Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Positive Development in School Settings: School Environment Influences on Perceived School Adjustment in a Romanian Adolescent Sample

Academic journal article Cognitie, Creier, Comportament

Positive Development in School Settings: School Environment Influences on Perceived School Adjustment in a Romanian Adolescent Sample

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The present study focuses on an analysis of the impact school environment components have on school adjustment dimensions for thirteen year old students in the seventh grade and respectively fifteen-year old students in the ninth grade (theoretical high-schools) from Romanian schools (N = 3022). We aimed at investigating perceived psychosocial school environment predictors, as conceptualized in the HBSC framework, for global school adjustment, when controlling for influences of students' gender and educational level. On the one hand, our study is an exploratory pursuit aimed at tapping into how Romanian students understand and integrate their school climate into perceptions of school adjustment. On the other hand, the study's results point out important information for applied intervention programs in Romanian school settings, aimed at diagnosing key elements in the school environment which can be used as levers for stimulating positive youth development in Romania.

KEYWORDS: adolescence, school environment, school adjustment, positive youth development.

Positive youth development: the role school environment and school adjustment

Individual development in adolescence is strongly influenced by the school environment in which the student functions and acquires knowledge, with schoolrelated experiences shaping how he/she perceives and adapts to educational demands. The degree of students' school adjustment is shaped by the structure and dynamics of their psychosocial school environment, with theoretical approaches supporting the concept of person-environment fit in defining this relation. Connell and Wellborn (1991) argue that personal aspects like student involvement in school, social activities and emotional well-being, highly increase in a school environment that provides structure, supports individual autonomy and rewards positive initiative. This perpetual interaction between individual and context is reflected in the developmental contextual approach on adolescence, which points out the multiplicative nature of contextual factors that moderate or change influences of individual differences on adolescent development (Lerner, 2002). The multiple levels of ecological contexts (e.g. family, peers, schools, community, and culture) in which the adolescent functions are in a systemic relation with all levels of organization of the individual (e.g. physiological, cognitive, and emotional). This relation makes human development "both lawfully probabilistic [...] and relatively plastic" (Lerner et al., 2006, p. 447). The concept of relative plasticity refers to the perpetual potential systematic change in behavior, representing a significant strength in all humans that can be used as potential for positive changes in applied intervention programs. Identification and analysis of contexts salient in adolescent's lives allows researchers to understand which means and strategies they construct in these contexts can be used as positive levers for developmental regulation (Baltes, Lindenberger, & Saudinger, 1998).

Hence, knowing more about how components of the school milieu shape and are shaped by personal outcomes helps both researchers and practitioners in identifying vulnerability and protective factors which limit or support a positive youth development (Lerner, 2005).

The role of school environment has been widely researched in the last decades, under different conceptual approaches, one of the most frequently used being that of school climate (Freiberg, 1999; Lehr & Christenson, 2002). The school climate integrates organizational, instructional and social interaction dimensions (Roeser, Eccles, & Sameroff, 2000), with students' perceptions and interpretations of the school environment mediating the impact of actual school environments (Loukas & Robinson, 2004). Elements of the school environment or climate include among others: interpersonal relations between teachers and students; level of perceived school safety; involvement of students, parents and teachers in collaborative decision-making; teacher expectations for student learning; culture and values of the school (Anderson, 1982; Freiberg, 1999). …

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