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Creating a Climate for Learning: A Survey for Students and Teachers

Building Relationships Self-regulated Learning

Creating a Climate for Learning: A Survey for Students and Teachers

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creating climate for learning
How well a class functions is the result of both what the teacher does and what the students do. The way we solicit course evaluation feedback reinforces students’ tendency to see the teacher as the one who’s responsible for whether it was a good class. Teachers do play a significant role, but they don’t make or break a class without a lot of student input. We need to be using evaluation activities that make clear that what happens in class is a shared responsibility.

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[dropcap]H[/dropcap]ow well a class functions is the result of both what the teacher does and what the students do. The way we solicit course evaluation feedback reinforces students’ tendency to see the teacher as the one who’s responsible for whether it was a good class. Teachers do play a significant role, but they don’t make or break a class without a lot of student input. We need to be using evaluation activities that make clear that what happens in class is a shared responsibility. Here’s a feedback activity that highlights the roles played by teachers and students. It can be configured in a variety of different ways—three options are recommended here. In a fourth option the instructor could assess his or her success in creating conditions conducive to learning and then compare that with the data students provide in option one, but that comparison would offer the instructor insights and the goal of this activity is more focused on making students aware of what they’re contributing to the course. How are we doing? The success of the activity for students comes when the results of option 1 and 2, or option 2 and 3 are revealed and discussed. How the discussion is framed is important. The goal is to show how both the teacher and students take actions that affect the course and how those actions are interdependent. For example, students may indicate they don’t understand the rationale behind assignments and activities. The question the discussion needs to answer is why? Do the assignment rationales appear on the syllabus? Have students looked for them there? Is the instructor not discussing the rationales, maybe incorrectly assuming they’re obvious? Are students asking question about them? Do students feel welcome to question why they’re being asked to do in a particular assignment? Is the instructor willing to include a discussion of the rationale the next time an assignment is made? The focus isn’t about assigning blame, but rather identifying specific actions the teacher and the students can take to remedy a situation. It’s an action-oriented discussion with an eye toward the future. Students can complete the forms individually, online or in class, or the feedback they provide can grow out of a small group discussion. The item pool is drawn from research and literature on classroom climate. However, the instrument has not been tested empirically. When formative feedback is collected from students, the validity and reliability of the instrument are not as crucial. In fact, this collection of items should be viewed as a potential pool. Items can be added, removed, or modified, as needed. The objective is to collect feedback on teacher and student actions that foster learning in the course and to show how responsibility for what happen in the course is a shared one. (A download of these questions is available at the end of the article.)

Feedback for the Instructor on Conditions for Learning in the Course

Instructor communicates care and concern for students. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor shows respect for students. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor goes out of his/her way to help students. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor shows respect for views that differ from his/hers. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor demonstrates good listening skills. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor responds promptly to student requests for information. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement: Instructor encourages students to participate. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor handles wrong answers constructively. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor knows and uses students’ names. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor spends time talking informally with students before/after class or online. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor challenges students to think for themselves in this course. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students are treated fairly. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students are treated equitably. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor gives students some say in how the course is run. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   A reasonable amount of material is contained in each session. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor explains the rationale behind assignments and activities. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   The feedback the instructor provides is clear and constructive. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Instructor enforces classroom policies on the use of social media, missed deadlines, and absences. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:

Student and/or Instructor Feedback on How Well the Class is Functioning as a Community of Learners

Students listen carefully to each other. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students regularly respond to the comments of other students. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   A variety of different students regularly participate. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students listen respectively to the views of others that disagree with their own. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students are coming to class prepared. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students seek help when they are confused or unable to complete and assignment. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students avoid behaviors that compromise the learning experiences of other students. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students treat the professor with respect. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students treat each other with respect. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students who have complaints about the course present them constructively. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students are willing to help others understand. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students know and refer to each other by name. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Students are willing to work with each other on group activities. □ never             □ rarely          □ sometimes           □ often                □ always Suggestions for improvement:   Climate for Learning Download a copy of the questions here. For more on this topic, read What Happens in a Course is a Shared Responsibility References: Fraser, B. J., Treagust, D. F., and Dennis, N. C., (1986). Development of an instrument for assessing classroom psychosocial environment at universities and colleges. Studies in Higher Education, 11 (1), 43-54. Hawk, T. F. and Lyons, P. R., (2008).  Please don’t give up on me: When faculty fail to care.  Journal of Management Education, 32 (3), 316-338. Kauffmann, R., Sellnow, D. D., and Frisby, B. N. (2016). The development and validation of the online learning climate scale (OLCS).  Communication Education, 65 (3), 307-321. Meyers, S. A., (2009). Do your students care whether you care about them? College Teaching, 57 (4), 205-210. Winston, R. B., Vahala, M. E., Nichols, E. C., Gillis, M. E., Wintrow, M., and Rome, K. D., (1994).  A measure of college classroom climate: The college classroom environment scales.  Journal of College Student Development, 35 (January), 11-35