Classroom Climate

A classroom climate refers to a composite of variables working together to promote learning in a comfortable environment in a classroom. Every classroom is unique because there is a wide range of variables that have an impact on the climate in a classroom. However, a number of elements are required for the establishment of a successful learning environment.

The most important thing for a classroom is to create an atmosphere promoting learning. Students need to feel the academic atmosphere of a classroom from the moment they enter it. In order to achieve this atmosphere every item in the classroom should emphasise learning in some way.

A classroom climate needs to include respect so that students can learn properly. The teacher can emphasise the importance of respect on the first day of class and deal with outbursts accordingly in order to define his or her classroom climate. Not only should students respect each other and the teacher, but the teacher should also respect the students.

While respect is one of the variables of classroom climate that promote learning, equally important for the atmosphere is for the classroom to be a safe space. In safe space students are not afraid that they can be teased, harassed and bullied so they feel free to express themselves. A teacher should not tolerate any hateful behavior or discrimination in order to create a safe space. A teacher can also behave the way he or she wishes students to behave and in this way define the classroom climate.

A teacher's behavior as a whole influences greatly the climate in a classroom. Teachers should focus on adjusting themselves to the classroom climate instead of spending too much time on the way the classroom looks or how students behave. Teachers set the tone for the students to follow so they play a central role in defining the climate in a classroom.

When the atmosphere in a classroom promotes learning there is respect and a climate of safety. While the teacher's behavior sets the tone to be followed by students, the classroom climate is created by the students' specific personalities. The most populous of the variables of a classroom climate is the group of students and it is that variable that makes every classroom climate different. A successful classroom climate cannot be achieved without taking into account students' personalities.

There are a number of ways to study the classroom climate. An external observer systematically codes and directly observes classroom communication and events. Ethnography, case study, naturalistic inquiry and interpretive research all use different techniques to study classroom climate. There are also methods using the perceptions of students and teachers, which characterise the setting through the eyes of the participants.

There is a wide range of instruments that assess classroom climate on the basis of the shared perceptions of the teachers and the students. The first classroom climate instruments were Learning Environment Inventory (LEI) and Classroom Environment Scale (CES), which were developed in the 1960s. The LEI includes 105 statements in 15 scales which have four response alternatives. The scales include speed, cohesiveness, goal direction, difficulty and disorganisation. The CES consists of nine scales with ten items of true-false response each, with the scales including teacher support, involvement, innovation and task orientation.

The Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI) is an instrument specifically suited to the assessment of the climate of science laboratory classes. It has five scales with seven items each and five response alternatives. The five scales are student cohesiveness, investigation, open-endedness, material environment and rule clarity.

The Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) is used to assist researchers and teachers in the assessment of the degree to which the climate in a particular classroom is consistent with a constructivist epistemology. It has 36 items in five scales with five response alternatives. The scales are uncertainty, personal relevance, shared control, critical voice and student negotiation.

The What Is Happening In This Class (WIHIC) questionnaire combines modified versions of the most salient scales from different existing questionnaires and additional scales accommodating new educational concerns. The final form of the questionnaire consists of seven scales with eight items. The scales are student cohesiveness, involvement, task orientation, teacher support, investigation, cooperation, and equity.

These instruments have a form that measures perceptions of the "actual" or experienced classroom and a form, which measures perceptions of "preferred" or ideal classroom climate. The second forms are concerned with value orientations and goals, measuring perceptions of a classroom climate which is the ideally liked or preferred one.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Motivation for Achievement: Possibilities for Teaching and Learning
M. Kay Alderman.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Part III "The Classroom Climate for Optimal Engagement and Motivation"
Some Simple and Yet Overlooked Common Sense Tips for A More Effective Classroom Environment
Simplicio, Joseph S. C.
Journal of Instructional Psychology, Vol. 26, No. 2, June 1999
Academic Dishonesty: An Educator's Guide
Bernard E. Whitley Jr.; Patricia Keith-Spiegel.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Fostering Academic Integrity in the Classroom"
Research on Classroom Ecologies: Implications for Inclusion of Children with Learning Disabilities
Deborah L. Speece; Barbara K. Keogh.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1996
Librarian’s tip: "Teacher-Student Interactions: Classroom Climate" begins on p. 117
Student Perceptions in the Classroom
Dale H. Schunk; Judith L. Meece.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1992
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 15 "Achievement Goals and the Classroom Motivational Climate"
Assessing Teacher Effectiveness: Developing a Differentiated Model
Jim Campbell; Leonidas Kyriakides; Daniel Muijs; Wendy Robinson.
RoutledgeFalmer, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Effective Teaching and Values"
Assessing Students in a Graduate Tests and Measurement Course: Changing the Classroom Climate
Klecker, Beverly M.
College Student Journal, Vol. 34, No. 1, March 2000
Understanding Classroom Interaction: Students' and Professors' Contributions to Students' Silence
Fassinger, Polly A.
Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 66, No. 1, January-February 1995
The Perceived Environment of Special Education Classrooms for Adolescents: A Revision of the Classroom Environment Scale
Trickett, Edison J.; Leone, Peter E.; Fink, Carolyn Molden; Braaten, Sheldon L.
Exceptional Children, Vol. 59, No. 5, March-April 1993
Using Technology to Enhance the Classroom Environment
Levine, Lawrence E.
T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), Vol. 29, No. 6, January 2002
Classroom Power Relations: Understanding Student-Teacher Interaction
Mary Phillips Manke.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
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