School Contexts that Promote Students’ Positive Development

Authored by: Victor Battistich

Handbook of Research on Schools, Schooling, and Human Development

Print publication date:  May  2010
Online publication date:  June  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805859485
eBook ISBN: 9780203874844
Adobe ISBN: 9781135283872


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This chapter examines schools as environmental contexts and considers how characteristics of the school setting influence students’ development. Curiously, despite the voluminous body of research on schools, relatively little of this research has focused specifically on the school as a developmental context. Most educational research has focused on particular teaching practices and characteristics of teachers and students. It is almost as if the environment of the school is seen as having little to do with the outcomes of schooling; that a school is simply a building, a convenient physical location in which students gather with teachers to engage in formal teaching and learning processes. Yet, attributes of the environment in which activities occur undoubtedly influence the experiences of individuals in those settings (Barker, 1968). The “same” lesson or extracurricular activity can have widely varying effects on students as a function of differences in the physical setting (e.g., light, temperature, noise level, seating arrangements) and, especially, the social situation (e.g., goals, organization, interpersonal relationships) in which it occurs. Consequently, while it is certainly important to understand the formal educational practices that occur in schools, it is equally important to consider the context in which these activities take place if we are to adequately understand how schools influence students (Eccles & Roeser, 2003).

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