Kyriakos Charalampous, The Classroom Psycho-Social Climate: Conceptual Content, Theoretical Background, Measurement Instruments and Relation to Students' Learning Outcomes, Προσχολική & Σχολική Εκπαίδευση, 3|2015, 157-186

The purpose of the present paper was to review the extant research on Classroom Psycho-Social Climate (CPSC), in order to underscore and resolve misconceptions, contradictions, and deficiencies, as well as to critically present two of its most important research accomplishments: (a) the construction of a plethora of valid and reliable research instruments to measure the construct of CPSC in various learning environments and at different educational levels, and (b) the association of CPSC with cognitive and affective learning outcomes. The definitions proposed for CPSC are generally characterized by ambiguity. Yet, most researchers agree that the CPSC represents a multidimensional construct, the defining indicators of which, tend to be statistically confirmed in most studies, while at the same time new ones are added, thus providing the construct with a dynamic status. Various theories have been proposed to conceptualize CPSC, the most acknowledged being that of Lewin’s (1936) Field Theory, Murray’s (1938) Needs-Press model, and Getzel and Thelen’s (1960) Socio-Psychological Theory. Two independent research programs and their enduring theoretical and empirical legacy signaled the new era in CPSC research. Rudolf Moos proposed a three-dimensional structure descriptive of all psycho-social climates regardless of the social context (school classrooms, correctional institutions, military facilities, etc.) (1974), and Herbert Walberg demonstrated that students’ were in position to make valid inferences regarding CPSC (1969). Contemporary CPSC research has revealed some methodological issues which need to be taken into consideration when designing CPSC studies. One of the most remarkable achievements of CPSC research is the development of many valid and widely used research instruments for measuring CPSC in various educational contexts and at different educational levels. These instruments reflect the expansion of CPSC research in terms of the integration of new conceptual dimensions, as well as the widening of the age level of students to whom they are addressed. However, despite the increased production of mixed-methods studies in contemporary CPSC research, the cross-cultural adaptation of CPSC instruments, especially those addressing elementary students, has resulted in ambiguous findings. Moreover, whereas most CPSC instruments are based on Moos’s three-dimensional proposal, empirical findings support different allocation of the subscales in these dimensions than the scale developers. Another significant outcome of CPSC research is the examination of the association of CPSC with students’ cognitive and affective learning outcomes. Indeed, empirical findings support the link between the CPSC and various learning outcomes, such as academic achievement, attitudes, self-efficacy, motivation, self-handicapping, and students’ emotional and cognitive involvement. In addition, contemporary CPSC research has examined different paths through which CPSC affects student outcomes. For example, researchers have shown that self-efficacy and achievement goals mediate the relationship between CPSC and student outcomes, such as academic achievement, emotional involvement, etc. Nonetheless, and despite the extended investigation of the relationship between CPSC and student outcomes, research has failed to present consistent evidence with regards to the effect of specific CPSC indicators on student outcomes. What’s more, in cases where CPSC indicators presented negative associations with student outcomes, the explanations provided were insufficient, whereas follow up investigations did not take place. Of course CPSC research has followed other fruitful directions which are also presented in this review. Practical implications of CPSC research findings and future research directions are also discussed.

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