Book in Focus
The Psychology of School Climate, 2nd Edition"/>

06th March 2023

Book in Focus
The Psychology of School Climate, 2nd Edition

By Garry W. McGiboney

The Psychology of School Climate, 2nd Edition challenges assumptions and biases regarding the workplace/ school climate and its impact on student outcomes, teacher efficacy, teacher retention, leadership, bullying, and school safety.

The importance of workplace/school climate continues to be undervalued:

  • The climate at work, school, playgrounds, restaurants, places of worship, and other places constantly interacts with our personalities, beliefs, fears, expectations, as well as our physical and mental health, all of which affect our lives in powerful ways.
  • If a person does not feel like he or she belongs and only interacts with a small number of colleagues or friends, and there is either no feedback or negative feedback from supervisors or other colleagues or friends, this person feels driven to find a subculture of like individuals. It is these subcultures that become a disruptive force in the workplace and in schools.

The “Whole Child” is a flawed concept:

  • A “whole child” without a whole school is a narrow-minded view of the world of students and harkens back to “blaming” the child. An effective prevention, intervention, and treatment strategy must include the whole community, the whole school, and the whole child. A whole child focus has unintended consequences that will negatively impact students. When a flower does not bloom, we fix the soil rather than the flower. It is time to move away from blaming students, which the concept of the whole child does subversively, and move toward a population-based approach, such as epidemiology.
  • Epidemiologyis the basic science of public health because it is a quantitative and qualitative discipline that relies on expertise in the fields of probability, statistics, and sound research methods.
  • Epidemiologystudies the frequency and patterns of health events in populations based on foundational principles of distribution and determinants — there are patterns and clues to behavior, and behavior is seldom random.

School safety starts with school climate. Without considering the importance of school climate when developing safe school strategies, no school will be safe:

  • The dimensions of a highly engaging, safe, and supportive school climate are essential elements that allow students to maintain their interest and the motivation necessary to be successful in school whilst learning how to self-regulate, show pride in the school by reporting safety concerns, and develop positive social skills.
  • School climate surveys can reveal critically important information to guide safe school planning. For example, if less than 80% of students indicate they have an adult they trust in the school setting, then the school is not safe. Schools are only as safe as the school climate because, in a positive school climate, students will share concerns, which means that teachers and administrators interrupt and prevent unsafe events or conditions.

Many schools continue to perform poorly on all academic measures, which is nonsensical but understandable if they are not focusing on improving school climate as a foundational strategy:

  • Schools can make substantial academic progress if they bring the importance of school climate into the assessment of student achievement and the academic performance of schools. Schools that link school improvement with school climate show significantly greater improvement in student achievement and attendance. Secondary school graduation rates are higher in schools with a positive school climate compared to schools with a negative school climate. However, too often the importance of school climate as a turnaround (improvement) strategy is ignored.
  • Studies demonstrate that school climate measures when taken into a hierarchical mode can be effectively used to improve schools. Therefore, the results of school climate measures can be used as a tool to guide school improvement strategies and interventions.

Concerns about student mental health are expressed on a daily basis, but the importance of school climate to student mental health continues to be ignored and/or misunderstood:

  • Students perceive authoritarian leadership as stifling school climate elements that are essential to social and emotional development, such as relationships.
  • Declines in school climate quality are associated with declines in psychological and behavioral adjustment with adolescent students.
  • Current research underscores the impact of school climate on the psychological adjustment of adolescents and emphasizes the need to address awareness and responsivity in possible self-harm behavior.
  • Interventions to improve school climate promote the emotional and behavioral well-being of children and adolescents, particularly ones with social, emotional, and health issues.
  • Students face not only the challenges inherit in a learning environment to master subject content. They also must cope with the stresses associated with engaging in all facets of the school environment. Without a positive school climate, students have even more obstacles with fewer resources or outlets.

Concerns about teacher retention are misplaced and misunderstood. Increasing teacher retention by teacher salary increases and other incentives have failed and will continue to fail. Why? Because teachers are more impacted by school climate than any other factor in schools:

  • Positive school climate significantly predicts three forms of teacher commitment: greater general professional commitment, future professional commitment, and organizational commitment.
  • The more positive the school climate, the more teachers are committed to their job responsibilities, which increases teacher efficacy and feelings of professional fulfillment.
  • The rate of occupational stress among teachers can be predicted based on school climate measures.
  • Teacher satisfaction and efficacy are highest in open, positive school climates and gradually decrease as the school climate becomes less open and disengaged.

School leaders do not receive the training they need to thrive in the work setting and motivate others to work together:

  • The power tactics of principals and other leaders are seldom effective if they rely primarily on sanctions and coercion, and they often damage morale and threaten school climate.
  • A servant leader is a servant first, who leads by positive example of identifying and meeting the needs of colleagues and others and creating a positive climate of relationships and support.

Many schools have failed to reduce bullying primarily because they undervalue the importance of school climate. A negative school climate is an incubator for bullying. No bullying prevention program will be effective unless the climate of the school is improved first:

  • Schools need to understand the link between school climate and bullying, as well as other behaviors that jeopardize school safety and student academic outcomes.
  • Implementing a program for a targeted problem, such as bullying, in a negative school climate will most likely not be effective and, if it is effective, it will not be sustainable.
  • Teachers and staff can predict student bullying and their willingness to intervene to stop student bullying is based on their perception of school climate.
  • Improving school climate will reduce the frequency and severity of bullying.

Garry W. McGiboney, PhD, is an internationally recognized leadership and psychology expert. He is the author of eight books and over 40 professional journal publications. Dr McGiboney has appeared as an expert on CNN, The Discovery Channel, National Public Radio, Nickelodeon Network, and many other media channels. He has been quoted in Time Magazine, USA Today, and other major news outlets, including the international press. He is also a frequent speaker at state, national, and international conferences, and has received numerous awards and commendations for his work and research.

The Psychology of School Climate, 2nd Edition is available now at a 25% discount. Enter code PROMO25 to redeem.

Read Extract