What is School Climate?

School climate concerns social aspects of the learning environment. It includes the relationships and psychological atmosphere/values. To facilitate students’ learning and well-being at school, students need to be part of a positive school environment, and be psychologically connected to it. Key elements of school climate include:

  • Academic emphasis – Support and encouragement of learning and success.
  • Relationships - Feeling valued and respected in dealings with staff and fellow students.
  • Sense of shared mission, rules, and processes in the school.

Why is School Climate important?

Extensive and robust research indicates that when a school has a positive and supportive climate, and students, staff, and parents/carers feel connected and identify with the school, it is possible to see a range of benefits. Students are more likely to have better learning achievement and attendance, to have less disruptive behaviours, and to be happier. Staff are likely to communicate more effectively, to be more productive and to feel more satisfaction in their work. Parents/carers are more likely to support student learning at home and to actively participate in school life.

The Social Identity Perspective

Student engagement, achievement and other outcomes have been examined from many psychological perspectives. The Social Identity Perspective is related to students’ identification with the school. The more salient school membership is, the more the school becomes part of members’ social selves. When students identify and connect with their school, they internalise the norms and values that define the school as important, and students experience changes in attitudes, beliefs, and behaviour. All of these student changes can have direct positive outcomes for schools.

The social identity literature indicates that students who identify with their school are more likely to engage in learning and behave in line with school norms and values. This significant role of school identification has also been found in staff, and among parents and carers as school community members.

In particular, school identification is of interest as a mediating psychological mechanism between school climate and student outcomes. Inclusion of the psychological mechanism of social identity in school climate measurement enhances our practical understanding of how to improve school climate and outcomes.