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Annotated Bibliography: Using a New Learning Environment Questionnaire for Reflection in Teacher Action Research

Aldridge, J. M., Fraser, B. J., Bell, L., & Dorman, J. (2012). Using a new learning environment questionnaire for reflection in teacher action research. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(3), 259-290.

  • This article reports the views of teachers in general and also examines more closely how the teachers used student responses to the learning environment questionnaire as a tool for reflection and as a guide in transforming the classroom environment.
  • The instrument was developed to provide teachers with feedback that they could use to reflect on their teaching practices and, in turn, guide the implementation of strategies to improve their learning environments.

Teacher action research

  • Teacher action research is a self-reflective form of inquiry undertaken by participants in social or educational situations in order to improve their own practices or their understanding of these practices and the situations in which they are carried out (Carr & Kemmis, 1983; Fazio & Melville, 2008).
  • Professional autonomy for teachers implies that they cannot merely accept and implement research findings concerning classroom practices and teaching skills (Carr & Kemmis, 1983). Rather, teachers themselves should conduct research about their classroom practices and teaching skills.
  • Action research begins with teachers deliberately and consciously reflecting on their teaching process, thus feedback based on students’ perceptions can provide a useful means of doing that.

The Process

  • By evaluating students’ perceptions of actual and preferred classroom learning environments, teachers can use an action research process in which they reflect on the results, plan for improvement, implement strategies and reassess the learning environment.

The Major Ideas or Principles Behind Action Research

Action research involves a spiral of critical, self-critical and reflective processes during which the teacher learns more about his or her teaching practices.


  • Have decision-making authority to examine their own educational practice as part of their own professional development.
  • Are committed to continued professional development and school improvement.
  • Want to reflect on their practices so that they can improve their practices.
  • Reflect individually or in school-based teams composed of students, teachers and administrators.
  • Use a systematic approach for reflecting on their practices
  • Choose an area of focus, determine data-collection techniques, analyse and interpret data, and develop action plans.  (Creswell, 2005)

5 Step procedure: Assessing learning environment as a feedback about teaching


Studies involving the use of feedback from a learning environment survey to guide improvements have a five-step procedure:

  1. Assessing the actual and preferred learning environment
  2. Providing feedback to teachers based on students’ responses
  3. Reflection and discussion based on feedback from the survey in order to identify which aspects of the learning environment might be chosen for change and to consider teaching strategies that might be used
  4. Implementing an intervention over a period of time in an attempt to change the learning environment.
  5. Re-administration of the survey to students at the end of the intervention period to determine whether students perceive their learning environment differently from before. (Fraser, 2007)

The Questionnaire: The Constructivist-Oriented Learning Environment Survey (COLES)

  • The questionnaire has 11 scales with eight items each
  • The scales are considered to be especially relevant to teaching and learning in many contexts.
  • Students respond using a frequency scale consisting Almost Always, Often, Sometimes, Seldom and Almost Never.
  • The different scales and its description are given in Table 1
  • The 11 scales can be grouped into three broad categories:
    • Relationships: Student Cohesiveness, Teacher Support, Equity and Young Adult Ethos
    • Assessment: Clarity of Assessment and Formative Assessment

Delivery: Task Orientation, Differentiation, Personal Relevance, Involvement and Cooperation

Table 1: Scales in COLES and their description



The extent to which …

Student Cohesiveness …students know, help and are supportive of one another
Teacher Support …the teacher helps, befriends, trusts and is interested in students.
Involvement …students have attentive interest, participate in discussions, ask questions and share ideas.
Personal Relevance …subject is relevant to students’ everyday out-of-school experiences.
Task Orientation …it is important to complete activities planned and to stay on the subject matter.
Cooperation …students cooperate with one another on learning tasks.
Equity …students are treated equally by the teacher.
Differentiation …teachers cater for students differently on the basis of ability, rates of learning and interests.
Formative Assessment …students feel that the assessment tasks given to them make a positive contribution to their learning.
Assessment criteria …the assessment criteria are explicit so that the basis for judgments is clear and public.
Young Adult Ethos …teachers give students responsibility and treat them as young adults

(NOTE: When teachers use this questionnaire for their own classroom, they can choose scales that are relevant to their study.

Dorman, J. (2012). Using a new learning environment questionnaire for reflection in teacher action research. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 23(3), 259-290.

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