There are many aspects to determine the success of learning process. One of the aspects is learning environments. Many research studies show that learning environments not only have the positive correlation with the students’ outcomes, motivation, and attitudes, but also teachers’ motivation (Fraser, 2002). Furthermore, there are some research studies on learning environments which focus on student outcomes, students’ and teachers’ perceptions, and evaluation of the strategies (Fraser, 2002). Moreover, because of the importance of learning environments, many instruments are developed to assess learning environments. However, in this paper I will reflect on literature review of learning environments, explore my own learning environment which is science laboratory teaching, investigate the use of Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI), and reflect my learning process in classroom climate unit.
Learning environment is an important aspect in education. According to Brown & Campione (1996), Wilson (1995) as cited in Jarvela (1998, p.439), “a learning environment should be managed so that students are encouraged to set personal goals, actively gather meaningful information, monitor and evaluate their own learning and reflect personal learning experiences in different authentic environments and social contexts”. As a result, teachers play important role to create the constructive learning environments which could help students to achieve best performances and meaningful learning experiences.
Furthermore, the positive classroom climate can motivate both students and teacher to learn and teach effectively. Teacher who creates the positive classroom climate such as having a good relationship with students will help students to achieve their learning outcomes (McGonigal,1999; Friser, Rickards, Fraser, 1996). For example, the teacher knows the way to attract students’ attention such as using varied and interesting teaching strategies, humour, and positive reinforcements. The students will enjoy their learning and express their ideas and opinions (Jarvela, 1998). Therefore, most studies in learning environment show that the learning environment influences the students’ outcomes (Fraser, 2001). According to Entwistle (1991) as cited in Könings; Gruwel, and Merriënboer (2005),”students’ perceptions of a learning environment will determine how much they will learn and how effective a learning environment will be”(p.465). Furthermore, it also promotes the appropriate classroom behaviour. As a result, it is important for the teachers to develop their knowledge and skills to create the positive learning environment (Yarrow, Millwater, & Fraser, 1997).
Learning Environments Assessment
According to Fraser (2002, p.8) there are six areas of research which apply classroom environment assessments and these are “(1)relationship between student outcomes and classroom environment, (2) evaluation of educational performance, (3) differences between students’ and teachers’ perceptions of the same classrooms, (4) determinants of classroom environment, (5) use qualitative research methods, and (6) cross-national studies”. Most learning environment questionnaires provide information on the measure of students’ learning outcomes, students’ perceptions of their learning environment. Learning environments instruments essentially “measure the meaningful environments for students to a given classroom” (Anderson, Hamilton, & Hatte, 2004, p.212). Moreover, there are many instruments to assess learning environments. Some of those instruments are Learning Environment Inventory (LEI), Classroom Environment Scale (CES), Individualised Classroom Environment Questionnaire (ICEQ), My Class Inventory (MCI), College University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI), Questionnaire on Teacher Interaction (QTI), Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI), Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES). Technology-Rich Outcomes-Focused Learning Environment, Inventory (TROFLEI), What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC), Students’ Perception of Assessment Questionnaire (SPAQ), and Cultural Learning Environment Questionnaire (CLEQ),
Learning environment assessment not only provides the information to measure the students’ performance, but also the teachers’ competences to create the positive learning outcomes. Furthermore, the majority of learning environments assessments is based on students’ perceptions. Therefore, student characteristics will have an effect on how students evaluate and perceive their learning environments (Seidel, 2006). Furthermore, students’ and teacher perceptions of the learning environment can give valuable information to improve the quality of learning environment (Fraser, 1998). It also can evaluate the innovation in education. As a result, the learning environment assessments can measure the aspects in the classrooms such as teacher, students, teaching, and learning process.
Furthermore, in Indonesia, learning environments research first developed within 1970s and 1980s, but it is not well developed until 2000 (Margianti, 2002). Several research studies on learning environments have been conducted in Indonesia which were the study of learning of modern culture (Piage, 1979 as cited in Margianti 2002); students’ Perceptions of classroom psychosocial environment (Fraser, Pearse, & Azmi, 1982); computer learning environment and students outcomes (Margianti, 2001; Soeryaningsih & Fraser, 2000 as cited in Margianti 2002). Furthermore, the learning environments instruments which are adapted in Indonesia are What Is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC), College University Classroom Environment Inventory (CUCEI), Test of Computer Related Attitudes (TOCRA) , and Test of Science Related Attitudes (TOSRA) (Margianti, 2002). Therefore, based on my exploration on the importance of learning environments in education and the limitation of learning environments research in Indonesia, I am really interested to investigate the learning environment research and develop the instruments, especially in science laboratory teaching.
MY LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Based on my experiences and one of my roles in university which is practical work, I would like to explore more the learning environment in laboratory. I realize that practical work in the laboratory is an integral part of science teaching. Furthermore, there are many research studies demonstrating that practical work in laboratory influences the student outcomes and student attitudes toward science. Nevertheless, there are also some criticisms against the practical work such as students’ confusion and it is time consuming to conduct. However, I believe that teachers’ role is very important to shape the practical work to be more effective and efficient. One aspect that teacher should know about the effective laboratory teaching is the assessment of learning environments. Therefore, as a teacher, I am interested in explore more about the learning environments in science laboratory classes.
Science Teaching Laboratory
The laboratory experiment is an important part of science teaching. Many studies show that experiments in laboratory influence students to have better attitudes toward science and learning outcomes (Yager, 1991; Stohr-Hunt, 1996; Thompson and Soyibo, 2002 as cited in Parkinson, 2004). Furthermore, laboratory experiments can help students to understand abstract concepts in science. Practical work is also fun and interesting for the students. As a result, they are motivated to explore the material which related to the topics in the classroom (Borrows, 1999 as cited in Parkinson, 2004). According to Swain et.al. (2000) as cited in Parkinson (2004, p.186), there are four aims of practical work in the laboratory which is encouraging students to (1) practice seeing problems and solve it, (2) find the facts and new principles, (3) develop ability to co-operate, (4) develop critical attitude. However, teachers’ role to help the students to achieve these positive aims of practical work is very important. One of teachers’ roles is to create the positive learning environments in the laboratory to achieve the best education performance.
However, there are some criticisms against the practical work in the laboratory. According to Wellington, (1998) as cited in Parkinson (2004), there are several weakness of practical work in the laboratory; (1) the noise influence students to be confused, (2) practical work result goes wrong leaving mixed message on students, (3) some students do not like practical work, (4) less effective group work, (5) time consuming. However, in my opinion, teachers’ role can avoid these weaknesses. Teachers could use the effective teaching strategies in the laboratory to avoid the students’ confusion and the time management. One aspect to avoid these weaknesses is creating positive learning environments. The positive learning environments in the laboratory will help teacher and students to achieve the best performances in learning process. Therefore, it is important to evaluate the learning environments in laboratory. It is not only to assess students’ perceptions, but also to help teacher do several improvement related to the result of learning environment assessment. However, there are only a few research studies on laboratory learning environments compared to other fields of learning environments such as teacher-students relationship. Therefore, exploring this field of learning environments will be useful for my professional development as a chemistry educator.
Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI)
One instrument which has already been developed is Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI).The SLEI was developed to assess students’ perceptions on learning environments in the laboratory classes (Fraser, McRobbie, Giddings 1992). This instrument is appropriate for the secondary and tertiary education which contains 35 items and five scales which are Student Cohesiveness (SC), Open-Endness (OE), Integration (I), Rule Clarity (RC), and Material Environment (ME). According to Henderson, Fisher, & Fraser (2000), “the use of these scales provides coverage of the three dimensions identified by Moo’s work (1974) for conceptualizing all human environments”,(p.29). The SLEI has five responses which are Almost Never, Seldom, Sometimes, Often, and Very Often which have scores 1,2,3, 4, and 5, respectively for positive items and revised scores for the negative items. Furthermore, this instrument is designed with economical cost which is only one page and easy for teacher to hand scoring.
The SLEI instrument uses the actual and preferred form which is different from other instruments which compare the personal and class version. The actual and preferred form as a personal version of students will give “meaningful and sensitive investigations of the environments existing within a class for different subgroups of students” (Fraser, McRobbie, Giddings 1992, p.7). Students choose the actual and the preferred learning environments in their laboratory. The result could be different or similar, but the teacher could have valuable information of their students’ perceptions on actual and the preferred. The difference between the actual and the preferred learning environment could be used as information for teachers to choose the appropriate strategies to minimize the differences. Therefore, the using of SLEI could be used for school-based professional development and guiding to improve the effectiveness of science laboratory teaching (Fraser, McRobbie, Giddings, 1992).
The SLEI is developed through the several process which are reviewing the literature, identifying the dimensions, and interviewing teachers and students. The SLEI originally was validated with a sample of 3727 senior high school students in 198 science laboratory classes and 1720 students in 91 university science laboratory classes in six countries (Australia, United States, Canada, England, Israel and Nigeria) (Fraser, Giddings, & McRobbie, 1992). Furthermore, there are some research studies which used SLEI instrument:
1. Assessing learning environments in senior science laboratories (Henderson & Fisher, 1998)
2. Assessing laboratory learning environments and practical tasks in senior secondary science classes (Fisher, Harrison, Henderson, & Hofstein,1998)
3. Association between laboratory environments and student outcomes in Biology classes (Henderson, Fisher, & Fraser, 2000)
4. Assessing the students’ perceptions of chemistry laboratory learning environment in Israel (Hofstein, Nahum & Shore, 2001)
5. Assessing students’ perceptions of laboratory learning environments and student’s attitude to laboratory work which is associated with effectiveness of innovative science courses (Martin, Dunlop, & Fraser, 2007).
Related to my field of teaching in chemistry, I found that the SLEI was successfully modified by changing ‘science’ to ‘chemistry’ and renamed as the Chemistry Learning Environment Inventory (CLEI) in Singapore (Wong & Fraser, 1995; Wong, Young, & Fraser, 1997). The CLEI instrument is similar with the SLEI instrument which consist of five scales, actual and preferred forms, and 35 items. Some minor modifications of items were made to suit local students’ level of understanding and language usage. This CLEI instrument has been used to investigate chemistry laboratory classroom environment, teacher–student interactions and student attitudes towards chemistry among 497 gifted and non-gifted secondary-school students in Singapore ( Lang,,Wong, & Fraser, 2005).
Finally, the use of SLEI instrument in the secondary and tertiary education will help teachers to evaluate their learning environments in science laboratory in order to improve their education process. Furthermore, the information from the SLEI could be useful as the guide to enhance the effectiveness of science laboratory. The effectiveness in science laboratory is very important because the practical work is high cost and time consuming. Therefore, evaluation of the science laboratory teaching is important.
My journey through this unit reminds me of the importance of learning environments. It stimulates me to reflect my teaching experience as a teacher at STM (Technical High School). At that time, I had to deal with students’ misbehaviour, and then I applied some changes which were based on my evaluation of teaching. I did not realize that the changes were part of learning environment such as teacher-students relationship, classroom climate, and students’ perceptions. At that time, I needed more time to solve the problems in my classroom. Through this unit, I imagine that if I would use the instruments to assess my learning environments, and then using the information to solve my problems, may be it would be more effective.
Through this unit, I reflect on my experience of science teaching laboratory. At the first time, I manipulated and controlled the learning environment (Stable & Nord, 1985) through systematic experimental procedures and assessments. I never asked their voices on their learning environments because of the many experiments to finish in a limited time. I did not realize that my target of finishing those chemistry experiments predisposed me to teach chemistry with meaningless experiences. I neglected the value of the educational process and the way of my students’ perceptions (Henderson, 2004) to give them the worth value of knowledge. Therefore, I realize that I could use the learning environment assessments such as CLEI in my laboratory to improve my teaching practices. I could integrate this type of questionnaire with the action research which will be useful for me to improve my laboratory learning environments. Because I believe that educator as a researcher is more effective to improve the environment. I could get the valuable information from the learning environments questionnaires to do reflection and action in my classroom. According to McNiff (2002) action research use to a practical way of looking at our own work which involves self-reflective practice.
Finally, there is no doubt that exploring this unit is not only important for me as an educator, but also my students. When I will be back in my country, as a chemistry educator for student teachers, it will be important for my students and me to explore more on learning environments assessments and research. Even though, I found some research studies on learning environments in Indonesia, but it is very little as compared to other field of research studies (Margianti, 2002). Therefore, this field of research will be important for evaluate the effectiveness teaching science laboratory in Indonesia.
Learning environment is an important aspect in education process. It not only influences the students’ outcomes, but also teacher performances. Teacher could use the information from learning environment assessments to improve their education process. Furthermore, one instrument which could evaluate learning environments Science Laboratory Environment Inventory (SLEI). This instrument provides the information of students’ perceptions on actual and preferred laboratory learning environments. The information from this instrument could be used for improvement and effectiveness teaching in science laboratory.