Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Student Perceptions of Classroom Learning Environments: Development of the Classmaps Survey

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Student Perceptions of Classroom Learning Environments: Development of the Classmaps Survey

Article excerpt

In recent years, researchers and educational policy makers have worked to identify the social, psychological, and behavioral characteristics of classrooms that promote students' school success. Their interest has been prompted by evidence that students' active engagement in schooling can be attributed, in part, to characteristics of the educational context within which they are learning (National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, 2004). Indeed, a careful analysis of school learning research conducted by Wang, Haertel, and Walberg (1990) showed that social and affective characteristics of classrooms rival traditional instructional and cognitive characteristics in their influence on learning. A likely mechanism is that these social and affective characteristics promote students' active participation in learning (academic engagement), which, in turn, strengthens students' school achievement.

Research on students' academic engagement describes the classroom competencies, over and above cognitive-intellectual ability, that promote students' success in school. Students who are academically engaged demonstrate high levels of on-task behavior such as completing assignments, complying with teacher requests, working independently, seeking help when appropriate, volunteering to answer questions, and engaging in assigned tasks during instruction (Greenwood, 1991; Liaupsin, Umbreit, Ferro, Urso, & Upreti, 2006). High levels of on-task behavior are sometimes called behavioral engagement,a term that acknowledges that measures of on-task behavior do not necessarily differentiate between those students who are passively following classroom rules and those who are making committed efforts to learn (Fredricks, Blumenfeld, & Paris, 2004; Reschly & Chris tenson, 2006). Students who are not only diligent but also interested in their classroom work are cognitively engaged as well as behaviorally engaged. Students show even higher levels of school success if they are not only on task and interested, but also strive for knowledge, set personal goals for their learning, and regulate their effort so that they achieve these goals (Pintrich, 2003). In this instance, students can be identified as autonomously engaged. Other indices of academic engagement refer to when students are emotionally engrossed in learning (They're loving it!), are part of a strong social network within the school (They belong!), or when they move into leadership roles in their school that allow them to strengthen school-wide conditions for learning (They take charge!). Within this tiered model of academic engagement, students' participation in their education encompasses attitudinal and emotional aspects as well as behavioral elements.

There is strong consensus that students' academic engagement is a very important determinant of their school success (Fredricks et al., 2004; National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, 2004; Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Students who are behaviorally and cognitively engaged have significantly higher grades, academic test scores, and performance on standards assessments. Early problems with engagement show long-lasting and detrimental effects on students' achievement, and students who are chronically disengaged are significantly more likely to drop out of school without graduating (Reschly & Christenson, 2006). Alternatively, students who are behaviorally, cognitively, and autonomously engaged are more likely to complete school and transition into successful and satisfying adult lives.

Researchers' attention has turned, recently, to identifying the malleable features of classrooms that promote academic engagement in students: classroom relatedness,or the degree to which teachers and classmates foster a socially supportive community; perceived competence in the classroom, or the degree to which students expect to be successful in their learning; and classroom supports for autonomy, or the degree to which students' learning is self-directed (Furrer & Skinner, 2003; National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, 2004). …

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