Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

Improving Instruction in Multicultural Classes by Using Classroom Learning Environment

Academic journal article Journal of Instructional Psychology

Improving Instruction in Multicultural Classes by Using Classroom Learning Environment

Article excerpt

The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of assisting science classroom teachers in multicultural classes in obtaining information about student perception of the learning environment and guiding systematic improvement in science classroom environments by using the practical program proposed by Fraser (1981) and Fraser & O'Brien (1985). The instrument used in this study to assess the differences in student perception of ideal and preferred classroom environment was the short form of the My Class Inventory (MCI). The study sampled 1216 science students, grades 6-8, from six urban multicultural public schools. Although this study resulted in only four successful attempts out of ten at improving classroom environments, Fraser (1986) reports over 70 successful studies suggesting the potential usefulness of science teachers employing classroom environment instruments to provide meaningful information about their classroom and be guided to improvements in classroom environment. Further study is necessary to determine how effective improvement strategies are in reducing discrepancies between students' actual and preferred environments and the impact of these reductions on achievement of school goals.

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The purpose of this study was to examine the impact of assisting science classroom teachers in multicultural classes in obtaining information about student perception of the learning environment and guiding systematic improvement in science classroom environments by using the practical program proposed by Fraser (1981) and Fraser & O'Brien (1985). Early classroom environment research has investigated the association between students' cognitive and affective learning outcomes and their perceptions of psychosocial characteristics of their classrooms. More recently, person-environment research has appeared in the fields of business, vocational education and those studying teacher stress (Meir & Tzadok, 2000; Goodman & Svyantek, 1999; and Pithers, 1999).

Hadi-Tabassum (1999) assessed the nature and quality of student attitudes toward their environment and changed the classroom in order to gain increase academic improvement; "we expanded the notion of a science classroom by making every effort to go beyond the ordinary shape and form of a science classroom in order to nurture a proliferation of ideas." Fouts & Myers (1992) performed a replication study indicating that their significant results added to a growing empirical base indicating that student views are determined, in part, by the classroom environment. The same researchers, in another study, conducted a cluster analysis of 27 science classes and concluded that the dimensions of the classroom environment which make a difference are those that teachers may develop and change. (Myers & Fouts, 1992).

Fraser (1989) reviewed over sixty studies in which the effects of classroom environment on science student outcomes were investigated. The findings of the studies suggest that student outcomes can be improved by creating classroom environments which are conducive to learning. All sixty classroom environment studies reviewed by Fraser (1989) used student perceptual data. None relied on outside observers. This approach is limited by the assumption that the students can render valid judgments about the classroom. Additionally, it has the shortcomings of questionnaires in general. Questionnaires contain predetermined categories and the assumption is made that the students can read and comprehend the statements.

Method

The instrument used in this study to assess the differences in student perception of ideal and preferred classroom environment was the short form of the My Class Inventory (MCI). It contains only five scales (Cohesiveness, Friction, Difficulty, Satisfaction and Competitiveness).

The study sampled 1216 science students, grades 6-8, from six urban multicultural public schools. …

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