Institutional Climate for Teaching and Change Adoption

Institutional Climate for Teaching and Change Adoption

There’s no question that the climate for teaching at an institution has a direct impact on teaching at that institution, especially when it come to the value placed on teaching. It also influences the motivation to keep working on teaching. But what exactly makes up the teaching climate? Climate is a great metaphor. It means that the conditions that surround teaching and learning influence how teachers and students feel about it, just like the weather influences daily decisions about what to wear. But climate applied to teaching is a metaphor. What’s being described has nothing to do with the weather.

A research team at Boise State set out to measure the climate for teaching at their institution. Their first research question involved trying to identify reliable and valid components that make up what’s referred to as climate. They were also interested in the process of instructional change and wanted to see if they could develop a measure that would allow faculty to identify where they were in the process of adopting evidence-based practices. And finally they wanted to explore how their measures of climate and adoption might be useful to campus leaders and how they related to a set of demographic variables in the sample.

What they found is institutionally specific, in other words unique to Boise State. What makes this article interesting are the items they identified as measures of the climate. The researchers describe how they arrived at and then empirically assessed the items listed below. Each item was worded positively on one side of a seven point scale and negatively on the other side.

I believe the campus culture . . .

  Positive   Negative
 Is generally supportive of teaching  Is generally unsupportive of teaching
 Limits the choice of teaching methods  Allows for the free choice of teaching methods
 Promotes faculty-centered teaching  Promotes student-centered teaching
 Values research more than teaching  Values teaching more than research
 Is student-success oriented  Is not student-success oriented
 Connects me with other teachers  Isolates me from other teachers
 Does not value teaching in hiring decisions  Does value teaching in hiring decisions
 Discourages me from trying new teaching techniques  Encourages me to try new teaching techniques
 Values the assessment of learning outcomes  Does not value the assessment of student learning   outcomes
 Values teaching more than research in promotion and   tenure decisions  Values research more than teaching in promotion and   tenure decisions
 Is shaped by leaders who are not supportive of my   teaching  Is shaped by leaders who are supportive of my teaching
 Encourages the use of evidence-based instructional   practices  Discourages the use of evidence-based practices
 Does not value teaching  Values teaching
 Does not allow faculty to use any method they choose  Allows faculty to use any method they choose
 Breeds divisiveness in teaching discussions  Breeds collaborative teaching discussions
 Is characterized by high faculty-student  rapport  Is characterized by low faculty-student rapport

These questions were followed by eight more that asked specifically about the respondent’s teaching.

Also of interest in this work was the attempt to identify stages in the adoption of change—in this case, change in the direction of more evidence-based practices. Here as well, starting with previous research work, this team adopted a five-stage process:

1) Awareness—where the adopter is passive and doesn’t have much information or opinions about the change.

2) Curiosity—where the adopter is seeking information about the change, asking questions;

3) Mental tryout—here the adopter is imagining how the change might work if he/she tried it, asking questions about impact.

4) Hands-on tryout—the adopter has made a commitment to the change, has opinions about it, and asks implementation questions.

5) Adoption—the change has been made, the adopter can make suggestions about it and may seek expertise for answers to detailed questions. Information about where teachers are in the change process can help with the design of interventions.

Measuring climate and stages in the change process means taking something abstract and defining it in ways that are more concrete. Even though such measures still lack precisions, they make it easier to understand what’s potentially involved. Additionally, the items themselves as well as a collection of responses to them do make for interesting discussions.


Landrum, R. E., Viskupic, K., Shade, S. E. and Bullock, D. (2017). Assessing the STEM landscape: The current instructional climate survey and the evidence-based instructional practices adoption scale. International Journal of STEM Education, 4, 10 pages. [Note: this is an open-access journal.]

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