Schools should be places where all students can feel valued, encouraged, and safe. School climate refers to the aspects of the school that have to do with the relationships, practices, and values students perceive. My research focuses on the school climate for diversity, which is composed of a number of elements:
Equal status: Amount of fair treatment and equal opportunity at school
Quality of interaction: How positive or negative interactions across race are
Frequency of interaction: Opportunities to interact and make friends across racial and cultural lines
Support for positive interaction: Encouragement from teachers, administrators, and peers about treating others fairly and making friends across race
Cultural socialization: Opportunities to learn about your own culture
Promotion of cultural competence: Opportunities to learn about another culture
Critical consciousness: Teaching about discrimination and inequality in society
Stereotyping: Perceptions of stereotypes and prejudices held by teachers, administrators, and other students
Mainstream socialization: Opportunities to learn about American culture and values
Colorblind socialization: Teaching youth to ignore or devalue the role of race in society
All of these dimensions work together and interact with each other to influence the school environment. When schools include opportunities for students to learn about their own and other cultures, when they help students to make friend across racial and cultural lines, and when they reduce discrimination and bullying based on race, students are more engaged and successful. This is especially true for racial minority youth who are strongly identified with their racial group.
In my research I am aiming to fully understand how adolescents interpret their school climates for diversity, given differences in experiences, beliefs, and development. To that end, I am conducting interviews and surveys in schools with varying demographics to capture the perspectives of youth from diverse backgrounds.
Our interviews are focused around two primary questions: What do you learn about race and culture at school? And How do people of different races get along at school?
In our current data, we interviewed 150 college students about their experiences in high school and are analyzing how often they describe certain activities.
We are looking for middle and high schools where we can interview students about what they learn, interview teachers about their multicultural education practices, and observe classrooms that include content about culture, such as English/Language Arts, foreign language, and world history classes.
I am developing the School Climate for Diversity Scale as a comprehensive measure of diversity in schools that can be used for research and evaluation in schools across the country. My scale is unique because it can measure a wide variety of dimensions and can be used with youth of any racial background.
Currently, we are surveying college students on their perceptions of the school climate as well as their satisfaction with college, racial beliefs, and psychological well-being.
We are looking to validate the scale in multiple samples of college students and to develop an analogous scale for middle and high school students. We are looking to collaborate with schools that are predominantly White, racially diverse, or majority minority to survey all of their students in order to understand how different groups of students experience their context in different types of settings.
If you are interested in using the School Climate for Diversity Scale, please fill out this form. I will keep you up to date on our efforts to test and validate the scale. I am also available to consult with schools on their school climate efforts. To contact me, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, see:
Byrd, C.M. (2015). The associations of intergroup interactions and school racial socialization with academic motivation. Journal of Educational Research, 108, 10-21. (PDF)
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under a grant awarded in 2012. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.