The environments of higher education institutions have undergone significant changes in the past twenty years as a result of concerns expressed in prominent reports. These external concerns and initiatives reflect contemporary criticisms by the public about the efficiency and effectiveness of the performance of institutions. The response from research, legislatures, and the institutions has been to implement practices aimed at improvement and borrowed from business and industry. Research indicates that this performance orientation to change in higher education has largely failed, due in part to the lack of attention given to the culture of the institution.
Emerging research indicates a shift from a performance orientation to change to a learning orientation. Researchers cite the ability of an organization to learn as the principle advantage in today’s competitive environment. Although studies of organizational learning have been conducted within the context of business, governmental agencies, and healthcare, little is known about organizational learning within the industry where learning is the core mission. The knowledge society we live in makes the actions of organizational learning essential for the survival and growth of the institution. Institutional culture provides the values, beliefs, and assumptions that guide actions of both the individuals and the institution. To that end, campus culture influences the choices of the institution in selecting change strategies.
The purpose of this case study was to examine the relationship between the change functions of institutional performance and learning and the values, beliefs, and assumptions we know as institutional culture at a two-year technical/community college. The study attempted to determine whether the actions in institutional performance and learning varied systematically from one culture type to another.
The Organizational Learning Systems Model and the Competing Values Framework provided the theoretical foundations for this study. Institutional performance referred to the four systems of exchange, production/service, coordination and reinforcement. Institutional learning referred to the four systems of environmental interfacing, action and reflection, integration, and memory and meaning. Institutional culture referred to the four cultural types: clan, market, hierarchy, and adhocracy. The perceptions of these twelve variables were measured using a cross-sectional survey methodology that combined two existing instruments.
The study was conducted at the institution level of analysis. Data were collected from the population of full-time and part-time administrators, faculty, and staff with a total of 188 employees participating. Data analysis procedures using Pearson correlation and multiple regression revealed significant findings for research, leadership, and practice. The findings for this study demonstrated a relationship between perceptions of complex campus culture and institutional performance and learning. For this institution, the clan, adhocracy, and hierarchy cultural types had significant relationships with the eight performance and learning subsystems and were determined to be predictors of institutional performance and learning. The findings from this study were inconsistent with previous research that demonstrated the relationship of a dominant cultural type to institutional effectiveness. Instead, the findings supported the premise of the Competing Values Framework that a complex institutional culture contributed to an increased ability to perform and learn.