopter Elementary Schools in the Province of Saskatchewan
by Orest P. Ochitwa
Katz and Kahn in their book, Social Psychology of Organizations (1966), state that organizational climate is developed by the organization. They say it reflects the struggles, both internal and external, the type of people who compose the organization, the work processes, the means of communication and the exercise of authority within the individual ozganization. Further, they recognize that it is easy to detect differences in the climate of organizations, but it is difficult to name the dimensions of these differences.
After visiting a number of schools one can note relatively soon how the administrative influence permeates the attitudes and reactions of all members of the school. Andrew Halpin describes three types of schools which one may encounter. In one school the teachers and the principal are zestful and exude confidence in what they are doing. They find pleasure in working with each other; this pleasure is transmitted to the students who thus are given at least a fighting chance to discover that school can be a happy experience. In a second school the brooding discontent of the teachers is palpable, the principal tries to hide his incompetence and his lack of sense of direction behind a cloak of authority, and yet he wears this cloak poorly because the attitude he displays to others vacillates radomly between the obsequious and the officious. And the psychological sickness of such a faculty spills over on the students who, in their own frustration, feed back to the teachers a mood of despair. A third school is marked by neither joy nor despair, but by hollow ritual. Here one gets the feeling of watching an elabarate charade in which teachers, principal and students alike are acting out parts. The acting is smooth and glib, but it appears to have little meaning for the participants; in a strange way the show just doesn't seem to be 'for real.'
The implication of the foregoing statements is that the climate of the school may be a determining factor in the type of educational program carried out in an individual school. These statements raise an important question. Are there certain factors or characteristics that facilitate or inhibit the adoption of educational innovations in individual schools?
This question suggests a number of related issues: (1) Does the openness
or closedness of the organizational climate in an individual elementary school affect the
degree of adoption of educational innovations? (2) Does the proneness to and perception of
educational change by teachers and principals of elementary schools affect adoption of
educatianal innovations? (3) Do the characteristics of the principal and the teachers of
elementary schools affect the amount of adoption of educational innovations? and (4) Do
the size and geographic location of the school have an effect on the amount of adoption of
Table of Contents
Objectives of the Study
The primary objective of this research was to investigate the relation-
ships between some characteristics of elementary schools in the province of Saskatchewan
and the degree of adoption of educational innovations by these schools.
Table of Contents
Research on Organizational Climate
The concept of organizational climate has been the subject of many studies and research endeavours for the past three decades. No pretense is made of presenting a complete reviev. The purpose of this section is to introduce some of the findings of other researchers which seem to be related to the present study.
Literature in organizational climate credits the first systematic analysis of this problem to Chris Argyris. In his attempt to systematically describe the factors which comprise organizational climate in a study af organizational rela- tionships among staff members of a bank, Argyris saw a conflict between the indi- vidual, who seeks activity and independence through psychological development, and the bureaucratic, formalized organization, which keeps the individual in an infantile state of passive dependence. Argyris suggests that it is important to find ways to manage this inevitable conflict and keep it within tolerable bounds. He further contends that an interpersonal atmosphere of trust, openness, and low threat needs to be created. Without such an atmosphere, people feel they must attempt to hide conflict, which makes the problem that much more difficult to identify and deal with.
One of the earliest systematic studies of "climate" in the classroom was undertaken by Harold H. Anderson and his associates. Their recording of "dominative" and "integrative" actions of teachers and pupils in classroom interaction clearly demonstrated that acts of the teachers set behavior patterns that were reflected in classroom interaction generally.
The relationship between leadership and climate was demanstrated by the Iowa study reported by Lippltt. In this study, deliberately contrived variations of autocratic and democratic leadership were applied to experimental boys' clubs to produce artificial group climates. The conclusions showed that (1) different behavior styles of leaders do produce different group climates, (2) conversation categories d1fferentiated leadership style better than social behavior categories, (3) different leaders playing the same kind of leadership roles used similar be- havior styles and produced similar reaction patterns, (4) group members in a demacratic climate were more friendly to one another, showed more initiative, more group-mindedness and more work-mindedness, and had a higher level of frustration, tolerance, and (5) leader behavior categories represent the important parameters to which the children reacted.
Closely associated with the concept of organizational climate is the concept of "organizational health" discussed by Matthew B. Miles. Miles suggests 10 criteria for judging the health of an institution or organization.
Institutions and organizations judged to be "healthy" on the basis of the preceding criteria developed by Miles would most likely be considezed as having an "open", as opposed to a "closed" climate.
Influenced by Milton Rokeach's concepts (The Open and Closed Mind, Basic Books, New York, 1961), Halpin and Croft chose to name the ends of the organizatioan- al climate continuum as "open" and "closed". An "open" climate is characterized by functional flexibility, where Esprit, Thrust, and Consideration are high; Disengagement, Hindrance, Production Emphasis, and Aloofness are low; and Intimacy is average. A "closed" climate is characterized by functional rigidity, where Hindrance, Disengagement, Production Emphasis, and Aloofness are high; Esprit, Thrust, and Consideration are low; and Intimacy is average. Both sets of characteristics are perceived as such by members of the organization which is being categorized as having an "open" or a "closed" climate.
Research in the area of organizational climate was greatly facilitated by the development of the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire by Halpin and Croft in 1963. The development of the OCDQ led to an increase in the number of studies undertaken by educational researchers concerned with the concept of organizational climate as it relates to the educational enterprise.
Feldvebel and Andrews, using the OCDQ explored the relationship between the organizational climate and achievement of students within the schools. Feldvehel concluded that student achievement was positively related to Consider- ation and negatively related to Production Emphasis, Andrews found a positive relationship between achievement of the students and Intimacy.
A study by Butt researched the relationship between school organizational climate and student creativity. This recent study, using the OCDQ to evaluate the climate of the respective schools and the Tortance Tests of Creativity with groups of elementary students, concluded that creativity was positively related to open climates in schools and negatively related to closed climates. The sub- tests, Intimacy and Thrust, of the OCDQ were positively related to creativity, while the subtests, Disengagement and Production Emphasis, were negatively related. The other four subtests, Hindrance, Esprit, Aloofness and Consideration, were not related to Creativity. Butt's study was the outgrowth of a longitudinal study on a group of Saskatchewan elementazy schools initiated earlier by Harvey. Harvey investigated the relationships between organizational climate and teacher behavior. Examination of these relationships showed no significant concomitancy of variation between climate and teacher behavior pattern. However, a direct relationship between the principal's period of service in a school and its climate was established.
Appleberry and Hoy, in studying organizational climates and humanistic pupil control, concluded that schools with open climates were more humanistic than schools with closed climates.
The size of the school is also a variable that has been considered in relationship to organizational climate. Centry and Kenney and Flagg found that there was a trend toward closed climates as the size of the school increased. Marcum and Johnson, on the other hand, found that larger schools tended to have more open climates.
The major concern of this study is to establish what relationships exist between the degree of adoption of educatianal innovations by elemantary schools and the schools' organizatianal climate. Relatively little research has been done on this question, and very few research studies have investigated this issue with respect to public schools in Western Canada. Marcum conducted a study of 30 schools in five states in the western part of the United States in 1967 to examine this relationship. He concluded that (1) schools involved in innovational practices were also characterized by open climates, higher expenditures per student, younger professional staff, lower tenure in the school, and a larger number of professional staff (2) principals in the most innovative schools perceive climate as more open than do the teachers, however, the teachers still viewed the climate as open, and (3) younger teachers, larger numher of professional staff, and a lower mean number of years at a school were associated with the open climate schools.
Wiens concerned with the lack of research on internal factors, within
the school, conducted a similar study using Albezta schools. The researeh project was
designed to provide information regarding the extent of the diffusion of a number of
innovative practices which were available to all the schools in the sample of the time of
the study, and which therefore depended for their adoption on the attitudes held by the
personnel within the schools. Wiens found that about half of the teachers made little or
no use of the practices, even though all of the practices were available in all the
schools. This finding further suggested that attitudes toward change held by the teachers
may be more important correlates of change than has been recognized in the past, and that
administrators may have to re-examine some of their own attitudes and methods if they wish
to promote innovation in their schools. It may be necessary for the administrators to
develop effective means of working coopera- tively with influential school members in
exploring alternative methods.
Table of Contents
There is a great discrepancy between the availibility of educational innovations suggested by the superintendents and the degree of adoption of these innovations by the elementary schools as reported bv the principals.
Certain types of innovations are more likely to be adopted by elementary schools. Curriculum innovations, the most commonly adopted type, are generally authorized by the Department of Education which tends to suggest that schools will adopt and implement them. New or Modern Science, a result of space exploration and the recent interest in ecology and our natural environment, was the most widely adapted of the cirriculum innovations. In contrast, the least adopted type of curriculum innovation was special education. This area, which is designed to assist handicapped children and children with specific learning disabilities, apparently was not adopted as frequently because of the need for specially trained personnel and, in some cases, a lower pupil-teacber ratio.
Geographical location and school enrolrment appeared to be related to the degeee of adoption of the selected innovations. Urban sclools and schools with larger enrollments adopted a higher percentage of the innovations than did rural schools and schools with snaller enrollments.
From the instruments used in this study, no relationship seems to exist between the degree of adoption of educational innovations by the schools and open or closed organizational climate in the schools.
Staff's charactezristics, when analyzed as a group, did not appear to be closely related to the degree of adoption of educational innovations by an individual school. The analysis of the data related to Principal's character- istics, when analyzed as a group, suggests that principals of high adopter schools showed more Consideration or "humaneness" than did the principals of low adopter schools. This characteristic of social needs is very important for cooperative staff endeavours which are often needed in connection with the adoption of educational innovations. The Consideration score in conjunction with relatively low scores in Production Emphasis and Thrust may neutralize the relatively high score of Aloofness and help to provide a proper atmosphere for the adoption of educatianal innovations.
Teachers' behavior in a task-oriented situation (Disengagement) and their social-needs satisfaction unassociated with task accomplishment (Intimacy) are not related to the degree of adoption af educational innovations.
Staff members of low adopter schools perceive their work load to be suffici- ently large, without the added tasks which accompany the adoption of new programs, methods, and techniques. They view their principal as one who unnecessarily burdens them with routine duties and busy-work, and who obstructs rather than facilitates their duties of educational instruction in the school.
Schools with staff members who perceive that their social needs are being met tend to be relatively high in the adoption of educational innovations. The teachers who feel and enjoy a sense of accomplishment in their job tend not to reject different methods, processes, or programs that enhance their instruction of students. This "esprit" reflects an effective balance between task-accomplish- ment and social needs satfsfaction.
A significant difference was obtained between the normative score means obtained by staff of high adopter schools and staff of low adopter schools when paired with the individual subtest of Aloofness. The direction of the difference, however, was opposite to that obtained by Halpin and Croft. Halpin and Croft infer that principals who are "aloof" do not encourage an open climate in schools. Aloofness refers to the behavior exhibited by the principal and can be characterized as fomal and impersonal. The principal's actions are "universalistic rather than particularistic, nomothetic rather than idiosyncratic". In their interpretation of the dimensions contributing to an open climate, Halpin and Croft state, "he (the principal) is not aloof, nor are the rules and procedures which he sets up inflexible and impersonal." This could be interpreted to mean that Aloofness is a negative factor in assess1ng the open climate of a school.
The relatively high Aloofness mean for high adopter schools and the relatively low Aloofness mean for the low adopter schools in the present study, may, in part, explain the lack of significant difference shown in the observed and expected frequencies of open and closed levels of organizational climate when associated with high and low adopter schools. If the OCDQ is programmed to consider Aloofness as an undesirable feature of open climates, this factor could result in high adopter schools, with large Aloofness scores, being class- ified as having more closed climates while low adopter schools, who scored relatively low on the subtest of Aloofness, could be classified as having more open climates.
Further, the adoption of educational innovations could necessitate a heavier work load and possible retraining of teachers. This demand for extra effort would suggest a need for some direction from an authority figure, who through his directions appears to be impersonal and formal.
Principals who show production emphasis characteristics reported adoption of educational innovations than principals who have lower production emphasis scores. Halpin and Croft suggest that the principal, in an open climate school, does not need to monitor teachers' activities closely or emphasize production because the teachers do produce easily and freely. Since the high adopter school staffs scored relatively high in this dimension of Production Emphasis, their similarity scores would be closer to those established for closed climates. The need for Production Emphasis by the Principal may be necessary for higher adoption of educational innovations. In instituting a new program or process in a school, the principal would, of necessity, have to super- vise the implementation and early stages of operation closely. Questions regard- ing the innovation's success or failures would be directed to him, and he would be responsible for the results. This might become "one-way" communication without due consideration of feedback from the members of the staff.
Principal's characteristics of Thrust, which is task oriented, and Consideration, which is primarily social-needs oriented, were not significantly related to the degree of adoption of educational innovations.
Teachers who are prone to change tend to be curious, are willing to try new things even though it requires more individual effort and may fail, are more aware of the greater implications associated with change, and are more "profess- ional" in their approach towards education and the individual needs of their students.
Principals shown to be more prone to change are more adaptive, are looked upon as leaders by their peers and teachers, tend to support change efforts by teachers irrespective of initial "risk" implications, and promote change through systematic planning in collaboration with the staff.
Educational change, and in particular adoption of educational innovations, will occur more readily if the staff and principal in an individual school are personally desirous of change or of adopt1ng innovations which may encourage change. The authoritative method of authority innovation-decisions and orgoni- zational change can be successful only if the adoption unit is prone to the change. This adoption unit generally consists of the teachers and the principal of the individual school.
The amount of adoption of educational innovations is related to teaching
position satisfaction and placement satisfaction of the staff members. Adoption is also
related to the professional qualifications of teachers and principals and their
Table of Contents
Discussion of Results
From the analysis of the data, it appears that individual characteristics, such as the proneness to change by teachers, have more significant relationship to the degree of adoption of educational innovations than have organizational characteristics, such as climate. This finding, with only a sample of 30 schools, cannot be expressed as a generalization but may encourage future research on the question of individual vs. organizational effect on adoption.
One can only speculate on some of the reasons for the difference between the findings in this study and that of Marcum (1968), who also researched the relationship between organizational climate and the adoption of educational innovations. Statistically it could not be shown in this study that the level of organizational climate was related to the degree of adoption of educational innovations. Marcum, on the other hand, found that 13 out of 15 most adoptive schools were represented in the open climate category, and that 14 out of 15 least adoptive schools were represented in the closed climate category.
Could the difference be attributed to the design of the study in select- ing the schools? In Marcum's study, 86 schools from five western states were selected by State Department of Education personnel as most adoptive or least adoptive schools. Seventy of these schools agreed to participate and were further studied to establish a dichotomy of the 15 most adoptive and the 15 least adoptive schools to be classified as having high or low organizational climate. In the present study all the elementary Schools in the province of Saskatchewan were asked to reply to the Checklist of Educational Innovations. This request was responded to by approximately two-thirds of the total sample. It was beyond this study to establish whether the respondents represented all levels of adoption or whether particular segments were inadvertantly being excluded. It was from these schools whose principals replied to the Checklist that a dichotomy similar to that used by Marcum was established and researched to ascertain certain relationships. The broad base from which schools were selected in Marcum's study (five Western states) and the use of specific recommendations by State Department of Education personnel, may have tended to polarize his sample. The present study utilized a more general sampling and this effect may have been partially responsible for the difference in the find- ings.
The discrepency between the findings of these two studies may also have been affected by certain environmental differences. Education in Saskatchewan is a provincial concern, with only specific areas receiving some assistance from the dominion government. Recent cutbacks in educational expenditures, concern over salary negotiations and provincial bargaining, and fear of the concepts of performance contracting and accountability, partly due to lack of knowledge, may have resulted in more "closed climate" type of responses than would be found in other environments.
Other differences were also found between the two studies. Marcum found that the professional staff in the most adoptive schools were younger and tended to remain at these schools for a shorter period of time as compared with the staff of least adoptive schools and that open climate schools were more involved in the implementatian of educational innovations than closed climate schools. In the present study, these particular aspects were not found to be significantly different when comparing the two groups of high and low adopter schools.
Some of the findings of this study agreed with the findings by Marcum. High adopter schools were found to have a greater number of professionally certified staff than low adopter schools, and the average number of staff members was also larger for high adopter schools.
The Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire is programmed to distinguish between open and closed climates of schools. An open climate is characterized by principals who show high Thrust and Consideration and low Aloofness and Production Emphasis. It is questionable if, under the previously mentioned environmental constraints, whether any degree of adoption is to be expected without principals exhibiting a greater amount of Aloofness and Production Emphasis.
The climate of the school is but one factor which may influence the adoption of educational innovations. This study has shown that a more effect- ive determinant of the degree of adoption of educatfonal innovations is the change-proneness of the individuals on the school staff -- their attitude toward and desire to adopt changes. Collective research shows that superintendents and their administrative staff, in rural and urban districts, control the amount of change that is available to individual schools. The individual school staff controls change in another sense. The staff member, who is teaching in a somewhat isolated classroom, is the final determinant as to the adoption of the educational innovation. The teachers' attitude towards the particular change -- towards its relative advantage over existing materials or technique, its compatability with ongoing progzams, and the degree of difficulty in its implementation contribute importantly to the adoption or non-adoption of the change.
This study verifies Miller's assumption that a personal commitment to flexibility, open-mindness, and curiosity is an essential precondition for effective change. Individuals who possess these basic characteristics will most likely be conscious of the fact that a certain amount of stability is important as well as the need for change.
Since change-proneness has been shown to be one of the factors related to the degree of adoption of educational innovations, it is imperative that all administrators attempt to encourage a healthy attitude towards change on the part of teachers. This attitudinal change can only be accomplished with all levels of education collaborating and communicating the values and relative advantages of change to all sectors of society. The attitudes of the teacher can be effec- tively modified only if he recognizes that his superordinates, the public at large, and his peers respect the task he has chosen and offer support to him as he accepts or develops new materials or techniques designed to improve the quality of the educational process.
In summary, the results of this study should not be interpreted as
disparaging the value of the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire or the need
for an open climate in an organization. This study, using a sample of Saskatchewan
elementary schools, merely indicates that the change-proneness of staff members of the
adoption unit (the teachers and principal of an individual school) is a more conclusive
indicator of the degree of adoption of educatianal innovations than the organizational
climate of that unit. There is a need for high Esprit and high Consideration among all
staff memhers of an individual school. These characteristics seem to be most influential
in providing a reward- ing and enriching environment for the student population of the
Table of Contents
Since the adoption and implementation of educational innovations and innovative practices are crucial to the development of school instructional practices, in keeping with the rapid changes in the society with which the school is in interaction, all the departments of the Department of Education should undertake a communications program which will allow dissemination of available innovative programs, processes and techniques to all levels of school districts and primarily to the major adoption unit, the individual school.
A cooperative effort by the Saskatchevan Teachers' Federation and the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association should provide intensive inservice programs to acquaint and train staff members vith new educational practices, knowledge of proper usage, and problems associated with the implementarion of the programs. These inservice programs should be part of the staff members' school week, and could involve such activities as the use of resource personnel from local universities or colleges, teachers from innovative schools or teacher-principal discussion groups. Teachers should be allowed to visit schools with innovative practices to observe new methods and materials in action.
Superintendents of school jurisdictions have the responsibility of selecting, allocating and organizing an effective and efficient staff of principals and teachers for the individual schools. In their function of developing and maintaining wholesome human relationships among individual and groups, these leaders should formulate criteria for selecting principals and teachers who are knowledgeable of the needs of elementary students, aware of the demands of society and environment, and professional in their approach towards their own education and the education of others.
Teachers and principals should be encouraged to become more cosmopolite in approaching teaching techniqucs and practices. This cosmopolite approach could take the form of attending university or college inservice programs, extensive reading of educational research or "educational" magazine articles, and involvement in "professional" organizations pertaining to their particular field or area.
Research to determine the effect of external variables on the adoption of educational innovations in individual schools should be conducted to complement this study.
To verify the findings of this study, further investigations need to be made either on a longitudinal scale or by selecting a particular segment of elementary schools in the province of Saskatchewan.
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