The Environmental Assessment Technique (EAT) was developed by John L. Holland and Alexander W. Astin to quickly and easily capture the dominant beliefs, functioning, and goals of the individuals within an organization, using Holland’s six environmental models. The EAT consists of eight scales: Institutional Size, Aptitude Level, and six Personal Orientation scales.
The EAT is based upon Holland’s theory of vocational personalities and work environments, which suggests that people are both affected by and affect the environments in which they find themselves. His personality types and environmental models represent the bidirectional influence of person and environment. Both personality and environments can be classified using the following categories: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. Thus, by evaluating the proportion of each type of people in an environment (the Personal Orientations scales), one can obtain a sense of the character of that environment. Complete descriptions of these categories can be found in Holland’s Making Vocational Choices.
The EAT has the advantage of using easily available information that is quantitative in nature (thus facilitating comparisons) and heuristic (as the results produce a description of the goals, rewards, motivations, coping styles, and interests most evident and influential in a particular environment). The use of objective data lessens the likelihood of perceptual bias and complements data drawn directly from the population of interest, such as from the Position Classification Inventory.
The validity of the EAT is moderate to high with reliabilities in this range over 1 to 5 years and appropriate convergent validity. Although originally developed for use in university environments, the EAT has also been used to evaluate the environment in middle schools, high schools, and the military and of college graduates transitioning to full-time employment. Organizational psychologists have encouraged its use in organizational consulting.
Scoring and Interpretation
Originally, the scales for the EAT were compiled in the following manner. The Institutional Size scale consists of the square root of the number of students-employees in the institution. The Aptitude Level is taken from the mean score on a nationally normed test (or other measure of cognitive skill, such as found in the Occupational Information Network or the Dictionary of Holland Occupational Codes). The Personal Orientation scales are compiled in three steps. The first step is to obtain counts of the number of students in each major or individuals in each occupation. The second step is to aggregate the counts, using the first letter of the code for each major-occupation, according to their fit within Holland’s classification of occupations or college majors. The third step entails calculating the percentage of the total majors that fall within each of the six personality-work environments.
The results will produce a Holland Occupational Code for the entire organization. The characteristics of the Personal Orientation scale with the greatest percentage will have the most influence on the character of the institution as a whole. Interpretation of the resulting code is conducted in conjunction with the definitions from Holland’s theory. Holland has developed dictionaries of coding schemes for both occupations and college majors in order to facilitate the use of this technique.
- Astin, A. W., & Holland, J. L. (1961). The Environmental Assessment Technique: A way to measure college environments. Journal of Educational Psychology, 52(6), 308-316.
- Holland, J. L. (1997). Making vocational choices: A theory of vocational personalities and work environments. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.
- Schneider, B. (1987). The people make the place. Personnel Psychology, 40, 437-153.