There's no question that the climate for teaching at an institution has a direct impact on teaching at that institution, especially when it come to the value placed on teaching. It also influences the motivation to keep working on teaching. But what exactly makes up the teaching climate? Climate is a great metaphor. It means that the conditions that surround teaching and learning influence how teachers and students feel about it, just like the weather influences daily decisions about what to wear. But climate applied to teaching is a metaphor. What's being described has nothing to do with the weather.
A research team at Boise State set out to measure the climate for teaching at their institution. Their first research question involved trying to identify reliable and valid components that make up what's referred to as climate. They were also interested in the process of instructional change and wanted to see if they could develop a measure that would allow faculty to identify where they were in the process of adopting evidence-based practices. And finally they wanted to explore how their measures of climate and adoption might be useful to campus leaders and how they related to a set of demographic variables in the sample.
What they found is institutionally specific, in other words unique to Boise State. What makes this article interesting are the items they identified as measures of the climate. The researchers describe how they arrived at and then empirically assessed the items listed below. Each item was worded positively on one side of a seven point scale and negatively on the other side.
I believe the campus culture . . .
| Is generally supportive of teaching
|| Is generally unsupportive of teaching
| Limits the choice of teaching methods
|| Allows for the free choice of teaching methods
| Promotes faculty-centered teaching
|| Promotes student-centered teaching
| Values research more than teaching
|| Values teaching more than research
| Is student-success oriented
|| Is not student-success oriented
| Connects me with other teachers
|| Isolates me from other teachers
| Does not value teaching in hiring decisions
|| Does value teaching in hiring decisions
| Discourages me from trying new teaching techniques
|| Encourages me to try new teaching techniques
| Values the assessment of learning outcomes
|| Does not value the assessment of student learning outcomes
| Values teaching more than research in promotion and tenure decisions
|| Values research more than teaching in promotion and tenure decisions
| Is shaped by leaders who are not supportive of my teaching
|| Is shaped by leaders who are supportive of my teaching
| Encourages the use of evidence-based instructional practices
|| Discourages the use of evidence-based practices
| Does not value teaching
|| Values teaching
| Does not allow faculty to use any method they choose
|| Allows faculty to use any method they choose
| Breeds divisiveness in teaching discussions
|| Breeds collaborative teaching discussions
| Is characterized by high faculty-student rapport
|| Is characterized by low faculty-student rapport
These questions were followed by eight more that asked specifically about the respondent's teaching.
Also of interest in this work was the attempt to identify stages in the adoption of change—in this case, change in the direction of more evidence-based practices. Here as well, starting with previous research work, this team adopted a five-stage process:
1) Awareness—where the adopter is passive and doesn't have much information or opinions about the change.
2) Curiosity—where the adopter is seeking information about the change, asking questions;
3) Mental tryout—here the adopter is imagining how the change might work if he/she tried it, asking questions about impact.
4) Hands-on tryout—the adopter has made a commitment to the change, has opinions about it, and asks implementation questions.
5) Adoption—the change has been made, the adopter can make suggestions about it and may seek expertise for answers to detailed questions. Information about where teachers are in the change process can help with the design of interventions.
Measuring climate and stages in the change process means taking something abstract and defining it in ways that are more concrete. Even though such measures still lack precisions, they make it easier to understand what's potentially involved. Additionally, the items themselves as well as a collection of responses to them do make for interesting discussions.
Landrum, R. E., Viskupic, K., Shade, S. E. and Bullock, D. (2017). Assessing the STEM landscape: The current instructional climate survey and the evidence-based instructional practices adoption scale. International Journal of STEM Education, 4,
10 pages. [Note: this is an open-access journal.]