Institutional Environment


The institutional environment refers to two essential dimensions of school life: the physical surroundings (e.g. cleanliness, order, and appeal of facilities and adequate resources and materials) and school connectedness or how positively engaged and involved students are in school life.

(Note: School connectedness can also – understandably – be thought of as an essential aspect of interpersonal relationships. However, in our recent school climate studies, this factor was interestingly associated with the Institutional Environment).


The goal here is an appealing, supportive, and adequate (if not more than adequate!) physical environment as well as an environment or climate that encourages students feeling connected to school in positive ways.


In our work with schools, we do not focus on the physical surroundings. Naturally, this is a fundamentally important dimension of school life.

A growing body of research has underscored how school connectedness is a fundamentally important and predictive aspect of students experience in schools. Virtually all of the safety, relationships and teaching/learning strategies that we have outlined in this “Guidelines and Resources section” support students feeling connected to school in positive and engaged ways.

Read more articles from NSCC newsletters about the following topics:


We suggest that a comprehensive school climate evaluations is the single best way of assessing these aspects of school life.


Relevant Readings:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. School Connectedness: Strategies for Increasing Protective Factors Among Youth. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2009 (available on:
  • Cotton, Kathleen (2001). New Small Learning Communities: Findings from Recent Literature. Northwest Regional Education Laboratory.
  • Lleras, C. (2008). Hostile school climates: Explaining differential risk of student exposure to disruptive learning environments in high school. Journal of School Violence, 7(3), 105-135.
  • Sternberg, E.M. (2009). Healing spaces: the science of places and well-being. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press
  • Stevenson, Kenneth R (2006). School Size and Its Relationship to Student Outcomes and School Climate: A Review and Analysis of Eight South Carolina State-Wide Studies. National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities.