Defining and Creating a Positive School Climate

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We all want the best for the students in our schools, and the greatest gift we can give them is a positive school climate in which they can learn, develop relationships, and discover their own identities as they grow older. However, it can be difficult to determine exactly what constitutes a positive learning environment as well as the most effective methods to achieve one.

David Osher, the Vice President of the American Institute of Research (which works to further the scientific community and literature in the social sciences), offered insight into creating a positive school climate in a 2013 testimony at the U.S. House of Representatives Education and Workforce Committee Hearing on “Protecting Students and Teachers: A Discussion on School Safety.” As you can read in detail in the official release , he clearly defines a successful learning environment as one in which:

  • •    Students can develop good social and emotional skills
  • •    Students feel physically and emotionally safe
  • •    Students are supported by and feel connected to their teachers
  • •    Students are engaged in lessons


Describing how to achieve a positive school climate, Osher continues, “[Safe and successful] schools do this by employing a three-tiered approach to social emotional learning, positive behavioral support, the support of student and family engagement, and addressing students’ academic and mental health needs.”

David offers further advice to schools that are trying to implement a positive learning environment in their school when he says, “Promotion and prevention are more effective, improve conditions for learning, and have less counterproductive or harmful side-effects than do suppression and punishment.”

If you’re hoping to achieve a positive school climate that meets the criteria offered by Osher, your first step should be collecting data to gauge the existing strengths and weaknesses of your school. Conducting school surveys can help educators like you gain an understanding of their current learning environment – including how it is perceived by students, faculty, and even parents.

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