Classroom Climate and Children’s Academic and Psychological Wellbeing: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

In this study, a meta-analytic approach was used to synthesise existing research. The results showed that overall classroom climate had small-to-medium positive associations with social competence, motivation and engagement, and academic achievement and small negative association with socioemotional distress and externalising behaviours.

Authors: Ming-Te Wang, Jessica L. Degol, Jamie Amemiya, Alyssa Parr, & Jiesi Guo

Source: Wang, M.-T., Degol, J.L., Amemiya, J., Parr, A., & Guo, J. (2020). Classroom climate and children’s academic and psychological wellbeing: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Developmental Review, 57, 100912. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dr.2020.100912

In this study, a meta-analytic approach was used to synthesise existing research with the goal of determining a) the extent to which classroom climate as a multidimensional construct was associated with youth’s academic, behavioural, and socioemotional outcomes from kindergarten to high school; and b) whether the relations between classroom climate and youth’s outcomes differed by dimensions of classroom climate, study design, and child characteristics. Analysis included 61 studies. The results showed that overall classroom climate had small-to-medium positive associations with social competence, motivation, and engagement, and academic achievement and small negative association with socioemotional distress and externalising behaviours.

  • Bronfenbrenner’s (1994; 2006) bioecological model posits that human development occurs within a set of interrelated contexts in which proximal processes mediate individual experiences, cognitions, emotions, and behaviours.
  • It is through these proximal processes occurring between students and teachers that classroom climate provides the resources and opportunities for developing children and youth’s academic, socioemotional, and behavioural competencies.
  • Classroom climate incorporates a multitude of dimensions, such as the organisation and structure of the classroom environment; pedagogical, disciplinary, and curriculum practices; and interpersonal relationships among students, peers, and teachers. These form a set of proximal processes that may mediate or moderate the influence of other contexts on children’s outcomes.
  • There are at least three basic classroom components associated with student–teacher interactions: instructional support, socioemotional support, and classroom organisation and management.

Instructional support

  • This focuses on features of instruction that provide quality feedback, use techniques to enhance critical thinking, and communicate high academic expectations for students.

Socioemotional support

  • This refers to classroom characteristics that support the emotional wellbeing of students, including the warmth, safety, connectedness, and quality of interactions with teachers and peers.

Classroom organisation and management

  • This denotes the practices used by teachers to establish daily classroom routines, including reinforcing classroom rules consistently, providing positive behaviour support, managing disruptive behaviour effectively and fairly, and using preventative strategies to reduce punitive events.

The study

The present study used a meta-analytical approach to investigate the extent to which classroom climate was related to children’s academic, behavioural, and socioemotional outcomes. The study also examined whether the link between classroom climate and youth outcomes varied by classroom climate dimensions, grade level, study sample racial composition, family socioeconomic status, research methods, and study design.

Hypothesis:

  1. Overall classroom climate is positively associated with youth’s social competence, motivation and engagement, and academic achievement, and negatively associated with socioemotional distress and externalising behaviours.

This meta-analysis consisted of 61 articles of which 34 examined instructional support, 42 socioemotional support, and 18 classroom organisation and management.

Findings

  • Classroom climate had a small-to-medium positive association with social competence, motivation and engagement, and academic achievement, whereas classroom climate had small negative associations with externalising behaviour and socioemotional distress.
  • All three dimensions of classroom climate (instructional, socioemotional, and organisational) appeared to be associated with youth’s socioemotional development, academic achievement, and behavioural problems.
  • Classroom climate was more strongly associated with youth motivation and engagement when the sample included more students from ethnic minority backgrounds.
  • Student reporting and observation of classroom climate had positive associations with social competence, whereas teacher reporting of classroom climate had a non-significant effect on social competence.
  • Student and teacher reporting of classroom climate had negative associations with externalising behaviour (although observation did not).

Implications

  • Findings suggest that classroom contexts are associated with a wide range of developmental outcomes.
  • Teachers and peers create opportunities for youths to engage in a variety of academic and social activities through instructional methods, classroom organisation, and the provision of socioemotional support.
  • Students’ motivational beliefs are cultivated within the context of complex social and academic classroom networks, creating motivational orientations that either foster or undermine academic development.
  • Classroom environments that meet students’ psychological needs are optimised for positive youth development.
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