Promoting Positive Learning Environments that Improve Academic Performance
While we have always known that the same student can get different grades in different classes—an A in math versus a C in history—research now shows that these differences in performance across classrooms cannot simply be attributed to student aptitudes and interests.
New research shows the learning environments educators create can have a strong influence on students’ Academic Mindsets and Learning Strategies (Mindsets & Strategies), and, ultimately, their academic performance. The experiences students have in their classrooms have the power to alter how they perceive themselves as learners and the effort they put into their work, which is reflected in their grades. Data collected from thousands of students consistently show students with strong Mindsets & Strategies earn more As and fewer Fs than those with weaker Mindsets & Strategies – and that students’ Mindsets & Strategies fluctuate from class to class in relation to the classroom learning environments.
Based on this research, UChicago Impact partnered with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research to develop Cultivate, a survey and framework designed to support educators in creating learning environments that can change what students believe and, thus, how they perform.
The Cultivate Survey and Framework
Cultivate illuminates how teaching practices—from how quickly assignments are graded and returned to how students are greeted—influence students’ Mindsets & Strategies, and, in turn, their grades. It provides educators with insight into students’ self-reported Mindsets & Strategies —how they see themselves as learners and the way they approach their work.
Cultivate also provides actionable insight into students’ perceptions of their learning environments (known as Classroom Conditions) that matter most for cultivating strong Mindsets & Strategies that fuel strong academic performance.
How Cultivate Works
The Cultivate Survey is administered to 6th-12th grade students twice a year—in the fall and spring. They are prompted to reflect on their Mindsets & Strategies, as well as their learning environments across seven Classroom Conditions. The seven Classroom Conditions are:
- Teacher Support: The breadth and quality of a teacher’s support for student learning
- Learning Goals: The clarity and accessibility of a teacher’s instructional goals
- Class Work: The nature of the work a teacher asks students to do in class
- Learning Connections: The level of interest in and relevance of classroom learning for students
- Classroom Community: The sense of community and mutual support among classmates
- Developmental Relationships: The strength and quality of a teacher’s one-on-one relationships with students
- Organization: The clarity and helpfulness of classroom systems and routines
After each survey administration, Educators receive a comprehensive picture of students’ perceptions of their learning environments, Mindsets & Strategies, and a set of Prioritized Classroom Conditions they can use to guide efforts to create learning environments that support all students.
Educators can use Cultivate Survey Results to:
Understand how students’ perceptions of their learning environments affect their Mindsets & Strategies
On the Cultivate Reporting Site, educators can see how students’ perceptions of various Classroom Conditions, such as the learning goals teachers establish, classwork they assign, and level of support they provide, affect the Mindsets & Strategies linked to strong academic performance.
Identify patterns in student perceptions of learning environments across grade levels and subject areas
Educators can disaggregate Cultivate Survey results by grade level, subject area, or a combination of both and use this information to better understand how learning environments differ across different groups of classrooms.
Set priorities and guide efforts to create learning environments that support all students
Based on your school’s data, Cultivate presents users with a list of Prioritized Classroom Conditions ranked according to which will provide the most leverage to positively affect students’ Mindsets & Strategies. Through the Cultivate Survey and Reporting Site, educators can see how students’ perceptions of various Classroom Conditions affect students’ Mindsets & Strategies linked to strong academic performance. Each Classroom Condition is comprised of a set of actionable items that can guide teachers’ efforts to build the kind of learning environments which strengthen Mindsets & Strategies and, ultimately, allow all students to thrive.
To learn more about the Cultivate Survey, Framework, and Reporting Site, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.