I think most people can agree that an openly intimidating and demeaning teaching style would be detrimental to your students...and you. (As an aside, it doesn’t work well in coaching either.) Surprisingly enough, I occasionally run into people who disagree. In both teaching and coaching, there are still folks out there who believe the aforementioned negative culture doesn’t impact classroom climate, team climate, or student performance in a negative way. But I’ll be honest--thankfully, I think the number of people riding the negativity train keeps reducing all the time. Realistically, though, there are subtle things we do, or don’t do, in our classroom that can make a huge impact. And the scary thing is that we may not even know we are doing them. My hope is to shed some light on these concepts and benefit everyone involved. The study I’m about to share with you involved students learning to juggle in PE class, but I truly believe that the same results would occur in a core classroom as well...and at all levels.
About a year ago, my friend Troy Wineinger at the University of Kansas shared a recent study (2017) with me regarding the impact climate had on student performance at the middle school level. Here is the initial set-up:
Both the C/TI and EI instructors implemented a unique way to work with the students.
EI instructors (Did pretty much the opposite as the C/TI instructors)
I like the varying instructors of this study because (1) each instructor group was almost the polar opposite, and (2) both instructor groups used techniques that people currently use both in the classroom and in athletics. These are representative of real teachers and coaches!
The data for the study were gathered in multiple ways: cortisol levels, performance, and student surveys (CCS--the Caring Climate Scale: a 13-item scale that measures to the extent which students feel cared for, valued, and respected). Although the students were separated by gender, results were consistent between both males and females.
What can we learn from this?
I think the largest takeaway from this study is that we need to pay attention to detail when creating our classroom culture and working with our students. I’ll stick with the positive lessons here. We need to foster a supportive environment between students, really get know each student on an individual level; search for and recognize individual improvement; treat mistakes as a natural part of the process; promote collaboration and cooperation. I know, I know--that’s a lot to keep track of. But if you work to create this environment early, it is self-sustaining, and student performance will go through the roof.
A caring climate wins...in every category. Better stress levels. Better performance. Better psychological state. Whether a teacher, coach, administrator, or parent, how you interact and what you choose to focus on matters. When students are learning or working to improve, how we interact with them--and how we promote the interaction between them--matters.
Hogue, Candice M., et al. "The Differential Impact of Motivational Climate on Adolescents' Psychological and Physiological Stress Responses." Psychology of Sport and Exercise, 21 Feb. 2017, pp. 118-27.