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An Exploratory Study to Improve Measurement of School Climate for Online Learners

Research Team

Principal Investigator: Raymond Reichenberg

Funding Information

Funding Agency: Office of Research and Economic Development—Layman Award

Award Date: Aug 1, 2020

End Date: Jul 31, 2021


Positive school climate is associated with an increase in students’ motivation, self-esteem and altruistic behavior; a decrease in dropout, truancy and absenteeism rates; and an increase in academic outcomes.

For these reasons, as well as others, the federal government has increased its focus on measuring and improving school climate under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015. Most, if not all, school climate research has focused on students taking courses in a traditional, face-to-face format — attending class and interacting with peers in a shared physical environment. The extent to which the current understanding of the nature and effect of a positive school climate applies to students learning in an online-only environment is unclear.

Despite the increasing prevalence of online education, there has not yet been an investigation of the nature or effect of school climate in an online-only, K–12 setting. One barrier to conducting this research is the lack of a measure of school climate that has been validated for use with online students. 

As a first step toward the development of such a measure, this project is designed to investigate the appropriateness of a widely used measure of school climate for use with online-only high school students. The results of this pilot study will inform an externally funded effort to develop a new or refined measure of school climate validated specifically for online-only learners.

Research, Measurement and Evaluation Methods