Project

School improvement - learning environment focus

Goal: An extended programme of research related to school- and classroom-level learning environments; their impact on student, staff and school outcomes; and effective school improvement strategies including data-driven action research to enhance learning environments.
This programme is associated with the National School Improvement Partnerships initiative (Australia) - www.NSIPartnerships.com.au

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Project log

Katrina McChesney
added a research item
Because adolescent life satisfaction is associated with important affective, behavioural and health-related outcomes during both adolescence and later life, strategies for promoting adolescent life satisfaction have potential social value. In the study reported in this article, associations are reported between perceptions of the school climate and reports of bullying, resilience and life satisfaction for 6120 Australian adolescents. The study extended past research, which has given little attention to either the relationships between these variables or the relative roles of various school climate sub-constructs. Aspects of the school climate explained 41% of the variance in adolescents’ resilience, 16% of the variance in bully victimisation, and 54% of the variance in life satisfaction. Further, resilience was positively associated with life satisfaction. These results affirm the importance of the psychosocial school climate as a mechanism for improving adolescent (and life-course) outcomes, strengthening calls for schools to give greater attention to improving their psychosocial climates.
Katrina McChesney
added a research item
School climates are known to be associated with a range of student outcomes (including academic, social, behavioural and affective), and much work to date has focused on gathering students’ perceptions of their school climate to inform ongoing improvement efforts. However, parents and caregivers, as well as students, are also influenced by the psychosocial school climate. Although less attention has been given to capturing parents’ and caregivers’ perceptions, the way parents and caregivers feel about a school can affect their children’s attitudes towards the school as well as the parents’ and caregivers’ engagement with the school. Therefore, the perceptions of parents and caregivers with respect to the school climate offer critical information about both strengths and areas for improvement in terms of ensuring that schools are places that foster students’ wellbeing and achievement. In this article, we report the development and validation of the Parent and Caregiver Survey (PaCS) for gathering parents’ and caregivers’ perceptions of the socioemotional school climate. The PaCS is underpinned by strength-based and culturally-responsive perspectives on parent and caregiver engagement, as well as a socioecological perspective of child and adolescent development. Responses to the PaCS from 1276 parents and caregivers at 23 Australian schools confirmed the validity and reliability of the instrument. Given its theoretical underpinnings and successful validation, the PaCS could be useful for researchers and practitioners seeking to support parent engagement and school improvement.
Katrina McChesney
added a research item
Research and practice both in Aotearoa NZ and internationally confirm the important role that parents, caregivers and whānau/fanau play in students’ educational journeys. These stakeholders influence students’ academic outcomes as well as their socioemotional experiences of schooling. Effective engagement with parents, caregivers and whānau/fanau is therefore critical to transform schools into places that foster students’ wellbeing and achievement. Such engagement should include approaches for partnering with parents/caregivers/whānau/fanau as well as approaches for gaining feedback from these important stakeholders. This session reports on the development and validation of a survey designed to gain feedback from parents/caregivers/whānau/fanau in relation to the socioemotional school climate. The Parent and Caregiver Survey (PaCS) was developed as part of a wider school improvement and teacher professional development initiative focused on examining and improving school climate. Enhancing school climate is important both in its own right (given its importance for students’ wellbeing) and as a lever for supporting improved academic achievement. The newly-developed PaCS is a quantitative (Likert-style) survey examining parents’ perceptions both of their children’s experiences at school (for example, the support their child/ren receive from teachers) and their own experiences at their child’s school (for example, the extent to which parents, caregivers and whānau/fanau feel part of the school community). The survey is underpinned by strength-based and culturally responsive perspectives on parent/caregiver/whānau/fanau engagement as well as a socioecological perspective of child and adolescent development. In 2018, the PaCS was completed by parents and caregivers of students at 15 Australian schools. Analysis of the data from this sample was used to examine the reliability and validity of the PaCS in terms of its factor structure and internal consistency as well as its discriminant, concurrent and validity and predictive validity. Although developed and validated in an Australian context, the PaCS may also be a useful tool for schools in Aotearoa NZ. This presentation makes clear how the theoretical underpinnings of this survey align with NZ-based research, policy and practice around creating educationally powerful connections with parents and whānau/fanau.
Katrina McChesney
added an update
Please read this new blog post by Jill Aldridge and I:
"Taking care of our youth: School climate and students’ mental health and wellbeing"
Published today on Ipu Kererū, the blog of the New Zealand Association for Research in Education
This post draws on our recent systematic literature review article published in the International Journal of Educational Research,
 
Katrina McChesney
added 10 research items
The issue of teacher quality is increasingly seen as being central to education policy development and this emphasis highlights the role teacher professional development plays in improving teacher effectiveness and the quality of learning in the classroom. This book describes a large-scale research program which investigated the feasibility of using student perceptual measures as the basis for teacher development and classroom improvement. The book describes how teachers' use of the student feedback, as part of an action-research process, was used to guide improvements to their respective classrooms which in turn provided them with increased opportunities for teacher development and growth. In addition to this, it reports the efforts of one school which purposefully linked the involvement of their teachers to their school improvement initiatives. This book would be of interest to a range of audiences including researchers, teachers and school leaders. Its attractions include its far-reaching implications for educational systems concerning the ways in which student feedback can be used to facilitate teacher development and growth. The book also reports the use of a multi-method research design in which quantitative and qualitative methods were successfully employed simultaneously within two concurrent and interrelated investigations.
The well-documented increase in student mental health issues in Australia and growing recognition of the need for education to play a part in students’ identity formation prompted this study. The research reported in this article sought to identify specific elements of the school climate that were likely to influence the interplay of adolescent health and development and students’ identity formation. The aim was two-fold. First, the study examined the relationships between students’ perceptions of the school climate and self-reports of wellbeing, resilience and moral identity; and, second, the interrelationships between the three outcome variables were explored. Two surveys, one to assess students’ perceptions of features of the school climate, and another to assess students’ wellbeing, resilience and moral identity, were administered to 618 Year 11 students from 15 independent schools in South Australia. Structural equation modelling was used to investigate hypothesised relationships between students’ perceptions of their school climate and self-reports of wellbeing, resilience and moral identity. Our results indicated statistically significant and positive relationships between school-climate factors and each of the three outcome variables. Further, indirect relationships (mediated largely by resilience) were found between school-climate factors and students’ wellbeing. Our findings could be used to guide schools in building tangible, purposeful environments that engender well-balanced, positive, resilient citizens with strong moral identities.
This article reports research into associations between students’ perceptions of the school climate and self-reports of ethnic and moral identity in high schools in Western Australia. An instrument was developed to assess students’ perceptions of their school climate (as a means of monitoring and guiding schools as they are challenged to become more inclusive and grapple with increasingly diverse populations) and administered to 4067 students, 63 % of whom were aged between 12 and 17 years, in eight schools. The same students also responded to a survey developed to assess ethnic and moral identity. Analysis of the data indicated strong, positive associations between the school climate and students’ ethnic and moral identity. The results suggest that, for schools wishing to promote students’ ethnic and moral identity, it would be beneficial to consider important elements of the school climate identified in the new survey.
Katrina McChesney
added 2 research items
Given that schools are, potentially, powerful sites for influencing adolescent behaviour, it is important that there is greater understanding of the psychosocial aspects of the school climate that can be leveraged for this purpose. The research reported in this article used structural equation modelling (with data from a sample of 6120 students at Australian high schools) to examine the influence of the psychosocial school-level environment on students’ self-reported experiences of bully victimisation (i.e. being victims of bullying) and engagement in delinquent behaviours. Further, we examined whether bully victimisation mediated the relationships between school climate variables and delinquent behaviours. School connectedness and rule clarity were negatively associated with both bully victimisation and delinquency (p < 0.05), and teacher support was negatively associated with bully victimisation (p < 0.01), confirming the importance of these aspects of the school-level environment. However, affirming diversity and reporting and seeking help both had positive influences on bully victimisation (p < 0.05), raising concerns about the ways in which these aspects of the school-level environment might have been promoted. Importantly, bully victimisation was found to mediate the influence of five of the six school climate constructs on delinquent behaviours (p < 0.001). This study advance our understanding of how specific aspects of the school climate influence the prevalence of bullying and delinquent behaviour, adding weight to the call for educators to actively monitor and enhance psychosocial aspects of the school climate in order to improve student behavioural outcomes.
Promoting adolescent mental health is a global priority, and schools have an important role to play. This systematic mixed- methods literature review examined relationships between the psychosocial school climate and adolescents’ mental health, mapping the scope and quality of recent research. Forty-eight relevant primary studies published in 2000–2017 were identified and analysed. These studies highlight associations between the school climate and student mental health, although the lack of experimental and longitudinal studies precludes causal claims. Future research directions include: further investigation of the roles of school safety and the psychosocial academic environment on adolescent mental health; greater consistency in the conceptualisation of both school climate and mental health; and clarification of the influence of demographic variables on individual students’ experiences. Keywords School climate; School-level environment; Mental health; Wellbeing; Adolescent; Systematic literature review
Katrina McChesney
added a project goal
An extended programme of research related to school- and classroom-level learning environments; their impact on student, staff and school outcomes; and effective school improvement strategies including data-driven action research to enhance learning environments.
This programme is associated with the National School Improvement Partnerships initiative (Australia) - www.NSIPartnerships.com.au