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Understanding the Concept of School Climate

Each school has a unique personality - a blend of its culture, ideology, atmosphere, and milieu. This personality usually remains stable over time and can be reasonably determined from perceptions of those closest to the school; i.e., its students, and teachers. School climate is the general term referring to this personality.

Researchers of school climate focus their attention on the perceptions of the students, teachers, and staff, rather than on objective characteristics of the school. For example, a study on a school's climate would likely focus on learning whether or not the students feel any qualms or discomfort about approaching their teachers. It would not focus on the number of degrees that each teacher holds. While a school's student population might vary widely year by year, the school's climate is largely consistent. As such, a school's climate is a predictive factor in its ability to influence its students' future.

Influencing School Climate

The term "school climate" leads to the assumption that it is a combination of various complicated factors that are important, but impossible, to influence, much like the weather. However, various studies have shown that with purposeful changes made to organizational and instructional styles, a schools' climate can be modified. For example, issues such as teacher-student ratios, teacher job satisfaction, and parental support have all been shown to play a large role in changing or redirecting a school's climate.

Conducting a School Climate Survey

Surveys are useful mechanisms to understand the perceptions of its respondents. Because a school's climate is an aggregate of its students' and teachers' perceptions, surveys because they can easily gather and quantify answers and comments to specific questions. Schools can benefit from using an anonymous school climate survey on a regular basis. They may be used to assess safety perceptions, improve the effectiveness of programs, and create a positive environment for students.

Creating a survey is quite simple with Zoho Survey. However, there are five guidelines you should follow in order to receive useable, untainted responses.

They are:
  1. The survey should be anonymous.
  2. The survey should be voluntary.
  3. The survey should be easily accessible to respondents.
  4. The questions should not be leading or polarizing.
  5. The questions should have a clear purpose.

The first three guidelines serve to make the respondents more comfortable with answering the survey. The final two make your job of translating the responses into actionable insights easier.

Remember: To obtain a complete picture, you should include teachers, students, and parents. Using only your students' perceptions of your school can lead to skewed results and policies. For example, if students feel that they don't have ample access to their teachers, you might think that arranging for weekly one-on-one sessions would solve the problem. However, this would also increase your teachers' burden, which might have been the root cause in the first place. For teachers' perception of school climate, follow the link.