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Research and Methodology

What we’re assessing

The term culture refers to a total communication and behavioral pattern within an organization. Yukl (2002) defines organizational culture as “the shared values and beliefs of members about the activities of the organization and interpersonal relationships” (p. 108). Schein (2004) observes that culture “points us to phenomena that are below the surface, that are powerful in their impact but invisible and to a considerable degree unconscious. In that sense culture is to a group what personality is to an individual” (p. 8). Culture as a concept, then, is deeply embedded in an organization and relatively difficult to change; yet it has real day-to-day consequences in the life of the organization. According to Baker and Associates (1992), culture is manifest through symbols, rituals, and behavioral norms, and new members of an organization need to be socialized in the culture in order for the whole to function effectively.

Climate refers to the prevailing condition that affects satisfaction (e.g., morale and feelings) and productivity (e.g., task completion or goal attainment) at a particular point in time. Essentially then, climate is a subset of an organization’s culture, emerging from the assumptions made about the underlying value system and finding expression through members’ attitudes and actions (Baker & Associates, 1992).

Why it matters

The way that various individuals behave in an organization influences the climate that exists within that organization. If individuals perceive accepted patterns of behavior as motivating and rewarding their performance, they tend to see a positive environment. Conversely, if they experience patterns of behavior that are self-serving, autocratic, or punishing, then they see a negative climate. The importance of these elements as determiners of quality and productivity and the degree of satisfaction that employees receive from the performance of their jobs have been well documented in the research literature for more than 40 years (Baker & Associates, 1992).

How we measure it

The PACE Climate Survey is based on a research-driven conceptual model that demonstrates that the leadership of an institution influences the culture, policies, practices, and routines of their institution. Individual employee perceptions of the institution’s policies, practices, and routines are aggregated to produce an institutional climate. The quality of various aspects of an institution’s climate has been shown to be related to individual-level and institution-level performance outcomes. It is the goal of PACE to act as a catalyst for improving institutional climate for the purpose of enhancing institutional performance toward student success.

The PACE Climate Survey asks respondents to evaluate their institution on four climate factors using a five-point Likert scale. Each set of survey items related to the four climate factors has been tested for reliability and validity. To that end, The Belk Center has demonstrated the validity of the PACE instrument through both content and construct validity. Content validity has been established through a rigorous review of the instrument’s questions by scholars and professionals in higher education to ensure that the instrument’s items capture the essential aspects of institutional effectiveness. Building on this foundation of content validity, the PACE instrument has been thoroughly tested to ensure construct (climate factors) validity through two separate factor analysis studies (Caison, 2005; Tiu, 2001).

Climate Factors

The mission of PACE is to promote open and constructive communication along four climate factors. Each climate factor has a unique focus which creates an integrative tool useful in understanding the campus climate at your institution. Institutional Structure focuses on the mission, leadership, spirit of corporation, structural organization, decision-making, and communication within the institution. Supervisory Relationships provide insight into the relationship between employees and their supervisors, as well as employees’ abilities to be creative and express ideas related to their work. The Teamwork climate factor explores the spirit of cooperation that exists within teams, while the Student Focus climate factor considers the centrality of students to the actions of the institution as well as the extent to which students are prepared for post-institution endeavors. Taken together the climate factors provide a valid source to define areas needing change or improvement and sets the stage for strategic planning.