Organisational climate : perspectives on a problematic concept
It is generally accepted that organisations have their own tone or atmosphere whose subtle qualities may be intuitively recognised or felt. In an organisational model the technical term, organisational climate, defines these qualities more precisely so their effects upon organisational participants can be investigated. In school organisations, "school climate", "ethos" and "culture" have been used as synonyms to identify differences assumed to be important for teachers, pupils and parents. Unfortunately, conceptual ambiguity has pervaded climate research for positivist operational definitions appear to have taken precedence over considerations of construct validity. Organisations have been assumed to have one climate which is differentially perceived, and perceptual measurement techniques have been used to identify underlying dimensions. Within this framework, competing assumptions of different researchers have obscured agreement about the nature of climate variables. There has been scant concern for the construct's factorial stability. Conflicting findings which have been difficult to generalise or relate to school effects, have resulted in conceptual confusion. The possibility that organisations may possess multiple climates has hardly been considered. Nor have studies investigated climate as a symbolic construct related to meanings and feelings held by individuals. The present study argues traditional assumptions are too global for the construct to be useful as a focus of research. A qualitative analysis is applied to investigate the extent to which climate as an individual, personal construct can be translated into a global construct of shared meanings at organisational level. Semi-structured interviews are conducted with the head teachers and teachers from two secondary schools. Meanings and feelings about organisational interaction are categorised into hierarchical networks representing emergent organisational-level characteristics. Data interpretation is further supported by quantified data of card-sort and questionnaires from 18 INSET teachers and 37 headteachers in different secondary schools. Results suggest teachers but not head teachers, distinguish between meanings of "organisational climate", "ethos" and "school climate". Their different viewpoints have implications for school management practices.