5.1  Science Learning Environments: Assessment, Effects and Determinants 

 

 

Barry J. Fraser  

Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

 

 

Although research and evaluation in science education have relied heavily on the assessment of academic achievement and other valued learning outcomes, these measures cannot give a complete picture of the educational process. Because students spend up to 15,000 hours at school by the time they finish senior high school (Rutter, Maughan, Mortimore, Ouston & Smith 1979), students have a large stake in what happens to them at school and their reactions to and perceptions of their school experiences are significant. This chapter reviews the remarkable progress over the past 30 years in conceptualising, assessing and investigating the determinants and effects of social and psychological aspects of the learning environments of classrooms and schools.

            This chapter falls into seven main parts. First, an introductory section provides background information about the field of learning environment (including alternative assessment approaches, historical perspectives on past work, the distinction between school and classroom environment, and the unit-of-analysis question). Second, a section is devoted to specific instruments for assessing perceptions of classroom environment. Third, some important developments with learning environment instruments are outlined (preferred forms, short versions, hand scoring, the distinction between Personal and Class forms). Fourth, the validation of learning environment scales is discussed. Fifth, assessment instruments for school environment are considered. Sixth, an overview is given of several lines of past research involving environment assessments in science classrooms (including associations between outcomes and environment, use of environment dimensions as criterion variables, and person-environment fit studies of whether students achieve better in their preferred environment). Seventh, consideration is given to teachers' use of classroom and school environment instruments in practical attempts to improve their own classrooms and schools. Eighth, current trends and future desirable directions in research on educational environments are identified (e.g., combining quantitative and qualitative methods, school-level environments, school psychology, links between educational environments, cross-national studies, transition between primary and secondary schooling, teacher education and teacher assessment).

 

 

Background

 

Approaches to Studying Educational Environments

 

Using students' and teachers' perceptions to study educational environments can be contrasted with the external observer's direct observation and systematic coding of classroom communication and events (Brophy & Good 1986). Murray (1938) introduced the term alpha press to describe the environment as assessed by a detached observer and the term beta press to describe the environment as perceived by milieu inhabitants. Another approach to studying educational environments involves application of the techniques of naturalistic inquiry, ethnography, case study or interpretive research (see Erickson's chapter in this Handbook). Defining the classroom or school environment in terms of the shared perceptions of the students and teachers has the dual advantage of characterising the setting through the eyes of the participants themselves and capturing data which the observer could miss or consider unimportant. Students are at a good vantage point to make judgements about classrooms because they have encountered many different learning environments and have enough time in a class to form accurate impressions. Also, even if teachers are inconsistent in their day-to-day behaviour, they usually project a consistent image of the long-standing attributes of classroom environment. Later in this chapter, discussion focuses on the merits of combining quantitative and qualitative methods when studying educational environments (Fraser & Tobin 1991).

 

 

Historical Perspectives

 

Thirty years ago, Herbert Walberg and Rudolf Moos began seminal independent programs of research which form the starting points for the work reviewed in this chapter. Walberg developed the widely-used Learning Environment Inventory (LEI) as part of the research and evaluation activities of Harvard Project Physics (Walberg & Anderson 1968). Moos began developing the first of his social climate scales, including those for use in psychiatric hospitals and correctional institutions, which ultimately resulted in the development of the Classroom Environment Scale (CES) (Moos 1979; Moos & Trickett 1987). The way in which the important pioneering work of Walberg and Moos on perceptions of classroom environment developed into major research programs and spawned a lot of other research is reflected in books (Fraser 1986; Fraser & Walberg 1991; Moos 1979; Walberg 1979), literature reviews (Fraser 1994; MacAuley 1990; von Saldern 1992) and monographs sponsored by the American Educational Research Association's Special Interest Group (SIG) on the Study of Learning Environments (e.g., Fisher 1994).

            The work on educational environments over the previous 30 years builds upon the earlier ideas of Lewin and Murray and their followers (such as Pace and Stern). Lewin's (1936) seminal work on field theory recognised that both the environment and its interaction with personal characteristics of the individual are potent determinants of human behaviour. The familiar Lewinian formula, B = f(P, E), was first enunciated to stress the need for new research strategies in which behaviour is considered to be a function of the person and the environment. Murray (1938) was first to follow Lewin's approach by proposing a needs-press model which allows the analogous representation of person and environment in common terms. Personal needs refer to motivational personality characteristics representing tendencies to move in the direction of certain goals, while environmental press provides an external situational counterpart which supports or frustrates the expression of internalised personality needs. Needs-press theory has been popularised and elucidated by Pace and Stern (e.g., Stern 1970).

 

 

School-Level vs. Classroom-Level Environment

 

It is useful to distinguish classroom or classroom-level environment from school or school-level environment, which involves psychosocial aspects of the climate of whole schools (Fraser & Rentoul 1982). School climate research owes much in theory, instrumentation and methodology to earlier work on organisational climate in business contexts. Two widely-used instruments in school environment research, namely, Halpin and Croft's (1963) Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (OCDQ) and Stern's (1970) College Characteristics Index (CCI), relied heavily on previous work in business organisations. Two features of school-level environment work which distinguishes it from classroom-level environment research are that the former has tended to be associated with the field of educational administration and to involve the climate of higher education institutions. Despite their simultaneous development and logical linkages, the fields of classroom-level and school-level environment have remained remarkably independent. Although the focus of past research in science education has been primarily upon classroom-level environment, it would be desirable to break away from the existing tradition of independence of the two fields of school and classroom environment and for there to be a confluence of the two areas.

 

 

Level of Analysis: Private and Consensual Press

 

Murray's distinction between alpha press (the environment as observed by an external observer) and beta press (the environment as perceived by milieu inhabitants) has been extended by Stern, Stein and Bloom (1956) who distinguish between the idiosyncratic view that each person has of the environment (private beta press) and the shared view that members of a group hold about the environment (consensual beta press). Private and consensual beta press could differ from each other, and both could differ from the detached view of alpha press of a trained non-participant observer. In designing classroom environment studies, researchers must decide whether their analyses will involve the perception scores obtained from individual students (private press) or whether these will be combined to obtain the average of the environment scores of all students within the same class (consensual press).

            A growing body of literature acknowledges the importance and consequences of the choice of level or unit of statistical analysis and considers the hierarchical analysis and multilevel analysis of data (Bock 1989; Bryk & Raudenbush 1992; Goldstein 1987). The choice of unit of analysis is important because: measures having the same operational definition can have different substantive interpretations with different levels of aggregation; relationships obtained using one unit of analysis could differ in magnitude and even in sign from relationships obtained using another unit; the use of certain units of analysis (e.g., individuals when classes are the primary sampling units) violates the requirement of independence of observations and calls into question the results of any statistical significance tests because an unjustifiably small estimate of the sampling error is used; and the use of different units of analysis involves the testing of conceptually different hypotheses. Although the unit of analysis problem has received considerable attention in the context of testing hypotheses using already-developed learning environment instruments, Sirotnik (1980) considers it ironic that concerns about analytic units have been virtually non-existent at the stage of developing and empirically investigating the dimensionality of new instruments.

 

 

Instruments for Assessing Classroom Environment

 

This section describes the following historically important and contemporary instruments: Learning Environment Inventory (LEI); Classroom Environment Scale (CES); Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ); My Class Inventory (MCI); College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI); Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI); Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI); Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES); and What Is Happening In This Class (WIHIC) questionnaire. Table 1 shows the name of each scale in each instrument, the level (primary, secondary, higher education) for which each instrument is suited, the number of items contained in each scale, and the classification of each scale according to Moos's (1974) scheme for classifying human environments. Moos's three basic types of dimension are Relationship Dimensions (which identify the nature and intensity of personal relationships within the environment and assess the extent to which people are involved in the environment and support and help each other), Personal Development Dimensions (which assess basic directions along which personal growth and self-enhancement tend to occur) and System Maintenance and System Change Dimensions (which involve the extent to which the environment is orderly, clear in expectations, maintains control and is responsive to change).

 

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Learning Environment Inventory (LEI)

 

The initial development and validation of a preliminary version of the LEI began in the late 1960s in conjunction with the evaluation and research related to Harvard Project Physics (Fraser, Anderson & Walberg 1982; Walberg & Anderson 1968). The final version contains a total of 105 statements (or seven per scale) descriptive of typical school classes. The respondent expresses degree of agreement or disagreement with each statement using the four response alternatives of Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Agree and Strongly Agree. The scoring direction (or polarity) is reversed for some items. A typical item in the Cohesiveness scale is: 'All students know each other very well' and in the Speed scale is: 'The pace of the class is rushed'.

 

 

Classroom Environment Scale (CES)

 

The CES was developed by Rudolf Moos at Stanford University (Fisher & Fraser 1983c; Moos 1979; Moos & Trickett 1987) and grew out of a comprehensive program of research involving perceptual measures of a variety of human environments including psychiatric hospitals, prisons, university residences and work milieus (Moos 1974). The final published version contains nine scales with 10 items of True-False response format in each scale. Published materials include a test manual, a questionnaire, an answer sheet and a transparent hand scoring key. Typical items in the CES are: 'The teacher takes a personal interest in the students' (Teacher Support) and 'There is a clear set of rules for students to follow' (Rule Clarity).

 

 

Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ)

 

The ICEQ assesses those dimensions which distinguish individualised classrooms from conventional ones. The initial development of the ICEQ (Rentoul & Fraser 1979) was guided by: the literature on individualised open and inquiry-based education; extensive interviewing of teachers and secondary school students; and reactions to draft versions sought from selected experts, teachers and junior high school students. The final published version of the ICEQ (Fraser 1990) contains 50 items altogether, with an equal number of items belonging to each of the five scales. Each item is responded to on a five-point scale with the alternatives of Almost Never, Seldom, Sometimes, Often and Very Often. The scoring direction is reversed for many of the items. Typical items are: 'The teacher considers students' feelings' (Personalisation) and 'Different students use different books, equipment and materials' (Differentiation). The published version has a progressive copyright arrangement which gives permission to purchasers to make an unlimited number of copies of the questionnaires and response sheets.

 

 

My Class Inventory (MCI)

 

The LEI has been simplified to form the MCI for use among children aged 8--12 years (Fisher & Fraser 1981; Fraser, Anderson & Walberg 1982; Fraser & O'Brien 1985). Although the MCI was developed originally for use at the primary school level, it also has been found to be very useful with students in the junior high school, especially those who might experience reading difficulties with other instruments. The MCI differs from the LEI in four important ways. First, in order to minimise fatigue among younger children, the MCI contains only five of the LEI's original 15 scales. Second, item wording has been simplified to enhance readability. Third, the LEI's four-point response format has been reduced to a two-point (Yes-No) response format. Fourth, students answer on the questionnaire itself instead of on a separate response sheet to avoid errors in transferring responses from one place to another. The final form of the MCI contains 38 items altogether, with typical items being: 'Children are always fighting with each other' (Friction) and 'Children seem to like the class' (Satisfaction). Although the MCI traditionally has been used with a Yes-No response format, Goh, Young and Fraser (1995) have successfully used a three-point response format (Seldom, Sometimes and Most of the Time) with a modified version of the MCI which includes a Task Orientation scale.

 

 

College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI)

 

Although some notable prior work has focused on the institutional-level or school-level environment in colleges and universities (e.g., Halpin & Croft 1963; Stern 1970), surprisingly little work has been done in higher education classrooms which is parallel to the traditions of classroom environment research at the secondary and primary school levels. Consequently, the CUCEI was developed for use in small classes (say up to 30 students) sometimes referred to as 'seminars' (Fraser & Treagust 1986; Fraser, Treagust & Dennis 1986). The final form of the CUCEI contains seven seven-item scales. Each item has four responses (Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree) and the polarity is reversed for approximately half of the items. Typical items are: 'Activities in this class are clearly and carefully planned' (Task Orientation) and 'Teaching approaches allow students to proceed at their own pace' (Individualisation).

 

 

Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI)

 

Research which originated in The Netherlands focuses on the nature and quality of interpersonal relationships between teachers and students (Créton, Hermans & Wubbels 1990; Wubbels, Brekelmans & Hooymayers 1991; Wubbels & Levy 1993). Drawing upon a theoretical model of proximity (cooperation-opposition) and influence (dominance-submission), the QTI was developed to assess student perceptions of eight behaviour aspects. Each item has a five-point response scale ranging from Never to Always. Typical items are 'She/he gives us a lot of free time' (Student Responsibility and Freedom behaviour) and 'She/he gets angry' (Admonishing behaviour).

            Although research with the QTI began at the senior high school level in The Netherlands, cross-validation and comparative work has been completed at various grade levels in the USA (Wubbels & Levy 1993), Australia (Fisher, Henderson & Fraser 1995), Singapore (Goh & Fraser 1996) and Brunei (Riah, Fraser & Rickards 1997), and a more economical 48-item version has been developed and validated (Goh & Fraser 1996). Also, Cresswell and Fisher (1997) modified the QTI to form the Principal Interaction Questionnaire (PIQ) which assesses teachers' or principals' perceptions of the same eight dimensions of a principal's interaction with teachers. Further information about research involving the QTI can be found in Wubbels and Brekelmans (1997) and Wubbels and Brekelmans' chapter in this Handbook.

 

 

Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI)

 

Because of the critical importance and uniqueness of laboratory settings in science education, an instrument specifically suited to assessing the environment of science laboratory classes at the senior high school or higher education levels was developed (Fraser, Giddings & McRobbie 1995; Fraser & McRobbie 1995; Fraser, McRobbie & Giddings 1993). The SLEI has five scales (each with seven items) and the five response alternatives are Almost Never, Seldom, Sometimes, Often and Very Often. Typical items are 'I use the theory from my regular science class sessions during laboratory activities' (Integration) and 'We know the results that we are supposed to get before we commence a laboratory activity' (Open-Endedness). The Open-Endedness scale was included because of the importance of open-ended laboratory activities often claimed in the literature (e.g., Hodson 1988). The SLEI was field tested and validated simultaneously with a sample of over 5,447 students in 269 classes in six different countries (the USA, Canada, England, Israel, Australia and Nigeria), and cross-validated with 1,594 Australian students in 92 classes (Fraser & McRobbie 1995), 489 senior high school biology students in Australia (Fisher, Henderson & Fraser 1997) and 1,592 grade 10 chemistry students in Singapore (Wong & Fraser 1995).

 

 

Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES)

 

According to the constructivist view, meaningful learning is a cognitive process in which individuals make sense of the world in relation to the knowledge which they already have constructed, and this sense-making process involves active negotiation and consensus building. The CLES (Taylor, Dawson & Fraser 1995; Taylor, Fraser & Fisher 1997) was developed to assist researchers and teachers to assess the degree to which a particular classroom's environment is consistent with a constructivist epistemology, and to assist teachers to reflect on their epistemological assumptions and reshape their teaching practice. Appendix A contains a complete copy of the CLES's 'actual' form (see a later section for a clarification of the distinction between 'actual' and 'preferred' forms). Recent studies that have used the CLES include Dryden and Fraser (1996) and Roth and Roychoudhury (1994).

 

 

What Is Happening In This Class (WIHIC) Questionnaire

 

The WIHIC questionnaire brings parsimony to the field of learning environment by combining modified versions of the most salient scales from a wide range of existing questionnaires with additional scales that accommodate contemporary educational concerns (e.g., equity and constructivism). Also, the WIHIC has a separate Class form (which assesses a student's perceptions of the class as a whole) and Personal form (which assesses a student's personal perceptions of his or her role in a classroom), as discussed in detail later in this chapter.

            The original 90-item nine-scale version was refined by both statistical analysis of data from 355 junior high school science students, and extensive interviewing of students about their views of their classroom environments in general, the wording and salience of individual items and their questionnaire responses (Fraser, Fisher & McRobbie 1996). Only 54 items in seven scales survived these procedures, although this set of items was expanded to 80 items in eight scales for the field testing of the second version of the WIHIC, which involved junior high school science classes in Australia and Taiwan. Whereas the Australian sample of 1,081 students in 50 classes responded to the original English version, a Taiwanese sample of 1,879 students in 50 classes responded to a Chinese version that had undergone careful procedures of translation and back translation (Huang & Fraser 1997). This led to a final form of the WIHIC containing the seven eight-item scales. The WIHIC has been used successfully in its original form or in modified form in studies involving 250 adult learners in Singapore (Khoo & Fraser 1997) and 2,310 high school students in Singapore (Chionh & Fraser 1998).

 

 

Other Instruments

 

Many studies have drawn on scales and items in existing questionnaires to develop modified instruments which better suit particular research purposes and research contexts. For a study of the classroom environment of Catholic schools, Dorman, Fraser and McRobbie (1997) developed a 66-item instrument which drew on the CES, CUCEI and ICEQ but made important modifications. The seven scales in this study (Student Application, Interactions, Cooperation, Task Orientation, Order and Organisation, Individualisation and Teacher Control) were validated using a sample of 2,211 grade 9 and 12 students in 104 classes.

            Because a limited number of classroom environment instruments have a reading level suitable for the primary school level, Sinclair and Fraser (1997) developed a questionnaire based on the MCI and WIHIC for use in teachers' action research attempts to improve their primary classroom environments in an urban school district. The instrument has the four scales of Cooperation, Teacher Empathy/Equity, Task Orientation and Involvement, and it was validated with a sample of 745 students in 43 grade 6--8 classes.

            In evaluations of computer-assisted learning, Maor and Fraser (1996) and Teh and Fraser (1994, 1995b) drew on existing scales in developing specific-purpose instruments. Maor and Fraser developed a five-scale classroom environment instrument (assessing Investigation, Open-Endedness, Organisation, Material Environment and Satisfaction) based on the LEI, ICEQ and SLEI and validated it with a sample of 120 grade 11 students in Australia. Teh and Fraser developed a four-scale instrument to assess Gender Equity, Investigation, Innovation and Resource Adequacy, and validated it among 671 high school geography students in Singapore.

            In the first learning environment study worldwide specifically in agricultural science classes, Idiris and Fraser (1997) selected and adapted scales from CLES and ICEQ in developing a five-scale instrument to assess Negotiation, Autonomy, Student Centredness, Investigation and Differentiation. This instrument was validated with a sample of 1,175 students in 50 high school agricultural science classes in eight States of Nigeria.

            Influenced partly by the CES, Wong (1993) developed a questionnaire to assess the actual and preferred environment of classes in Hong Kong along the dimensions of Enjoyable, Order, Involvement, Achievement Orientation, Teacher Led, Teacher Involvement, Teacher Support and Collaborativeness.

            Whereas most classroom environment instruments focus on general psychosocial characteristics, Woods and Fraser (1995) developed a questionnaire to assess student perceptions of specific teacher behaviours. The Classroom Interaction Patterns Questionnaire (CIPQ) assesses teaching style with the scales of Praise and Encouragement, Open Questioning, Lecture and Direction, Individual Work, Discipline and Management, and Group Work. Successive versions were field tested with a total of 1,470 grade 8--10 students in 62 classes in Western Australia.

            Based partly on existing instruments, Fisher and Waldrip (1997) developed a questionnaire to assess culturally sensitive factors of learning environments. The 40-item Cultural Learning Environment Questionnaire (CLEQ) assesses students perceptions of Equity, Collaboration, Risk Involvement, Competition, Teacher Authority, Modelling, Congruence and Communication. Administration of the new questionnaire to 3,031 secondary science students in 135 classes in Australia provided support for the internal consistency reliability and factorial validity of the CLEQ.

            Jegede, Fraser and Fisher (1995) developed the Distance and Open Learning Environment Scale (DOLES) for use among university students studying by distance education. The DOLES has the five core scales of Student Cohesiveness, Teacher Support, Personal Involvement and Flexibility, Task Orientation and Material Environment, and Home Environment, as well as the two optional scales of Study Centre Environment and Information Technology Resources. Administration of the DOLES to 660 university students provided support for its internal consistency reliability and factor structure.

 

 

IMPORTANT DEVELOPMENTS WITH LEARNING ENVIRONMENT INSTRUMENTS

 

Preferred Forms of Scales

 

A distinctive feature of most of the instruments in Table 1 is that they have, not only a form to measure perceptions of 'actual' or experienced classroom environment, but also another form to measure perceptions of 'preferred' or ideal classroom environment. The preferred forms are concerned with goals and value orientations and measure perceptions of the classroom environment ideally liked or preferred. Although item wording is similar for actual and preferred forms, slightly different instructions for answering each are used. For example, an item in the actual form such as 'There is a clear set of rules for students to follow' would be changed in the preferred form to 'There would be a clear set of rules for students to follow'.

 

 

Short Forms of ICEQ, MCI and CES

 

Although the long forms of classroom environment instruments have been used successfully for a variety of purposes, some researchers and teachers have reported that they would like instruments to take less time to administer and score. Consequently, short forms of the ICEQ, MCI and CES were developed (Fraser 1982a; Fraser & Fisher 1983a) to satisfy three main criteria. First, the total number of items in each instrument was reduced to approximately 25 to provide greater economy in testing and scoring time. Second, the short forms were designed to be amenable to easy hand scoring. Third, although long forms of instruments might be needed to provide adequate reliability for the assessment of the perceptions of individual students, short forms are likely to have adequate reliability for the many applications which involve averaging the perceptions of students within a class to obtain class means. The development of the short form was based largely on the results of several item analyses performed on data obtained by administering the long forms of each instrument to a large sample. The short form of the ICEQ and the MCI each consist of 25 items divided equally among the five scales comprising the long form. Because the long form of the CES consisted of 90 items, this was reduced to a short version with 24 items divided equally among six of the original nine scales.

 

 

Hand Scoring Procedures

 

Appendix A illustrates typical hand scoring procedures for the CLES. Items are arranged in blocks so that all items from the same scale are found together. All items in Appendix A except Item 6 are scored by allocating the circled number (i.e., 1 for Almost Never, 2 for Seldom, etc.). Item 6 is scored in the reverse manner. Omitted or invalidly answered items are scored 3. To obtain scale totals, the six item scores for each scale are added. For example, the total score for the first scale (Personal Relevance) is obtained by adding scores for items 1 to 6.

 

 

Personal Forms of Scales

 

Fraser and Tobin (1991) point out that there is potentially a major problem with nearly all existing classroom environment instruments when they are used to identify differences between subgroups within a classroom (e.g., males and females) or in the construction of case studies of individual students. The problem is that items are worded in such a way that they elicit an individual student's perceptions of the class as a whole, as distinct from a student's perceptions of his/her own role within the classroom. For example, items in the traditional class form might seek students' opinions about whether 'the work of the class is difficult' or whether 'the teacher is friendly towards the class'. In contrast, a personal form of the same items would seek opinions about whether 'I find the work of the class difficult' or whether 'the teacher is friendly towards me'. Confounding could have arisen in past studies which employed the class form because, for example, males could find a class less difficult than females, yet males and females still could agree when asked for their opinions about the class as a whole. The distinction between personal and class forms is consistent with Stern, Stein and Bloom's (1956) terms of 'private' beta press, the idiosyncratic view that each person has of the environment, and 'consensual' beta press, the shared view that members of a group hold of the environment.    

            When Fraser, Giddings and McRobbie (1995) developed and validated parallel class and personal forms of both an actual and preferred version of the SLEI, item and factor analyses confirmed that the personal form had a similar factor structure and comparable statistical characteristics (e.g., internal consistency, discriminant validity) to the class form when either the individual student or the class mean was used as the unit of analysis. Also students' scores on the class form were found to be systematically more favourable than their scores on the personal form, perhaps suggesting that students have a more detached view of the environment as it applies to the class as a whole. As hypothesised, gender differences in perceptions were somewhat larger on the personal form than on the class form. Although a study of associations between student outcomes and their perceptions of the science laboratory environment revealed that the magnitudes of associations were comparable for class and personal forms of the SLEI, commonality analyses showed that each form accounted for appreciable amounts of outcome variance which was independent of that explained by the other form (Fraser & McRobbie 1995). This finding justifies the decision to evolve separate class and personal forms because they appear to measure different, albeit overlapping, aspects of the science laboratory classroom environment.

            Administration of the WIHIC questionnaire followed by interviews with 45 students showed that many students have perceptions from the perspective of the class as a whole that differ from their perceptions of their personal role within the classroom (Fraser, Fisher & McRobbie 1996). Underlying many of the responses was the idea that, because the individual student is only part of the class, interactions with an individual student (Personal form) are less frequent than the interactions with the class as a whole (Class form). Further discussion of the distinction between Personal and Class forms can be found in McRobbie, Fisher and Wong's chapter in this Handbook.

 

 

Validation of Scales

 

This section reports typical validation data for selected classroom environment scales. Table 2 provides a summary of a limited amount of statistical information for the nine instruments (LEI, CES, ICEQ, MCI, CUCEI, QTI, SLEI, CLES and WIHIC ) considered previously. Attention is restricted to the student actual form and to the use of the individual student as the unit of analysis. Table 2 provides information about each scale's internal consistency reliability (alpha coefficient) and discriminant validity (using the mean correlation of a scale with the other scales in the same instrument as a convenient index), and the ability of a scale to differentiate between the perceptions of students in different classrooms (significance level and eta2 statistic from ANOVAs). Statistics are based on 1,048 students for the LEI, except for discriminant validity data which are based on 149 class means (Fraser, Anderson & Walberg 1982), 1,083 students for the CES (Fisher & Fraser 1983c), 1,849 students for the ICEQ (Fraser 1990), 2,305 students for the MCI (Fisher & Fraser 1981), 372 students for the CUCEI (Fraser & Treagust 1986), 3,994 high school science and mathematics students for the QTI (Fisher, Fraser & Rickards 1997), 3,727 senior high school students for the SLEI (Fraser, Giddings & McRobbie 1995) and 1,081 high school science students for both the CLES and WIHIC (previously unpublished results).

 

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Instruments for Assessing School Environment

 

In contrast to work on classroom-level environment, relatively little research has been directed towards helping teachers assess and improve the environments of their own schools. Earlier instruments include Stern's (1970) College Characteristics Index (CCI) and Halpin and Croft's (1963) Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (OCDQ). The Work Environment Scale (WES; Moos 1981) was designed for use in any work milieu rather than for use specifically in schools. To improve the WES's face validity for use in schools, the word 'people' was changed to 'teachers', 'supervisor' was changed to 'senior staff', and 'employee' was changed to 'teacher' (Fisher & Fraser 1983b; Fraser, Docker & Fisher 1988). Of the WES's 10 scales, three measure Relationship Dimensions (Involvement, Peer Cohesion, Staff Support), two measure Personal Development Dimensions (Autonomy, Task Orientation) and five measure System Maintenance and System Change Dimensions (Work Pressure, Clarity, Control, Innovation, Physical Comfort). The WES consists of 90 items of True/False response format, with an equal number of items in each scale. Validation data for the WES were generated in a study of 34 primary and secondary schools in Tasmania (Docker, Fraser & Fisher 1989).

            The School-Level Environment Questionnaire (SLEQ) was designed especially to assess school teachers' perceptions of psychosocial dimensions of the environment of the school. A review of potential strengths and problems associated with existing school environment instruments suggested that the SLEQ should contain eight scales (Fisher & Fraser 1991; Rentoul & Fraser 1983). Two scales measure Relationship Dimensions (Student Support, Affiliation), one measures the Personal Development Dimension (Professional Interest) and five measure System Maintenance and System Change Dimensions (Staff Freedom, Participatory Decision Making, Innovation, Resource Adequacy and Work Pressure). The SLEQ consists of 56 items, with each of the eight scales being assessed by seven items. Each item is scored on a five-point scale with the responses of Strongly Agree, Agree, Not Sure, Disagree and Strongly Disagree. In addition to an actual form which assesses perceptions of what a school's work environment is actually like, the SLEQ also has a preferred form. In a study of the school-level environment of Catholic schools, Dorman, Fraser and McRobbie (1997) developed a 57-item school environment instrument which includes modified versions of five SLEQ scales (Student Support, Affiliation, Professional Interest, Resource Adequacy and Work Pressure), but which adds the two new scales of Empowerment (the extent to which teachers are empowered and encouraged to be involved in decision-making processes) and Mission Consensus (the extent to which consensus exists within the staff with regard to the overarching goals of the school). This instrument was used in studies of differences in the school environment of Catholic and government schools (Dorman & Fraser 1996) and of associations between school environment and classroom environment (Dorman, Fraser & McRobbie 1997).

 

 

Research Involving Educational Environment Instruments

 

Three types of past research considered in this section involve (1) associations between student outcomes and environment, (2) use of environment dimensions as criterion variables (including the evaluation of educational innovations and investigations of differences between students' and teachers' perceptions of the same classrooms) and (3) investigations of whether students achieve better when in their preferred environments. A separate section later focuses on teachers' practical attempts to improve their classroom and school climates.

 

 

Associations Between Student Outcomes and Environment

 

The strongest tradition in past classroom environment research has involved investigation of associations between students' cognitive and affective learning outcomes and their perceptions of psychosocial characteristics of their classrooms (Fraser & Fisher 1982; Haertel, Walberg & Haertel 1981; McRobbie & Fraser 1993). Numerous research programs have shown that student perceptions account for appreciable amounts of variance in learning outcomes, often beyond that attributable to background student characteristics. For example, Fraser 's (1994) tabulation of 40 past studies in science education shows that associations between outcome measures and classroom environment perceptions have been replicated for a variety of cognitive and affective outcome measures, a variety of classroom environment instruments and a variety of samples (ranging across numerous countries and grade levels).

            Using the SLEI, associations with students' cognitive and affective outcomes have been established for a sample of approximately 80 senior high school chemistry classes in Australia (Fraser & McRobbie 1995; McRobbie & Fraser 1993), 489 senior high school biology students in Australia (Fisher, Henderson & Fraser 1997) and 1,592 grade 10 chemistry students in Singapore (Wong & Fraser 1996). Using an instrument suited for computer-assisted instruction classrooms, Teh and Fraser (1995a) established associations between classroom environment, achievement and attitudes among a sample of 671 high school geography students in 24 classes in Singapore. Using the QTI, associations between student outcomes and perceived patterns of teacher-student interaction were reported for samples of 489 senior high school biology students in Australia (Fisher, Henderson & Fraser 1995), 3,994 high school science and mathematics students in Australia (Fisher, Fraser & Rickards 1997) and 1,512 primary school mathematics student in Singapore (Goh, Young & Fraser 1995).

 

 

Multilevel Analysis

While many past learning environment studies have employed techniques such as multiple regression analysis, few have used the multilevel analysis (Bock 1989; Bryk & Raudenbush 1992; Goldstein 1987), which takes cognisance of the hierarchical nature of classroom settings. Because classroom environment data typically are derived from students in intact classes, they are inherently hierarchical. Ignoring this nested structure can give rise to problems of aggregation bias (within-group homogeneity) and imprecision.

            Two studies of outcome-environment associations compared the results obtained from multiple regression analysis with those obtained from an analysis involving the hierarchical linear model. The multiple regression analyses were performed separately at the individual student level and the class mean level. In the HLM analyses, the environment variables were investigated at the individual level, and were aggregated at the class level. In Wong, Young and Fraser's (1997) study involving 1,592 grade 10 students in 56 chemistry classes in Singapore, associations were investigated between three student attitude measures and a modified version of the SLEI. In Goh, Young and Fraser's (1995) study with 1,512 grade 5 mathematics students in 39 classes in Singapore, scores on a modified version of the MCI were related to student achievement and attitude. Most of the significant results from the multiple regression analyses were replicated in the HLM analyses, as well as being consistent in direction.

 

 

Meta-Analysis of Studies              

The findings from prior research are highlighted in the results of a meta-analysis involving 734 correlations from 12 studies involving 823 classes, eight subject areas, 17,805 students and four nations (Haertel, Walberg & Haertel 1981). Learning posttest scores and regression-adjusted gains were found to be consistently and strongly associated with cognitive and affective learning outcomes, although correlations were generally higher in samples of older students and in studies employing collectivities such as classes and schools (in contrast to individual students) as the units of statistical analysis. In particular, better achievement on a variety of outcome measures was found consistently in classes perceived as having greater Cohesiveness, Satisfaction and Goal Direction and less Disorganisation and Friction. Other meta-analyses synthesised by Fraser, Walberg, Welch and Hattie (1987) provide further evidence supporting the link between educational environments and student outcomes.

 

 

Cooperative Learning

Among the various lines of programmatic research on classroom environment, the work on the relative effectiveness of cooperative, competitive and individualistic goal structures stands out because of the volume of studies completed (Johnson & Johnson 1991). Although many past studies of student achievement have found that cooperative learning is more successful than either competitive or individualistic learning, the evidence is not always consistent. The generally positive effect of cooperative learning approaches on student achievement is illustrated by the findings of a comprehensive meta-analysis involving 122 studies (Johnson, Maruyama, Johnson, Nelson & Skon 1981), but this synthesis is not totally conclusive and generalisable. For instance, a large proportion of these studies involved group outcomes (e.g., the group's ability to solve problems) rather than the conventional student individual outcome which is so important in primary and secondary schooling.

 

 

Educational Productivity Research

Psychosocial learning environment has been incorporated as one factor in a multi-factor psychological model of educational productivity (Walberg 1981). This theory, which is based on an economic model of agricultural, industrial and national productivity, holds that learning is a multiplicative, diminishing-returns function of student age, ability and motivation; of quality and quantity of instruction; and of the psychosocial environments of the home, the classroom, the peer group and the mass media. Because the function is multiplicative, it can be argued in principle that any factor at a zero-point will result in zero learning; thus either zero motivation or zero time for instruction will result in zero learning. Moreover, it will do less good to raise a factor that already is high than to improve a factor that currently is the main constraint to learning. Empirical probes of the educational productivity model were made by carrying out extensive research syntheses involving the correlations of learning with the factors in the model (Fraser, Walberg, Welch & Hattie 1987; Walberg 1986) and secondary analyses of large data bases collected as part of the National Assessment of Educational Achievement (Walberg 1986) and National Assessment of Educational Progress (Fraser, Welch & Walberg 1986; Walberg, Fraser & Welch 1986). Classroom and school environment was found to be a strong predictor of both achievement and attitudes even when a comprehensive set of other factors was held constant.

 

 

Use of Environment Perceptions as Criterion Variables

 

Evaluation of Educational Innovations

Classroom environment instruments can be used as a source of process criteria in the evaluation of educational innovations (Fraser, Williamson & Tobin 1987). An evaluation of the Australian Science Education Project (ASEP) revealed that, in comparison with a control group, ASEP students perceived their classrooms as being more satisfying and individualised and having a better material environment (Fraser 1979). The significance of this evaluation is that classroom environment variables differentiated revealingly between curricula, even when various outcome measures showed negligible differences. Recently, the incorporation of a classroom environment instrument within an evaluation of the use of a computerised database revealed that students perceived that their classes became more inquiry oriented during the use of the innovation (Maor & Fraser 1996). Similarly, in two studies in Singapore, classroom environment measures were used as dependent variables in evaluations of computer-assisted learning (Teh & Fraser 1994) and computer application courses for adults (Khoo & Fraser 1997). In an evaluation of an urban systemic reform initiative in the USA, use of the CLES painted a disappointing picture in terms of a lack of success in achieving constructivist-oriented reform of science education (Dryden & Fraser 1996).

 

 

 

Differences Between Student and Teacher Perceptions of Actual and Preferred Environment

An investigation of differences between students and teachers in their perceptions of the same actual classroom environment and of differences between the actual environment and that preferred by students or teachers was reported by Fisher and Fraser (1983a) using the ICEQ with a sample of 116 classes for the comparisons of student actual with student preferred scores and a subsample of 56 of the teachers of these classes for contrasting teachers' and students' scores. Students preferred a more positive classroom environment than was actually present for all five ICEQ dimensions. Also, teachers perceived a more positive classroom environment than did their students in the same classrooms on four of the ICEQ's dimensions. These results replicate patterns emerging in other studies in school classrooms in the USA (Moos 1979), Israel (Hofstein & Lazarowitz 1986), The Netherlands (Wubbels, Brekelmans & Hooymayers 1991) and Australia (Fraser 1982b; Fraser & McRobbie 1995), and in other settings such as hospital wards and work milieus (e.g., Moos 1974).

 

 

Studies Involving Other Independent Variables

Classroom environment dimensions have been used as criterion variables in research aimed at identifying how the classroom environment varies with such factors as teacher personality, class size, grade level, subject matter, the nature of the school-level environment and the type of school (Fraser 1994). For example, larger class sizes were found to be associated with greater classroom Formality and less Cohesiveness (Anderson & Walberg 1972). Kent and Fisher (1997) established associations between teacher personality and classroom environment (e.g., extravert teachers' classes having high levels of Student Cohesiveness). Knight (1992) reported differences in the classroom environment perceptions of African American and Hispanic students, and Levy, Wubbels, Brekelmans and Morganfield (1994) reported cultural differences (based on place of birth and primary language spoken at home) in student perceptions of teacher-student interaction.

            Several studies have attempted to bring the fields of classroom environment and school environment together by investigating links between classroom and school environment (Fisher, Fraser & Wubbels 1993; Fisher, Grady & Fraser 1995; Fraser & Rentoul 1982). When Dorman, Fraser and McRobbie (1997) administered a classroom environment instrument to 2,211 students in 104 classes and a school environment instrument to 208 teachers of these classes, only weak associations between classroom environment and school environment were found. Although school rhetoric often would suggest that the school ethos would be transmitted to the classroom level, it appears that classrooms are somewhat insulated from the school as a whole.

            In a study of students' preferences for different types of classroom environments, girls were found to prefer cooperation more than boys, but boys preferred both competition and individualisation more than girls (Owens & Straton 1980). Similarly, Byrne, Hattie and Fraser (1986) found that boys preferred friction, competitiveness and differentiation more than girls, whereas girls preferred teacher structure, personalisation and participation more than boys. Several studies have revealed that females generally hold perceptions of their classroom environments that are somewhat more favourable than the perceptions of males in the same classes (Fisher, Fraser & Rickards 1997; Fraser, Giddings & McRobbie 1995; Henderson, Fisher & Fraser 1995).

 

 

Person-Environment Fit Studies of Whether Students Achieve Better in

Their Preferred Environment

 

Using both actual and preferred forms of educational environment instruments permits exploration of whether students achieve better when there is a higher similarity between the actual classroom environment and that preferred by students. By using a person-environment interaction framework, it is possible to investigate whether student outcomes depend, not only on the nature of the actual classroom environment, but also on the match between students' preferences and the actual environment (Fraser & Fisher 1983b, 1983c; Wong & Watkins 1996). Using the ICEQ with a sample of 116 class means, Fraser and Fisher's study involved the prediction of posttest achievement from pretest performance, general ability, the five actual individualisation variables and five variables indicating actual-preferred interaction. Overall, the findings suggested that actual-preferred congruence (or person-environment fit) could be as important as individualisation per se in predicting student achievement of important affective and cognitive aims. The practical implication of these findings is that class achievement of certain outcomes might be enhanced by attempting to change the actual classroom environment in ways which make it more congruent with that preferred by the class.

 

 

Teachers' Attempts to Improve Classroom and School Environments

 

Although much research has been conducted on educational environments, less has been done to help teachers to improve the environments of their own classrooms or schools. This section reports how feedback information based on student or teacher perceptions can be employed as a basis for reflection upon, discussion of, and systematic attempts to improve classroom and school environments (Fraser 1981). The proposed methods have been applied successfully in studies at the early childhood (Fisher, Fraser & Bassett 1995), primary (Fraser & Deer 1983; Fraser, Docker & Fisher 1988), secondary (Fraser, Seddon & Eagleson 1982; Thorp, Burden & Fraser 1994; Woods & Fraser 1996) and higher education levels (Fisher & Parkinson in press; Yarrow & Millwater 1995; Yarrow, Millwater & Fraser 1997).

            The attempt at improving classroom environments described below (Fraser & Fisher 1986) made use of the short 24-item version of the CES discussed previously. The class involved in the study consisted of 22 grade 9 boys and girls of mixed ability studying science at a government school in Tasmania. The procedure followed by the teacher of this class incorporated the following five steps:

 

(1)        Assessment. All students in the class responded to the preferred form of the CES first, while the actual form was administered in the same time slot one week later.

 

(2)        Feedback. The teacher was provided with feedback information derived from student responses in the form of the profiles shown in Figure 1 representing the class means of students' actual and preferred environment scores. These profiles permitted ready identification of the changes in classroom environment needed to reduce major differences between the nature of the actual environment and the preferred environment as currently perceived by students. Figure 1 shows that the interpretation of the larger differences was that students would prefer less Friction, less Competitiveness and more Cohesiveness.

 

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(3)        Reflection and discussion. The teacher engaged in private reflection and informal discussion about the profiles in order to provide a basis for a decision about whether an attempt would be made to change the environment in terms of some of the dimensions. The main criteria used for selection of dimensions for change were, first, that there should exist a sizeable actual-preferred difference on that variable and, second, that the teacher should feel concerned about this difference and want to make an effort to reduce it. These considerations led the teacher to decide to introduce an intervention aimed at increasing the levels of Teacher Support and Order and Organisation in the class.

 

(4)        Intervention. The teacher introduced an intervention of approximately two months' duration in an attempt to change the classroom environment. This intervention consisted of a variety of strategies, some of which originated during discussions between teachers, and others of which were suggested by examining ideas contained in individual CES items. For example, strategies used to enhance Teacher Support involved the teacher moving around the class more to mix with students, providing assistance to students and talking with them more than previously. Strategies used to increase Order and Organisation involved taking considerable care with distribution and collection of materials during activities and ensuring that students worked more quietly.

 

(5)        Reassessment. The student actual form of the scales was re-administered at the end of the intervention to see whether students were perceiving their classroom environments differently from before.

 

The results summarised graphically in Figure 1 show that some change in actual environment occurred during the time of the intervention. When tests of statistical significance were performed, it was found that pretest-posttest differences were significant (p<0.05) only for Teacher Support, Task Orientation and Order and Organisation. These findings are noteworthy because two of the dimensions on which appreciable changes were recorded were those on which the teacher had attempted to promote change. (Note also that there appears to be a side effect in that the intervention could have resulted in the classroom becoming more task oriented than the students would have preferred.) Although the second administration of the environment scales marked the end of this teacher's attempt at changing a classroom, it might have been thought of as simply the beginning of another cycle.

            Woods and Fraser (1995) used this basic approach to improving classroom environments with 16 teachers who used the actual and preferred forms of the Classroom Interaction Patterns Questionnaire to assess student perceptions of six dimensions of teacher behaviour (Praise and Encouragement, Open Questioning, Lecture and Direction, Individual Work, Discipline and Management, and Group Work). Whereas half of the teachers received feedback and attempted changes in their classrooms, the other half only administered the questionnaires. The study showed that the teachers who received feedback, compared with the teachers who didn't receive feedback, were able to achieve more reductions in actual-preferred discrepancies on most classroom environment dimensions.

            Yarrow, Millwater and Fraser (1997) reported a study in which 117 preservice education teachers were introduced to the field of learning environment through being involved in action research aimed at improving their university teacher education classes and their 117 primary school classes during teaching practice. The CUCEI was used at the university level and the MCI was used at the primary level. Improvements in classroom environment were observed, and the preservice teachers generally valued both the inclusion of the topic of learning environment in their preservice programs and the opportunity to be involved in action research aimed at improving classroom environments.

            The methods described previously for improving classroom environments have been adapted for use by teachers wishing to improve their school-level environments. Fraser, Docker and Fisher (1988) used the WES as part of teacher development activities and reported a case study of a successful school change attempt in a primary school with a staff of 24 teachers. The SLEQ (Fisher & Fraser 1991) was used in similar school improvement studies using the same basic strategy in a primary school of 15 teachers. After an intervention had been implemented for approximately 10 weeks, it was found that sizeable changes had occurred in two of the targeted areas (of about two-thirds of a standard deviation and about half a standard deviation, respectively). 

 

 

Recent Trends and Desirable Future Directions

 

Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

 

Educational researchers claim that there are merits in moving beyond choosing between quantitative or qualitative methods, to combining quantitative and qualitative methods. In recent years, significant progress has been made towards the desirable goal of combining quantitative and qualitative methods within the same study in research on classroom learning environments (see Fraser & Tobin 1991 and Tobin & Fraser's chapter in this Handbook).

            For example, a team of 13 researchers was involved in over 500 hours of intensive classroom observation of 22 exemplary teachers and a comparison group of non-exemplary teachers (Fraser & Tobin 1989). The main data collection methods were based on interpretive research methods and involved classroom observation, interviewing of students and teachers, and the construction of case studies. But, a distinctive feature was that the qualitative information was complemented by quantitative information obtained from questionnaires assessing student perceptions of classroom psychosocial environment. These instruments furnished a picture of life in exemplary teachers' classrooms as seen through the students' eyes. The study suggested that, first, exemplary and non-exemplary teachers could be differentiated in terms of the psychosocial environments of their classrooms as seen through their students' eyes and, second, that exemplary teachers typically create and maintain environments that are markedly more favourable than those of non-exemplary teachers (Fraser & Tobin 1989).

            In a study which focused on the elusive goal of higher-level cognitive learning, a team of six researchers intensively studied the grade 10 science classes of two teachers (Peter and Sandra) over a ten-week period (Tobin, Kahle & Fraser 1990). Each class was observed by several researchers, interviewing of students and teachers took place on a daily basis, and students' written work was examined. The study also involved quantitative information from questionnaires assessing student perceptions of classroom psychosocial environment. Students' perceptions of the learning environment within each class were consistent with the observers' field records of the patterns of learning activities and engagement in each classroom. For example, the high level of Personalisation perceived in Sandra's classroom matched the large proportion of time that she spent in small-group activities during which she constantly moved about the classroom interacting with students. The lower level of Personalisation perceived in Peter's class was associated partly with the larger amount of time spent in the whole-class mode and the generally public nature of his interactions with students.

            Fraser's (1996) multilevel study of the learning environment of a science class in Australia incorporated a teacher-researcher perspective as well as the perspective of six university-based researchers. The research commenced with an interpretive study of a grade 10 science teacher's classroom learning environment at one school, which provided a challenging learning environment in that many students were from working class backgrounds, some were experiencing problems at home, and others had English as a second language. Qualitative methods involved several of the researchers visiting this class each time it met over five weeks, using student diaries, and interviewing the teacher-researcher, students, school administrators and parents. A video camera recorded activities during each lesson for later analysis. Field notes were written during and soon after each observation, and team meetings took place three times per week. The qualitative component of the study was complemented by a quantitative component involving the use of a questionnaire which linked three levels: the class in which the interpretive study was undertaken; selected classes from within the school; and classes distributed throughout the same State. This enabled a judgement to be made about whether this teacher was typical of other teachers at her school, and whether the school was typical of other schools within the State. Some of the features identified as salient in this teacher's classroom environment were peer pressure and an emphasis on laboratory activities. (For another example of a multilevel classroom environment study which combined quantitative and qualitative methods, see Waxman, Huang & Wang 1996.)

 

 

School-Level Environments

 

Although science education researchers have paid more attention to classroom environment research than to school environment research, desirable future directions include a greater emphasis on the school-level environment and the integration of classroom and school climate variables within the same study. Docker, Fraser and Fisher (1989) reported the use of the WES with a sample of 599 teachers in investigating differences between the environment of various school types. Reasonable similarity was found for preferred environment scales, but teachers' perceptions of their actual school environments varied markedly in that the climate in primary schools was more favourable than the environment of high schools on most scales. For example, primary schools were viewed as having greater Involvement, Staff Support, Autonomy, Task Orientation, Clarity, Innovation and Physical Comfort and less Work Pressure. Similarly, when the SLEQ was used in a study of differences between the climates of primary and high schools for a sample of 109 teachers in 10 schools (Fisher & Fraser 1991), the most striking finding was that the climate in primary schools emerged as more favourable than the environment of high schools on most SLEQ scales. Dorman and Fraser (1996) used a school environment questionnaire based on the SLEQ in a comparison of Catholic and government schools. Data from 208 science and religion teachers from 32 schools showed significant differences of approximately one standard deviation between the two school types on teacher-perceived Mission Consensus and Empowerment. Catholic school teachers saw their schools as more empowering and higher on Mission Consensus than government school teachers.

 

 

School Psychology

 

Given the school psychologist's changing role, the field of psychosocial learning environment provides a good example of an area which furnishes a number of ideas, techniques and research findings which could be valuable in school psychology (Fraser 1987; Hertz-Lazarowitz & Od-Cohen 1992). Traditionally, school psychologists have tended to concentrate heavily and sometimes exclusively on their roles in assessing and enhancing academic achievement and other valued learning outcomes. The field of classroom environment provides an opportunity for school psychologists and teachers to become sensitised to subtle but important aspects of classroom life, and to use discrepancies between students' perceptions of actual and preferred environment as a basis to guide improvements in classrooms (Burden & Fraser 1993). Similarly, expertise in assessing and improving school environment can be considered important in the work of educational psychologists (Burden & Fraser 1994).

 

 

Links Between Educational Environments

 

Although most individual studies of educational environments in the past have tended to focus on a single environment, there is potential in simultaneously considering the links between and joint influence of two or more environments. For example, Marjoribanks (1991) shows how the environments of the home and school interact and codetermine school achievement, and Moos (1991) illustrates the links between school, home and parents' work environments. Several studies have established associations between school-level and classroom-level environment (Dorman, Fraser & McRobbie 1997; Fraser & Rentoul 1982). In order to investigate whether the socio-cultural environment influences Nigerian students' learning of science, Jegede, Fraser and Okebukola (1994) developed and validated the Socio-Cultural Environment Scale to assess students' perceptions of Authoritarianism, Goal Structure, African World-View, Societal Expectations and Sacredness of Science with 600 senior secondary students. Apparently, students' socio-cultural environment in non-Western societies can create a wedge between what is taught and what is learned.

 

 

Cross-National Studies

 

Science education research which crosses national boundaries offers much promise for generating new insights for at least two reasons (Fraser 1997). First, there usually is greater variation in variables of interest (e.g., teaching methods, student attitudes) in a sample drawn from multiple countries than from a one-country sample. Second, the taken-for-granted familiar educational practices, beliefs and attitudes in one country can be exposed, made 'strange' and questioned when research involves two countries.

            Huang and Fraser (1997) reported one of the few cross-national studies undertaken in science education. It involved six Australian and seven Taiwanese science education researchers in working together on a cross-national study of learning environments. The WIHIC was administered to 50 junior high school science classes in each of Taiwan (1,879 students) and Australia (1,081 students). An English version of the questionnaire was translated into Chinese, followed by an independent back translation of the Chinese version into English again by team members who were not involved in the original translation. Qualitative data, involving interviews with teachers and students and classroom observations, were collected to complement the quantitative information and to clarify reasons for patterns and differences in the means in each country.`

            The scales of Involvement and Equity had the largest differences in means between the two countries, with Australian students perceiving each scale more positively than students from Taiwan. Data from the questionnaires were used to guide the collection of qualitative data. Student responses to individual items were used to form an interview schedule which was used to clarify whether items had been interpreted consistently by students and to help to explain differences in questionnaire scale means between countries. Classrooms were selected for observations on the basis of the questionnaire data, and specific scales formed the focus for observations in these classrooms. The qualitative data provided valuable insights into the perceptions of students in each of the countries, helped to explain some of the differences in the means between countries, and highlighted the need for caution when interpreting differences between the questionnaire results from two countries with cultural differences.

 

 

Transition from Primary to High School

 

There is considerable interest in the effects on early adolescents of the transition from primary school to the larger, less personal environment of the junior high school at this time of life. Midgley, Eccles and Feldlaufer (1991) reported a deterioration in the classroom environment when students moved from generally smaller primary schools to larger, departmentally-organised lower secondary schools, perhaps because of less positive student relations with teachers and reduced student opportunities for decision making in the classroom. Ferguson and Fraser's (1996) study of 1,040 students from 47 feeder primary schools and 16 linked high schools in Australia also indicated that students perceived their high school classroom environments less favourably than their primary school classroom environments, but the transition experience was different for boys and girls and for different school size 'pathways'.

 

 

Teacher Education

 

Although the field of psychosocial learning environment provides a number of potentially valuable ideas and techniques for inclusion in teacher education programs, little progress has been made in incorporating these ideas into teacher education. Fraser (1993) reported some case studies of how classroom and school environment work has been used within preservice and inservice teacher education to (1) sensitise teachers to subtle but important aspects of classroom life, (2) illustrate the usefulness of including classroom and school environment assessments as part of a teacher's overall evaluation/monitoring activities, (3) show how assessment of classroom and school environment can be used to facilitate practical improvements in classrooms and schools and (4) provide a valuable source of feedback about teaching performance for the formative and summative evaluation of student teaching. It appears that information on student perceptions of the classroom learning environment during preservice teachers' field experience adds usefully to the information obtained from university supervisors, school-based cooperating teachers and student teacher self-evaluation (Duschl & Waxman 1991). Créton, Hermans and Wubbels (1990) have used a systems communication perspective to provide guidance on how teacher education programs can be changed to improve interpersonal teacher behaviour in the classroom (e.g., changing escalating spirals of breakdown in communication).

 

 

Teacher Assessment

 

An innovative teacher assessment system called the Louisiana STAR (System for Teaching and Learning Assessment and Review) specifically includes learning environment dimensions among a set of four performance dimensions (Ellett, Loup & Chauvin 1989). The other three performance dimensions are Preparation, Planning and Evaluation (e.g., teaching methods, homework, assessment), Classroom and Behaviour Management (e.g., student engagement, monitoring student behaviour) and Enhancement of Learning (e.g., content accuracy, thinking skills, pace, feedback). With the STAR, multiple observers complete an assessment in 45 minutes by focusing on preparation and planning in addition to in-class performance, on student learning as well as teaching behaviour, on higher-level as well as lower-level student learning, and on differential provision for different children. Teachers who were effective in terms of the psychosocial learning environment dimension were found to encourage positive interpersonal relationships within a classroom environment in which students felt comfortable and accepted. The teacher, through verbal and non-verbal behaviours, modelled enthusiasm and interest in learning, included all students in learning activities and encouraged active involvement.

 

 

Discussion and Conclusion

 

The major purpose of this chapter devoted to perceptions of psychosocial characteristics of classroom and school environments has been to make this exciting research tradition in science education more accessible to wider audiences. In its attempt to portray prior work, attention has been given to instruments for assessing classroom and school environments (including some interesting new instruments and the distinction between Personal and Class forms), several lines of previous research (e.g., associations between outcomes and environment, use of environment dimensions as dependent variables, person-environment fit studies of whether students achieve better in their preferred environment), and teachers' use of learning environment perceptions in guiding practical attempts to improve their own classrooms and schools. Also new lines of research which suggest desirable future directions for the field were discussed, including the desirability of combining quantitative and qualitative methods, school-level environment, links between different educational environments, cross-national studies, changes in environment during the transition from primary to high school, and incorporating educational environment ideas into school psychology, teacher education and teacher assessment.

            This section of the Handbook devoted to learning environments has five other chapters which are summarised below. In 'The Teacher Factor in the Social Climate of the Classroom', Theo Wubbels and Mieke Brekelmans review research on teachers' contributions to a positive social climate in science classes, particularly through their interaction or communication with students. The way in which a teacher interacts with students is important because it is a predictor of student learning and discipline problems and of teacher job satisfaction and burnout. The chapter considers data-gathering methods (such as observation and questionnaires, including the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction, associations between student outcomes and teacher-student interactions, and correlates of teacher-student interactions (e.g., teacher age, experience and cognition, student gender and setting).

            McRobbie, Fisher and Wong's chapter on 'Personal and Class Forms of Classroom Environment Instruments' differentiates between a learning environment questionnaire which assesses the whole-class environment (Class form) and one which assesses a student's perception of his or her role within a classroom (Personal form). Personal forms are better suited for investigating within-class subgroups and for case studies of individual students. Differences were found in the means obtained on Personal and Class forms, and these were illuminated through student interviews. The Personal form and the Class form each accounted for unique variance in student outcomes that could not be explained by the other form.

            Hanna Arzi's chapter entitled 'Enhancing Science Education Through Laboratory Environments: More than Walls, Benches and Widgets' assumes that laboratory work is both a means and an end in science education and that some of school science teaching should be carried out in a flexibly-designed laboratory. The chapter considers the goal of laboratory work, the structure and function of laboratories, and the physical design of laboratories. A case study of designing science environments is reported.

            In 'Reading the Furniture: The Semiotic Interpretation of Science Learning Environments', Bonnie Shapiro broadens the term 'learning environment' to include signs, symbols and rule sets as powerful features that influence learning and teaching. The chapter considers the historical development of semiotics as a research approach, and provides five case studies of the use of a semiotic interpretive perspective. Finally, implications of the semiotic perspective for teaching, learning and curriculum organisation are explored, and the value of a semiotic awareness of school learning environments is discussed.

            Kenneth Tobin and Barry Fraser, in 'Qualitative and Quantitative Landscapes of Classroom Learning Environments', consider multiple theoretical perspectives for framing learning environment research and its methods, and they advocate combining qualitative and quantitative methods to maximise the potential of research. A major contribution of the chapter is a case study involving an analysis of a learning environment at multiple levels or 'grain sizes'. The credibility of assertions from this study was enhanced by the use of qualitative and quantitative information from multiple data sources and grain sizes.

            Based on research on learning environments, several practical implications for policy-makers and practitioners can be drawn (see, Fraser & Wubbels 1995). First, learning environment assessments should be used in addition to student learning outcome measures to provide information about subtle but important aspects of classroom life. Second, because teachers and students have systematically different perceptions of the same classrooms, student feedback about classrooms should be collected. Third, teachers should strive to create 'productive' classroom learning environments as identified by research (e.g., classroom environments with greater organisation, cohesiveness and goal direction and less friction). Fourth, in order to improve student outcomes, classroom environments should be changed to make them more similar to those preferred by the students. Fifth, the evaluation of innovations, new curricula and reform efforts should include classroom environment assessments to provide process measures of effectiveness. Sixth, teachers should use assessments of actual and the preferred learning environments to monitor and guide attempts to improve classrooms and schools. Seventh, learning environment assessments should be used by school psychologists in helping teachers change their styles of interacting with students and improve their classroom and school environments.

 

 

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Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1981, 'Validity and Use of My Class Inventory', Science Education 65, 145--156.

Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1983a, 'A Comparison of Actual and Preferred Classroom Environment as Perceived by Science Teachers and Students', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 20, 55--61.

Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1983b, 'Use of WES to Assess Science Teachers' Perceptions of School Environment', European Journal of Science Education 5, 231--233.

Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1983c, 'Validity and Use of Classroom Environment Scale', Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 5, 261--271.

Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1991, 'School Climate and Teacher Professional Development', South Pacific Journal of Teacher Education 19(1), 17--32.

Fisher, D.L., Fraser, B.J. & Bassett, J.: 1995, 'Using a Classroom Environment Instrument in an Early Childhood Classroom', Australian Journal of Early Childhood 20(3), 10--15.

Fisher, D.L., Fraser, B.J. & Rickards, T.: 1997, 'Gender and Cultural Differences in Teacher-Student Interpersonal Behavior', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Fisher, D.L., Fraser, B.J. & Wubbels, Th.: 1993, 'Interpersonal Teacher Behavior and School Environment', in Th. Wubbels & J. Levy (eds.), Do You Know What You Look Like: Interpersonal Relationships in Education, Falmer Press, London, 103--112.

Fisher, D.L., Grady, N. & Fraser, B.: 1995, 'Associations Between School-Level and Classroom-Level Environment', International Studies in Educational Administration 23, 1--15.

Fisher, D.L., Henderson, D. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Interpersonal Behaviour in Senior High School Biology Classes', Research in Science Education 25, 125--133.

Fisher, D., Henderson, D. & Fraser, B.: 1997, 'Laboratory Environments & Student Outcomes in Senior High School Biology', American Biology Teacher 59, 214--219.

Fisher, D.L. & Parkinson, A.: in press, 'Improving Nursing Education Classroom Environment', Journal of Nursing Education.

Fisher, D.L. & Waldrip, B.G.: 1997, 'Assessing Culturally Sensitive Factors in the Learning Environment of Science Classrooms', Research in Science Education 27, 41--49.

Fraser, B.J.: 1979, 'Evaluation of a Science-Based Curriculum', in H.J. Walberg (ed.), Educational Environments and Effects: Evaluation, Policy, and Productivity, McCutchan, Berkeley, CA, 218--234.

Fraser, B.J.: 1981, 'Using Environmental Assessments to Make Better Classrooms', Journal of Curriculum Studies 13, 131--144.

Fraser, B.J.: 1982a, 'Development of Short Forms of Several Classroom Environment Scales', Journal of Educational Measurement 19, 221--227.

Fraser, B.J.: 1982b, 'Differences Between Student and Teacher Perceptions of Actual and Preferred Classroom Learning Environment', Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis 4, 511--519.

Fraser, B.J.: 1986, Classroom Environment, Croom Helm, London.

Fraser, B.J.: 1987, 'Use of Classroom Environment Assessments in School Psychology', School Psychology International 8, 205--219.

Fraser, B.J.: 1990, Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire, Australian Council for Educational Research, Melbourne, Australia.

Fraser, B.J.: 1993, 'Incorporating Classroom and School Environment Ideas into Teacher Education Programs', in T.A. Simpson (ed.), Teacher Educators' Annual Handbook, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 135--152.

Fraser, B.J.: 1994, 'Research on Classroom and School Climate', in D. Gabel (ed.), Handbook of Research on Science Teaching and Learning, Macmillan, New York, 493--541.

Fraser, B.J.: 1996, '"Grain Sizes" in Educational Research: Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods', Paper presented at the Conference on Improving Interpretive Research Methods in Research on Science Classroom Environments, Taipei, Taiwan.

Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'NARST's Expansion, Internationalization and Cross-Nationalization' (1996 Annual Meeting Presidential Address), NARST News 40(1), 3--4.

Fraser, B.J., Anderson, G.J. & Walberg, H.J.: 1982, Assessment of Learning Environments: Manual for Learning Environment Inventory (LEI) and My Class Inventory (MCI) (third version), Western Australian Institute of Technology, Perth, Australia.

Fraser, B.J. & Deer, C.E.: 1983, 'Improving Classrooms Through Use of Information About Learning Environment', Curriculum Perspectives 3(2), 41--46.

Fraser, B.J., Docker, J.G. & Fisher, D.L.: 1988, 'Assessing and Improving School Climate', Evaluation and Research in Education 2(3), 109--122.

Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1982, 'Predicting Students' Outcomes from Their Perceptions of Classroom Psychosocial Environment', American Educational Research Journal 19, 498--518.

Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1983a, 'Development and Validation of Short Forms of Some Instruments Measuring Student Perceptions of Actual and Preferred Classroom Learning Environment', Science Education 67, 115--131.

Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1983b, 'Student Achievement as a Function of Person-Environment Fit: A Regression Surface Analysis', British Journal of Educational Psychology 53, 89--99.

Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1983c, 'Use of Actual and Preferred Classroom Environment Scales in Person-Environment Fit Research', Journal of Educational Psychology 75, 303--313.

Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1986, 'Using Short Forms of Classroom Climate Instruments to Assess and Improve Classroom Psychosocial Environment', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 5, 387--413.

Fraser, B.J., Fisher, D.L. & McRobbie, C.J.: 1996, 'Development, Validation, and Use of Personal and Class Forms of a New Classroom Environment Instrument', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Fraser, B.J., Giddings, G.J. & McRobbie, C.J.: 1995, 'Evolution and Validation of a Personal Form of an Instrument for Assessing Science Laboratory Classroom Environments', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 32, 399--422.

Fraser, B.J. & McRobbie, C.J.: 1995, 'Science Laboratory Classroom Environments at Schools and Universities: A Cross-National Study', Educational Research and Evaluation 1, 289--317.

Fraser, B.J., McRobbie, C.J. & Giddings, G.J.: 1993, 'Development and Cross-National Validation of a Laboratory Classroom Environment Instrument for Senior High School Science', Science Education 77, 1--24.

Fraser, B.J. & O'Brien, P.: 1985, 'Student and Teacher Perceptions of the Environment of Elementary-School Classrooms', Elementary School Journal 85, 567--580.

Fraser, B.J. & Rentoul, A.J.: 1982, 'Relationship Between School-Level and Classroom-Level Environment', Alberta Journal of Educational Research 28, 212--225.

Fraser, B.J., Seddon, T. & Eagleson, J.: 1982, 'Use of Student Perceptions in Facilitating Improvement in Classroom Environment', Australian Journal of Teacher Education 7, 31--42.

Fraser, B.J. & Tobin, K.: 1989, 'Student Perceptions of Psychosocial Environments in Classrooms of Exemplary Science Teachers', International Journal of Science Education 11, 14--34.

Fraser, B.J. & Tobin, K.: 1991, 'Combining Qualitative and Quantitative Methods in Classroom Environment Research', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 271--292.

Fraser, B.J. & Treagust, D.F.: 1986, 'Validity and Use of an Instrument for Assessing Classroom Psychosocial Environment in Higher Education', Higher Education 15, 37--57.

Fraser, B.J., Treagust, D.F. & Dennis, N.C.: 1986, 'Development of an Instrument for Assessing Classroom Psychosocial Environment at Universities and Colleges', Studies in Higher Education 11, 43--54.

Fraser, B.J. & Walberg, H.J. (eds.): 1991, Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London.

Fraser, B.J., Walberg, H.J., Welch, W.W. & Hattie, J.A.: 1987, 'Syntheses of Educational Productivity Research', International Journal of Educational Research 11(2), 145--252. (whole issue)

Fraser, B.J., Welch, W.W. & Walberg, H.J.: 1986, 'Using Secondary Analysis of National Assessment Data to Identify Predictors of Junior High School Students' Outcomes', Alberta Journal of Educational Research 32, 37--50.

Fraser, B.J., Williamson, J.C. & Tobin, K.: 1987, 'Use of Classroom and School Climate Scales in Evaluating Alternative High Schools', Teaching and Teacher Education 3, 219--231.

Fraser, B.J. & Wubbels, Th.: 1995, 'Classroom Learning Environments', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Improving Science Education, National Society for the Study of Education, Chicago, IL, 117--144.

Goh, S.C. & Fraser, B.J.: 1996, 'Validation of an Elementary School Version of the Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction', Psychological Reports 79, 512--522.

Goh, S.C., Young, D.J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Psychosocial Climate and Student Outcomes in Elementary Mathematics Classrooms: A Multilevel Analysis', Journal of Experimental Education 64, 29--40.

Goldstein, H.: 1987, Multilevel Models in Educational and Social Research, Charles Griffin, London.

Haertel, G.D., Walberg, H.J. & Haertel, E.H.: 1981, 'Socio-Psychological Environments and Learning: A Quantitative Synthesis', British Educational Research Journal 7, 27--36.

Halpin, A.W. & Croft, D.B.: 1963, Organizational Climate of Schools, Midwest Administration Center, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL.

Henderson, D., Fisher, D.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Gender Differences in Biology Students' Perceptions of Actual and Preferred Learning Environments', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco.

Hertz-Lazarowitz, R. & Od-Cohen, M.: 1992, 'The School Psychologist as a Facilitator of a Community-Wide Project to Enhance Positive Learning Climate in Elementary Schools', Psychology in the Schools 29, 348--358.

Hodson, D.: 1988, 'Experiments in Science and Science Teaching', Educational Philosophy and Theory 20(2), 53--66.

Hofstein, A. & Lazarowitz, R.: 1986, 'A Comparison of the Actual and Preferred Classroom Learning Environment in Biology and Chemistry as Perceived by High School Students', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 23, 189--199.

Huang, I. & Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'The Development of a Questionnaire for Assessing Student Perceptions of Classroom Climate in Taiwan and Australia', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Chicago, IL.

Idiris, S. & Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'Psychosocial Environment of Agricultural Science Classrooms in Nigeria', International Journal of Science Education 19, 79--91.

Jegede, O.J., Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1995, 'The Development and Validation of a Distance and Open Learning Environment Scale', Educational Technology Research and Development 43, 90--93.

Jegede, O.J., Fraser, B.J. & Okebukola, P.A.: 1994, 'Altering Socio-Cultural Beliefs Hindering the Learning of Science', Instructional Science 22, 137--152.

Johnson, D.W. & Johnson, R.T.: 1991, 'Cooperative Learning and Classroom and School Climate', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 55--74.

Johnson, D., Maruyama, G., Johnson R., Nelson, D. & Skon, L.: 1981, 'The Effects of Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Goal Structures on Achievement: A Meta-Analysis', Psychological Bulletin 89, 47--62.

Kent, H. & Fisher, D.L.: 1997, 'Associations Between Teacher Personality and Classroom Environment', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Khoo, H.S. & Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'The Learning Environments Associated with Computer Application Courses for Adults in Singapore', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Knight, S.L.: 1992, 'Differences Among Black and Hispanic Students' Perceptions of Their Classroom Learning Environment in Social Studies', in H.C. Waxman & Chad D. Ellett (eds.), The Study of Learning Environments, Volume 5, University of Houston, Houston, TX, 101--107.

Levy, J., Wubbels, Th., Brekelmans, M. & Morganfield, B.: 1994, 'Language and Cultural Factors in Students' Perceptions of Teacher Communication Style, International Journal of Intercultural Relations 21, 29--56.

Lewin, K.: 1936, Principles of Topological Psychology, McGraw, New York.

MacAuley, D.J.: 1990, 'Classroom Environment: A Literature Review', Educational Psychology 10, 239--253.

Maor, D. & Fraser, B.J.: 1996, 'Use of Classroom Environment Perceptions in Evaluating Inquiry-Based Computer Assisted Learning', International Journal of Science Education 18, 401--421.

Marjoribanks, K.: 1991, 'Families, Schools, and Students' Educational Outcomes', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 75--91.

McRobbie, C.J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1993, 'Associations Between Student Outcomes and Psychosocial Science Environment', Journal of Educational Research 87, 78--85.

Midgley, C., Eccles, J.S. & Feldlaufer, H.: 1991, 'Classroom Environment and the Transition to Junior High School', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 113--139.

Moos, R.H.: 1974, The Social Climate Scales: An overview, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Moos, R.H.: 1979, Evaluating Educational Environments: Procedures, Measures, Findings and Policy Implications, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Moos, R.H.: 1981, Manual for Work Environment Scale, Consulting Psychologist Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Moos, R.H.: 1991, 'Connections Between School, Work, and Family Settings', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 29--53.

Moos, R.H. & Trickett, E.J.: 1987, Classroom Environment Scale Manual (second edition), Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto, CA.

Murray, H.A.: 1938, Explorations in Personality, Oxford University Press, New York.

Owens, L.C. & Straton, R.G.: 1980, 'The Development of a Cooperative, Competitive and Individualized Learning Preference Scale for Students', British Journal of Educational Psychology 50, 147--161.

Rentoul, A.J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1979, 'Conceptualization of Enquiry-Based or Open Classroom Learning Environments', Journal of Curriculum Studies 11, 233--245.

Rentoul, A.J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1983, 'Development of a School-Level Environment Questionnaire', Journal of Educational Administration 21, 21--39.

Riah, H., Fraser, B.J. & Rickards, T.: 1997, 'Interpersonal Teacher Behaviour in Chemistry Classes in Brunei Darussalem's Secondary Schools', Paper presented at the International Seminar on Innovations in Science and Mathematics Curricula, Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam.

Roth, W.M. & Roychoudhury, A.: 1994, 'Physics Students' Epistemologies and Views about Knowing and Learning', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 31, 5--30.

Rutter, M., Maughan, B., Mortimore, P., Ouston, J. & Smith, A.: 1979, Fifteen Thousand Hours: Secondary Schools and Their Effects on Children, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Sinclair, B.B. & Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'The Effect of Inservice Training and Teachers' Action Research on Elementary Science Classroom Environments', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL.

Sirotnik, K.A.: 1980, 'Psychometric Implications of the Unit-of-Analysis Problem (With Examples from the Measurement of Organizational Climate)', Journal of Educational Measurement 17, 245--282.

Stern, G.G.: 1970, People in Context: Measuring Person-Environment Congruence in Education and Industry, Wiley, New York.

Stern, G.G., Stein, M.I. & Bloom, B.S.: 1956, Methods in Personality Assessment, Free Press, Glencoe, IL.

Taylor, P.C., Dawson, V. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Classroom Learning Environments Under Transformation: A Constructivist Perspective', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, CA.

Taylor, P.C., Fraser, B.J. & Fisher, D.L.: 1997, 'Monitoring Constructivist Classroom Learning Environments', International Journal of Educational Research 27, 293--302.

Teh, G. & Fraser, B.J.: 1994, 'An Evaluation of Computer-Assisted Learning in Terms of Achievement, Attitudes and Classroom Environment', Evaluation and Research in Education 8, 147--161.

Teh, G. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995a, 'Associations Between Student Outcomes and Geography Classroom Environment', International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 4(1), 3--18.

Teh, G. & Fraser, B.: 1995b, 'Development and Validation of an Instrument for Assessing the Psychosocial Environment of Computer-Assisted Learning Classrooms', Journal of Educational Computing Research 12, 177--193.

Thorp, H., Burden, R.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1994, 'Assessing and Improving Classroom Environment', School Science Review 75, 107--113.

Tobin, K., Kahle, J.B. & Fraser, B.J. (eds.): 1990, Windows into Science Classes: Problems Associated with Higher-Level Cognitive Learning, Falmer Press, London.

von Saldern, M.: 1992, Social Climate in the Classroom: Theoretical and Methodological Aspects, Waxmann Münster, New York.

Walberg, H.J. (ed.): 1979, Educational Environments and Effects: Evaluation, Policy, and Productivity, McCutchan, Berkeley, CA.

Walberg, H.J.: 1981, 'A Psychological Theory of Educational Productivity', in F. Farley & N.J. Gordon (eds.), Psychology and Education: The State of the Union, McCutchan, Berkeley, CA, 81--108.

Walberg, H.J.: 1986, 'Synthesis of Research on Teaching', in M.C. Wittrock (ed.), Handbook of Research on Teaching (third edition), American Educational Research Association, Washington, DC, 214--229.

Walberg, H.J. & Anderson, G.J.: 1968, 'Classroom Climate and Individual Learning', Journal of Educational Psychology 59, 414--419.

Walberg, H.J., Fraser, B.J. & Welch, W.W.: 1986, 'A Test of a Model of Educational Productivity Among Senior High School Students', Journal of Educational Research 79, 133--139.

Waxman, H.C., Huang, S.Y. & Wang, M.C.: 1996, 'Investigating the Multilevel Classroom Learning Environments of Resilient and Non-Resilient Students from Inner-City Elementary Schools', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Wong, A.F.L. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Cross-Validation in Singapore of the Science Laboratory Environment Inventory', Psychological Reports 76, 907--911.

Wong, A.L.F. & Fraser, B.J.: 1996, 'Environment-Attitude Associations in the Chemistry Laboratory Classroom', Research in Science and Technological Education 14, 91--102.

Wong, A.F.L., Young, D.J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1997, 'A Multilevel Analysis of Learning Environments and Student Attitudes', Educational Psychology 17, 449--468.

Wong, N.Y.: 1993, 'The Psychosocial Environment in the Hong Kong Mathematics Classroom', Journal of Mathematical Behavior 12, 303--309.

Wong, N.Y. & Watkins, D.: 1996, 'Self-Monitoring as a Mediator of Person-Environment Fit: An Investigation of Hong Kong Mathematics Classroom Environments', British Journal of Educational Psychology 66, 223--229.

Woods, J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1995, 'Utilizing Feedback Data on Students' Perceptions of Teaching Style and Preferred Learning Style to Enhance Teaching Effectiveness', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, San Francisco, CA.

Woods, J. & Fraser, B.J.: 1996, 'Enhancing Reflection by Monitoring Students' Perceptions of Teaching Style and Preferred Learning Style', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.

Wubbels, Th. & Brekelmans, M.: 1997, 'A Comparison of Student Perceptions of Dutch Physics Teachers' Interpersonal Behavior and Their Educational Opinions in 1984 and 1993', Journal of Research in Science Teaching 34, 447--466.

Wubbels, Th., Brekelmans, M. & Hooymayers, H.: 1991, 'Interpersonal Teacher Behavior in the Classroom', in B.J. Fraser & H.J. Walberg (eds.), Educational Environments: Evaluation, Antecedents and Consequences, Pergamon, London, 141--160.

Wubbels, Th. & Levy, J. (eds.): 1993, Do You Know What You Look Like: Interpersonal Relationships in Education, Falmer Press, London.

Yarrow, A. & Millwater, J.: 1995, 'Smile: Student Modification in Learning Environments — Establishing Congruence Between Actual and Preferred Classroom Learning Environment', Journal of Classroom Interaction 30(1), 11--15.

Yarrow, A., Millwater, J. & Fraser, B.: 1997, 'Improving University and Elementary School Classroom Environments Through Preservice Teachers' Action Research', Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.


Table 1: Overview of scales contained in nine classroom environment instruments (LEI, CES, ICEQ, MCI, CUCEI, QTI, SLEI, CLES and WIHIC)

 

 

 

 

Scales Classified According to Moos's Scheme

Instrument

Level

Items
per
scale

Relationship
dimensions

Personal
development
dimensions

System maintenance and change dimensions

 

Learning Environment Inventory
(LEI)

Secondary

7

Cohesiveness
Friction
Favouritism
Cliqueness
Satisfaction
Apathy

Speed
Difficulty
Competitiveness

Diversity
Formality
Material
  Environment
Goal Direction
Disorganisation
Democracy

 

Classroom Environment Scale
(CES)

Secondary

10

Involvement
Affiliation
Teacher   
  Support

Task Orientation
Competition

Order and  
  Organisation
Rule Clarity
Teacher Control
Innovation

 

Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ)

Secondary

10

Personalisation
Participation

Independence
Investigation

Differentiation

 

My Class Inventory
(MCI)

Elementary

6--9

Cohesiveness
Friction
Satisfaction

Difficulty
Competitiveness

 

 

College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI)

Higher Education

7

Personalisation
Involvement
Student
  Cohesiveness
Satisfaction

Task Orientation

Innovation
Individualisation

 

Questionnaire
on Teacher
Interaction
(QTI)

Secondary/Primary

8--10

Helpful/Friendly
Understanding
Dissatisfied
Admonishing

 

Leadership
Student
  Responsibility
  and Freedom
Uncertain
Strict

 

Science Laboratory Environment Inventory
(SLEI)

Upper Secondary/
Higher Education

7

Student
  Cohesiveness

Open-Endedness
Integration

Rule Clarity
Material
  Environment

 

Constructivist
Learning
Environment
Survey
(CLES)

Secondary

7

Personal Relevance
Uncertainty

Critical Voice
Shared Control

Student
  Negotiation

 

What Is Happening In
This Classroom (WIHIC)

Secondary

8

Student
  Cohesiveness
Teacher Support
Involvement

Investigation
Task Orientation
Cooperation

Equity

 


Table 2: Internal consistency (alpha reliability), discriminant validity (mean correlation of a scale with other scales), and ANOVA results for class
membership differences (eta
2 statistic and significance level) for student
actual form of nine instruments using individual as unit of analysis

 

 

 

Scale                                      Alpha         Mean     ANOVA    Scale                                       Alpha       Mean     ANOVA

                                              rel.             correl.    results                                                      rel.           correl.    results

                                                                with       eta2                                                                          with       eta2
                                                                other                                                                                     other    

                                                                scales                                                                                     scales

 


Learning Environment Inventory
(LEI)
                                                                     

                                              (N=1,048 (N=149

                                              students)   classes)

Cohesiveness                        0.69           0.14        a

Diversity                              0.54           0.16       

Formality                              0.76           0.18       

Speed                                    0.70           0.17       

Material Environment          0.56           0.24       

Friction                                 0.72           0.36       

Goal Direction                      0.85           0.37       

Favouritism                          0.78           0.32       

Difficulty                              0.64           0.16       
Apathy                                 0.82           0.39       

Democracy                           0.67           0.34       

Cliqueness                            0.65           0.33       

Satisfaction                           0.79           0.39       

Disorganisation                     0.82           0.40       
Competitiveness                   0.78           0.08       

Classroom Environment Scale
(CES)
                                                                   

                                              (N=1,083 students)

Involvement                          0.70           0.40        0.29*

Affiliation                             0.60           0.24        0.21*

Teacher Support                   0.72           0.29        0.34*

Task Orientation                  0.58           0.23        0.25*

Competition                         0.51           0.09        0.18*

Order and Organisation        0.75           0.29        0.43*

Rule Clarity                          0.63           0.29        0.21*

Teacher Control                    0.60           0.16        0.27*

Innovation                            0.52           0.19        0.26*

 

Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ)                   

                                              (N=1,849 students)

Personalisation                     0.79           0.28        0.31*

Participation                         0.70           0.27        0.21*

Independence                        0.68           0.07        0.30*

Investigation                         0.71           0.21        0.20*

Differentiation                      0.76           0.10        0.43*

 

My Class Inventory                                            

(MCI)                                                                   

                                              (N=2,305 students)

Cohesiveness                        0.67           0.20        0.21*

Friction                                 0.67           0.26        0.31*

Difficulty                              0.62           0.14        0.18*

Satisfaction                           0.78           0.23        0.30*

Competitiveness                   0.71           0.10        0.19*

 


College and University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI)          

                                              (N=372 students)

Personalisation                     0.75           0.46        0.35*

Involvement                          0.70           0.47        0.40*

Student Cohesiveness           0.90           0.45        0.47*

Satisfaction                           0.88           0.45        0.32*

Task Orientation                  0.75           0.38        0.43*

Innovation                            0.81           0.46        0.41*

Individualisation                   0.78           0.34        0.46*

 

Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction
(QTI)
                                                                    

                                              (N=3,994 students)

Leadership                            0.82           b            0.33*

Helping/Friendly                  0.88                        0.35*

Understanding                      0.85                        0.32*

Student Responsibility/        0.66                        0.26*
  Freedom                             

Uncertain                              0.72                        0.22*

Dissatisfied                           0.80                        0.23*

Admonishing                        0.76                        0.31*

Strict                                     0.63                        0.23*

 

Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI)                                        

                                              (N=3,727 students)

Student Cohesiveness           0.77           0.34        0.21*

Open-Endedness                  0.70           0.07        0.19*

Integration                            0.83           0.37        0.23*

Rule Clarity                          0.75           0.33        0.21*

Material Environment          0.75           0.37        0.21*

 

Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES)                                  

                                              (N=1,081 students)

Personal Relevance               0.88           0.43        0.16*

Uncertainty                          0.76           0.44        0.14*

Critical View                         0.85           0.31        0.14*

Shared Control                      0.91           0.41        0.17*

Student Negotiation              0.89           0.40        0.14*

 

What Is Happening In This Classroom
(WIHIC)
                                                               

                                              (N=1,081 students)

Student Cohesiveness           0.81           0.37        0.09*

Teacher Support                   0.88           0.43        0.15*

Involvement                          0.84           0.45        0.10*

Investigation                         0.88           0.41        0.15*

Task Orientation                  0.88           0.42        0.15*

Cooperation                          0.89           0.45        0.12*

Equity                                   0.93           0.46        0.13*

 


 

 

a   This statistic is not available for the LEI.

b   This statistic is not relevant for the QTI.


 

 

 

Figure 1: Pretest actual, pretest preferred and posttest actual means


APPENDIX A

 

 

Constructivist Learning Environment Survey

 

Actual Form

 

 

Directions for Students

 

These questionnaires contain statements about practices which could take place in this class. You will be asked how often each practice takes place.

 

There are no 'right' or 'wrong' answers. Your opinion is what is wanted. Think about how well each statement describes what this class is like for you.

 

Draw a circle around

 

                                      1          if the practice takes place                   Almost Never

                                      2          if the practice takes place                   Seldom

                                      3          if the practice takes place                   Sometimes

                                      4          if the practice takes place                   Often

                                      5          if the practice takes place                   Almost Always

 

Be sure to give an answer for all questions. If you change your mind about an answer, just cross it out and circle another.

 

Some statements in this questionnaire are fairly similar to other statements. Don't worry about this. Simply give your opinion about all statements.

 

Practice Example

Suppose you were given the statement 'I choose my partners for group discussion'. You would need to decide whether you choose your partners 'Almost always', 'Often', 'Sometimes', 'Seldom' or 'Almost never'. If you selected 'Often', then you would circle the number 2 on your questionnaire.

 


 

Learning about the world

 

Almost Never

Seldom

Some-times

Often

Almost Always

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1.

I learn about the world outside of school.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  2.

My new learning starts with problems about the world outside of school.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  3.

I learn how science can be part of my out-of-school life.

 

1

2

3

4

5

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

  4.

I get a better understanding of the world outside of school.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  5.

I learn interesting things about the world outside of school.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  6.

What I learn has nothing to do with my out-of-school life.

 

1

2

3

4

5

Learning about science

 

Almost Never

Seldom

Some-times

Often

Almost Always

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

  7.

I learn that science cannot provide perfect answers to problems.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  8.

I learn that science has changed over time.

 

1

2

3

4

5

  9.

I learn that science is influenced by people's values and opinions.

 

1

2

3

4

5

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.

I learn about the different sciences used by people in other cultures.

 

1

2

3

4

5

11.

I learn that modern science is different from the science of long ago.

 

1

2

3

4

5

12.

I learn that science is about creating theories.

 

1

2

3

4

5

Learning to speak out

 

Almost Never

Seldom

Some-times

Often

Almost Always

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

13.

It's OK for me to ask the teacher 'Why do I have to learn this?'

 

1

2

3

4

5

14.

It's OK for me to question the way I'm being taught.

 

1

2

3

4

5

15.

It's OK for me to complain about teaching activities that are confusing.

 

1

2

3

4

5

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

16.

It's OK for me to complain about anything that prevents me from learning.

 

1

2

3

4

5

17.

It's OK for me to express my opinion.

 

1

2

3

4

5

18.

It's OK for me to speak up for my rights.

 

1

2

3

4

5

 

 


 

Learning to learn

 

Almost Never

Seldom

Some-times

Often

Almost Always

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

19.

I help the teacher to plan what I'm going to learn.

 

1

2

3

4

5

20.

I help the teacher to decide how well I am learning.

 

1

2

3

4

5

21.

I help the teacher to decide which activities are best for me.

 

1

2

3

4

5

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

22.

I help the teacher to decide how much time I spend on learning activities.

 

1

2

3

4

5

23.

I help the teacher to decide which activities I do.

 

1

2

3

4

5

24.

I help the teacher to assess my learning.

 

1

2

3

4

5

Learning to communicate

 

Almost Never

Seldom

Some-times

Often

Almost Always

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

25.

I get the chance to talk to other students.

 

1

2

3

4

5

26.

I talk with other students about how to solve problems.

 

1

2

3

4

5

27.

I explain my understandings to other students.

 

1

2

3

4

5

In this class . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

28.

I ask other students to explain their thoughts.

 

1

2

3

4

5

29.

Other students ask me to explain my ideas.

 

1

2

3

4

5

30.

Other students explain their ideas to me.

 

1

2

3

4

5

 

 



 Chapter Consultant:  Peter Okebukola (Lagos State University, Nigeria)