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Exploring the Adaptability of Physics Classroom Learning Environment Survey

among Fourth Year Students in Two Different High Schools

Laila Grutas
Bulua National High School
Bulua, Cagyan de Oro City, Philippines

Over the past 35 years, the study of classroom environment has received
attention by researchers, teachers, and school administrators of school systems. Vivid
descriptions and images of schools through powerful movies (for example, To Sir With
Love, Up the Down Staircase, Dead Poet’s Society) and less powerful dramatizations
(Glenview High, Class of 75, Beverly Hills 90210, Boston Public) all attest to the
centrality of environment to the defining character of schools and classrooms. The
concept of environment, as applied to educational settings, refers to the atmosphere,
ambience, tone, or climate that pervades the particular setting. It is noteworthy from the
outset to recognize that classroom environments are human environments (Boy & Pine
1988).

Since the 1960’s, an important number of studies have attempted to analyze the
social climate of the classroom, considered to be an environment for academic,
personal, and social development, in which the behavior of the teacher, teacher-
student interaction, and the student-student interaction form a part.

Studies carried out on the social environment of the classroom have been used
to find correlations between the environment and the academic results of students.
Furthermore, environmental dimensions have been used as criterial variables, including
his evaluation of educational innovations and studies on the differences between the
perceptions of students and teachers in the same classroom, and investigations of
whether students obtained better results in their preferred environments (Fraser, 1991,
1994).

Creating positive classroom learning environment is a key requirement of


meeting the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council – NRC,
1995) and without question, an educationally desirable end in its own right. All science
teachers desire a classroom in which the subject matter is personally relevant, where
students are actively engaged in learning and where the discourse is focused on
inquiring about important scientific problems.

Over 30 years ago, Getzels and Thelen (1960) proposed a conceptual framework
for the classroom as a social system. The main elements include three dimensions: (a)
sociological dimension of action, (b) personal dispositions, and (c) balance between
institution and individual. The sociological dimension of action includes the institution,
role, and expectations, where roles are defined as established institutional expectations.
The personal dimension pertains to unique features of people and includes the
individual, personality, and dispositions. The balance between the institution and the
individual includes the class, climate, intentions, and behavior. The dimension pertains
to the interaction between institutional expectations and the individual personality
needs.

However, pervious research on learning environments has primarily relied upon


the use of either the class or the individual as the unit of analysis. This type of analysis
is predicted on the assumption that the psychological environment in the classroom is
something unique to the entire classroom, and that these factors are perceived to all
students as a whole. In terms of Getzels and Thelen’s framework (1960), this type of
analysis assumes that the balance between the institution and the individual is the best
predictor of behavior.

This paper presents the adaptability of Physics Classroom Learning Environment


Survey among fourth year high school students. This comprises the field of classroom
environment research by exploring six areas: personal relevance, which pertains to the
perceived relevance of physics subject to students' out-of-school experiences; the
shared control, this concerned with students being invited to share control with the
teacher of the total learning environment, including the design and management of
learning activities, determining and applying assessment criteria, and participating in the
negotiation of the social norms of the classroom; critical voice, this assessed the extent
to which a social climate has been established in which students feel that it is legitimate
and beneficial to question the teacher's pedagogical plans and methods, and to express
concerns about any impediments to their learning; student negotiation, this focused on
the student-student interaction, like the opportunities that exist for students to explain
and justify to other students their newly developing ideas, to understand other students'
ideas and reflect on their viability and, subsequently, to reflect on the viability of their
own ideas; physics uncertainty which is designed to assess the extent to which
opportunities are provided for students to experience scientific knowledge as arising
from human experience and values, as evolving and insecure, and as culturally and
socially determined; and the attitude which comprised items that asked students about
their anticipation of the class, their sense of the worthwhileness of the class, and the
impact of the class on their interest, enjoyment and understanding.

Sample
A representative sample of over 300 students from the two high schools of
Region X: the Iligan City National High School of Iligan City and Bulua National High
School of Cagayan de Oro City has participated in this study.

Data were collected by the researchers from all regular fourth year students who
currently taking up physics subject. To examine students in their personal perception of
the relevance of the subject, their shared control on the design and planning about their
physics class, the student-student interaction, the critical voice, attitude towards the
subject and the physics uncertainty. The respondents from two different schools were
given the PCLES (Physics Classroom Learning Environment Survey) to explore and
test its adaptability of the items from the said test.

Instrument Development
The Physics Classroom Learning Environment Survey questionnaire used in this
study was developed and adapted from CLES - AN INSTRUMENT FOR MONITORING
THE DEVELOPMENT OF CONSTRUCTIVIST LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS by Peter
C. Taylor, Barry J. Fraser and Loren R. White of National Key Centre for School
Science and Mathematics, Curtin University, Australia. The instrument was designed to
explore its adaptability and to measure the physics classroom environment. It used the
five-point Likert –type frequency response scale which included the following choices:
almost never (1 point), seldom (2 points), sometimes (3 points), often (4 points), and
almost always (5 points). It was composed of 42 items which will show and identify the
responses of the students on the six scales: personal relevance, shared control, critical
voice, student negotiation, physics uncertainty, and attitude.

Table 1
Example PCLES items

Scale Example Items

Personal Relevance I learn how physics can be part of my out-of-school life.


What I learn has nothing to do with my out-of-school life.
What I learn has nothing to do with the world outside of school.

Shared Control I help the teacher to plan what I’m going to learn.
I help the teacher decide how well my learning is going.
I have a say in deciding the rules for classroom discussion.

Critical Voice I feel free to question the way I’m being taught.
It’s OK to complain about the activities that are confusing.
I’m free to express my opinion.

Student Negotiation I get the chance to talk to other students.


I talk with other students about how to solve problems.
I try to make sense of other students’ ideas.

Physics Uncertainty I learn how physics has changed over time.


I learn how the rules of physics were invented.
I learn that physics is about inventing rules.

Attitude I look forward to the learning activities.


The activities make me interested in physics.
The learning activities are a waste of time.
Table 2
Allocation of Items to PCLES Scales

Scale Item Numbers

Personal Relevance 1 7 13 19 25 30 37

Shared Control 4 10 16 22 28 33 40

Critical Voice 3 9 15 21 27 32 39

Student Negotiation 5 11 17 23 29 34 41

Physics Uncertainty 2 8 14 20 26 31 38

Attitude 6 12 18 24 35 36 42

Reliability Statistics

The student responses to the questionnaire were analyzed statistically using


SPSS program. In this study the researchers considered to have a 0.4 reliability
standard for this test on all seven items for each scale specified. Table 3 show the
Cronbach’s alpha values for the six scales.

Table 3
Reliability of the six scales

Scale No. of Items Cronbach’s Alpha

Personal Relevance 7 0.662

Shared Control 7 0.608

Critical Voice 7 0.313

Student Negotiation 7 0.378

Physics Uncertainty 7 0.419

Attitude 7 0.393
The table 3 above showed that the alpha values for critical voice, student
negotiation and attitude were below the considered values with 0.313, 0.378 and 0.393
respectively. So then items from the said scales were deleted to increase their
respected alpha values. For critical voice, item number 3 and 39 to elevate it to 0.432.
On the student negotiation, item 29 was deleted to increase the value to 0.494 and item
36 is removed to have an alpha value of 0.519.

Table 4
Reliability of the six scales

Scale No. of Items Deleted Items Cronbach’s Alpha

Personal Relevance 7 0.662

Shared Control 7 0.608

Critical Voice 5 q3, q39 0.432

Student Negotiation 6 q29 0.494

Physics Uncertainty 7 0.419

Attitude 6 q36 0.519

Descriptive Statistics
Table 5
Class Means and Standard Deviation of the scales on the PCLES

Scales Mean Standard Deviation

Personal Relevance 25.68 5.10

Shared Control 19.15 4.58

Critical Voice 23.78 3.89

Student Negotiation 23.34 3.59

Physics Uncertainty 23.22 4. 04

Attitude 25.53 3.76

30
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15 StandardDeviation
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Figure 1. Line Graph of the Mean and Standard Deviation


Tables 5 above presents descriptive scale statistics; it showed relatively large
standard deviation of which suggests a lack of homogeneity among the perceptions of
the class. This just simple mean that students responses were varied specially on
personal relevance with a standard deviation of 5.10.

The table also revealed a high ranged statistical mean. Students’ perception on
the personal relevance of the subject was on the highest with 25.68 and closely
followed by the students’ attitude towards the subject with 25.53. The scales critical
voice, student negotiation and physics uncertainty also displayed a significantly high
mean at a range of 23.22 to 23.78. 19.15 was the lowest computed mean for the shared
control.

Discussion

The high computed Cronbach’s alpha values which ranges from 0.419 to 0.662,
demonstrates a higher reliability of the PCLES (Physics Classroom Learning
Environment Survey) to be use as an instrument to assess physics classroom
environment based on the following scales; personal relevance, shared control, critical
voice, student negotiation, physics uncertainty, and attitude.

The prominently high standard deviation of values between 3.59 and 5.10, simple
implies that, students from the two schools being surveyed, the Iligan City National High
School and Bulua National High School, had varied answers. It illustrates heterogeneity
of response on the questions given.

Furthermore, the high computed statistical mean of 25.68 on personal relevance,


significantly implies that students-respondents have perceived an important relevance of
physics subject to students' out-of-school experiences.

On the other hand, student-student interaction has noticeably high mean score of
23.34, revealed that opportunities exist for students to explain and justify to other
students their newly developing ideas, to understand other students' ideas and reflect
on their possibility and, consequently, to reflect on the possibility of their own ideas.

Respondents’ confusions, doubts and ill perceptions on the concepts in physics


were poor as showed in the high mean score of 23.22 in physics uncertainty. It
illustrates that opportunities were provided for students to experience scientific
knowledge. And the 23.78 mean on critical voice expressed a relax social climate to
ask the teacher in times that they feel confused whether their reaction towards
something is correct or wrong.

Morever, the 25.53 mean score on attitude showed that respondents have a
positive attitude towards physics. Students exhibited eagerness on their physics class,
encouraged positive impact on their interest, enjoyment and understanding.

Lastly, the revealed low mean of 19.15 on shared control showed that students-
respondents are not being invited to share control with the teacher on the total learning
environment, which may include the design and management of learning activities,
determining and applying assessment criteria, and participating in the negotiation of the
social norms of the classroom.
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Perceptions of the Learning Environment. Journal of Research In science Teaching vol.
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Dorman, Jeffrey. 2002. Classroom Environment Research: Progress and Possibilities.


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