Methods: Data for this study comes from a larger qualitative case study that investigated the influence of district, and school contexts on staff member perceptions of school climate.A case study the examination of individual experiences within an organizational context and to observe various situations where teachers were interacting simultaneously with the school and classroom contexts. Multiple sources of evidence were gathered over a span of approximately 6 months. Two elementary schools and two high schools were purposively selected from two school districts in Southern California. Twenty semi-structured interviews were conducted with key informants, and observations captured classroom activities and instruction, informal interactions between teachers and students, and interactions among teachers and other staff members. Materials included field notes, documents, and interview transcripts. Key informant interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.
Results: Findings indicate that classroom climate is closely connected to the overall school climate, and that the quality of classroom climate reflects decision making that is likely amenable to change. Themes include: Positive or Negative school climate matters for classrooms; teachers that create climate; teacher decisions regarding climate; and the centrality of staff relationships. According to teachers and staff members, the quality of climate is an important factor in their schools and their ability to do their jobs, whether the climate is negative or positive. Staff members also highlighted connections between the quality of climate in their schools and their experiences in their classrooms. Many teachers indicated that the positive climate in their schools was related to positive experiences in their classrooms.
Conclusion: One key implication from this study is that experiences of school climate are clearly connected to and likely intertwined with classroom contexts, including classroom management and discipline. In addition, teachers that described positive climates in their schools often spoke positively about their classrooms. However, these findings suggest that there is important classroom-centered variation in the quality of school climate and classroom practices. School social workers are in a unique position to monitor the climate experiences of all school stakeholders and advocate for actions that support teachers as they endeavor to positively manage classrooms and foster academic and social emotional growth in their students.