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Social context matters: Predicting outcomes in formal learning environments

J.D. Walker, Paul Baepler


Research on different types of classroom spaces indicates that innovative classrooms can improve student learning. This study explores one mechanism that may underlie this effect, namely the social context of teaching and learning. The validated Social Context and Learning Environments (SCALE) survey was administered to over 2000 undergraduate university students in both traditional and active learning classrooms, and multivariate mixed-model analyses were conducted to determine whether social context was predictive of student learning. The data indicated that two out of four social context subscales predicted student learning in both types of learning environment, while one subscale had no significant relationship with student learning, and one subscale was predictive of outcomes in active learning classrooms but not in traditional spaces. From a theoretical standpoint, these results show that social context may be one of the mechanisms through which different learning spaces impact student learning outcomes, while from a practical perspective, they indicate that instructors may be able to support their students’ learning by working to improve the social context in their classrooms.

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ISSN: 21586195

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