Educational practitioners and researchers have increasingly recognized the importance of the context in which learning occurs, particularly the influence of school climate on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. School climate is based on the subjective experiences of school life for students, staff members, school leaders, parents, and the entire school community. A school’s climate reflects its norms, goals, values, interpersonal relationships, teaching and learning practices, and organizational structures. A large body of evidence connects a positive school climate to improvements in children’s learning and healthy development in school. A positive school climate is also an essential component within comprehensive school improvement processes. Nonetheless, the divergence and disagreement in defining and measuring school climate in the literature are evident. There is a major interest in school climate improvement and school climate policy. However, the policy context that supports school climate varies considerably across the United States and internationally. Clarification regarding the dimensions of school climate and continued research on how a positive school climate contributes to both school and student outcomes remain important.
Ruth Berkowitz, Aidyn Iachini, Hadass Moore, Gordon Capp, Ron Avi Astor, Ronald Pitner, and Rami Benbenishty
Allison Ann Payne and Denise C. Gottfredson
School violence, drug use, bullying, theft, and vandalism are costly and interfere with academic achievement. Beyond the cost of personal injury and property damage and loss, school crime is costly because it interferes with academic achievement and reduces the ability of schools to carry out their educational mission. Fear of victimization influences students’ attendance, such that students are more likely to avoid school activities or places, or even school itself, due to fear of attack or harm. Teachers in disorderly schools also spend a large proportion of their time coping with behavior problems rather than instructing students, resulting in lower levels of student academic engagement, academic performance, and eventually graduation rates. Student misbehavior is also one of the primary sources of teacher turnover in schools. Responses to school crime have become increasingly formal since the 1990s, with greater recourse to arrest and a turn toward juvenile courts rather than school-based discipline, furthered by zero-tolerance policies and increased hiring of uniformed officers to police the schools. The shift has been from administrative discretion to mandatory penalties and from in-school discipline to increasing use of suspension or arrest. At the same time, there has been a considerable investment in the use of surveillance cameras and metal detectors. There is no evidence to suggest that this tightening of school discipline has reduced school crime. By contrast, considerable evidence supports the effectiveness of alternative strategies designed to prevent youth crime and delinquency. Several school-based programs targeting student factors such as self-control, social competency, and attachment to school have been demonstrated in rigorous research to be effective for reducing crime and delinquency. In addition, several aspects of the way schools are organized and managed influence crime and disorder. The term “school climate” encompasses several school characteristics that influence crime and disorder. Evidence supports the importance of the discipline management of a school, including both the fairness and consistency of rules and rule enforcement as well as the clarification and communication of behavioral norms in reducing crime and disorder in schools. The social climate within the school, specifically the existence of a positive and communal climate among all members of the school community, is also important. Research demonstrates that is possible to manipulate these aspects of school climate. Rigorous research shows that efforts to increase clarity and consistency of rule enforcement and to clarify norms for behavior are effective for reducing crime and disorder. More research is needed to test a fully comprehensive intervention aimed at creating a more communal social climate, but preliminary studies suggest positive effects. Several challenges to creating more positive school climates are discussed, and possible solutions are suggested.
Aidyn Iachini, Ruth Berkowitz, Hadass Moore, Ronald Pitner, Ron Avi Astor, and Rami Benbenishty
School climate is critical for school improvement efforts, yet questions remain regarding how best to define and measure the construct. Research demonstrates relationships between a positive school climate and important youth development and academic learning outcomes. As school climate policies continue to develop, clarification regarding the dimensions of school climate and continued research on how school climate impacts school and student outcomes remains important.
Habibat Abubakar Yusuf and Ismail Hussein Amzat
Climate is a multifaceted concept in an organization, with few distinctions in the context of school settings. Although research on school climate stems from the study of organizational climate, and became a central variable in the educational research with a comprehensive review of the literature, there are significant differences in the approaches to the study of school climate. Scholars have studied climate at various levels of education, for example, elementary schools, secondary schools, and higher level schools as well as among teachers and school leaders. There is some divergence and variations in school climate across those contexts; there are also substantial similarities as shown in many past studies. School climate as a key player in school development can be driven by internal factors like interactive behavior and external factors such as school location, school size, student population, educational policies and socio-economic changes. Studies of climate in the educational context is multidimensional and can be viewed in a variety of ways due to diverse social effects. Climate has been investigated in relation to the general working environment of school, quality of school experience, school values and norms, interpersonal relationships of individual school members, teaching and learning practices, structure of the school, and feelings toward school life. In this regard, school climate is explored in relation to school development in Nigeria and focuses on those factors that have a greater potential to support teaching and learning practices, including school plants, school leadership, school culture, collegiality, school safety, and academic achievement. Relating these constructs to school development in Nigeria will give more precise and sizeable understanding on the importance of school climate towards attainment of sustainable school success.
Laura M. Hopson
School climate has received increasing attention from researchers and policy makers during the past two decades, as research points to its impact on student behavior and academic performance. This chapter presents definitions of school climate in the literature and provides a brief historical context for school climate research. In addition, it presents methods for assessing and intervening to improve school climate.
Siti Noor Ismail, Faizahani Abd. Rahman, and Aizan Yaacob
Definitions of school climate have been interpreted in various ways by scholars since the 1960s. They have been closely associated with achievement, quality control, and school management, among many others that denote characteristics of highly effective organization. It has long been recognized and acknowledged by administrators of the organization, practitioners, psychologists, motivators, and educators that a healthy school climate promotes a positive attitude and openness that will thus create a learning environment that motivates and encourages effective teaching and learning activities; increases teachers’ job satisfaction; and, finally enhances students’ academic performance. The school climate model that determines the characteristics of an effective school climate encompasses four main factors: culture (assumptions, values, norms, beliefs), ecology (structure and facilities), humanity structure and system (instructions, administration, decision making, planning structure), and social system (structure element). Definitions derived from past literature and criticisms as well as arguments against what constitute healthy school climate are presented in this article. A clear set of goals and transparent definitions of the concept are recommended so as to ensure that both school and the other elements in the school body can work synchronously to achieve the same goal, which is providing a positive and healthy school climate.
Steve Goodman and Heather Peshak George
The need for a strong school-wide behavior program that promotes a positive school climate that benefits all students through an established continuum of supports is essential to enhance both the learning experience of students and the work environment of educators. School-wide positive behavior interventions and supports, referred to as PBIS, is based on the foundations of behavioral science, practical, usable interventions, and quality of life outcomes through a preventative systems approach. PBIS is a framework for making schools and learning environments more effective by establishing the social culture and intensive behavior supports needed to improve social, emotional, and academic outcomes for all students. A culture of social competence within a school includes a (a) common vision for what the school community strives to be, (b) common expectations for how individuals should behave, (c) common language to describe the vision, expectations, and experiences, and (d) common experiences to promote prosocial behavior, and it applies this logic in all settings and across all individuals that interact with those settings. PBIS is more than just reducing problem behavior; it establishes systems that create environments and improve the quality of life for students and their families as well as for the educators. The evidence base supporting PBIS is expansive and ever-growing. The fundamental themes of PBIS include the use of the core features of evidence-based practices organized within a multi-tiered framework with flexibility in implementation, and progress monitoring through data use. PBIS invests in practices, data, and systems in order to positively impact student outcomes.
Garden-based education is a philosophical orientation to teaching and learning that uses gardens as the milieu for student engagement through meaningful and relevant curricular and instructional integration in schools. In addition to their direct academic appeal in raising test scores and grades, particularly in science, language arts, and math, gardens on educational campuses, spanning pre-school through high school, are also utilized by educators for a variety of other outcomes. These include motivational engagement; social, moral, and emotional development; strengthening of institutional and community bonds; vocational skills development; food literacy; healthy eating habits; and holistic growth of children and youth. Moreover, garden-based education shows promise as a tangible and pragmatic solution to address problems of disaffection and disengagement among youth that has resulted in a school dropout crisis in many places. While specific to higher education, farm-based education and agriculture-based education that focus on growing food have parallel agendas. The vast array of outcomes linked with garden-based education may seem impressive. However, systematic research studies of garden-based education across sites to measure educational impact are missing, largely due to their marginalized status and the decentralized and localized nature of program implementation and professional training. While the idea of including gardens on educational campuses to grow food or to serve as a means of outdoor and nature education is not new, since the 1990s, there has been a surge of interest in using garden-based education across countries and continents. With its accessibility on school grounds, garden-based education intersects with parallel movements such as outdoor education, place-based education, experiential education, nature-based education, environmental education, and sustainability education. Manifested in a variety of grassroots practices that include slow food, community supported agriculture, edible schoolyards, global roots, indigenous cultural gardens, learning gardens, lifelab, living classrooms, multicultural school gardens, urban harvest, and more, gardens will likely continue to be of significance in education as there are growing uncertainties globally about food security and health matters related to climate change. Despite high stakes, standardized tests, and accountability measures that pose challenges to educators and proponents of school gardens in public schools, research shows their promise as laboratories for innovation and academic learning. Garden-based education would benefit if informed by longitudinal and large-scale research studies that demonstrate instructional and curricular rigor and integration and impact on learning outcomes. Drawing on critical and posthumanist theories that question the nature of schooling, and explicitly addressing issues of race, class, and perspectives of marginalized and indigenous scholars and practitioners would bring further credence. Practice-embedded research and co-production of knowledge that accepts complexity and conjunctive thinking, while also addressing culturally responsive pedagogy across socio-economic status, would enhance the viability of this growing movement.