[TAR]: Conclusions & Reflections

CONCLUSIONS AND REFLECTIONS

From our data, it seems that most middle school students surveyed associate parent-teacher communication with negative organizational and discipline issues. This is supported by student comments while the survey was being administered; several students felt the need to assure the researcher that their parents and teachers do not communicate because they are not a “bad” kid. In addition, when asked to describe their reaction to parent-teacher communication, 41% of middle school students responded with the words “weird”, “scary”, and/or “uncomfortable”; fifty-one percent were ambivalent and only 8% had a positive reaction. This is in contrast to the high school students we interviewed; all but one reported feeling very positively about teachers calling home, even when it was for a disciplinary issue. Most middle school and high school students were content with the current level of parental involvement; students also viewed this involvement (homework help and interest in helping) as positive. Clearly, teachers and parents alike in the middle school classes we surveyed have allowed their communications with parents to be focused on negative behaviors and achievement, while parental involvement inside the home was positive and desirable. The high school from which we gathered data seemed to have a different approach and calls were made home often and for positive reasons. The students reported that this made them feel important and cared for, as well as wanting to try harder in school. From our survey data and research in published articles on the topic, it seems that both the frequency and topics of parent and teacher communication impacts students’ attitudes and feelings towards school in the high school case and parental involvement in their education.

Teachers showed overarching similarities in their ideas about parent communication, with a few indicators of some difference. Teachers drew upon their experience to assess different modes of communication for their applicability to different situations; some greatly preferred email to phone, while others disagreed. Together, the teachers’ feedback on these modes of communication could be assembled into a format useful for new teachers that will need to use various forms of communication to correspond with parents. 50% of teachers communicate with parents in some form several days a week, 20% communicate daily, 20% communicate monthly, and 10% communicate less than that. Frequency of communication seemed to be uncorrelated with perceived frustrations regarding communicating with parents, although it was observed that teachers that communicate most frequently tend to use email and telephone calls more often as a practicality.

Our parent surveys showed that parent-teacher communication is fairly regular, with 64% of parents receiving teacher contact once or twice per year or semester. Most parents receive email from teachers rather than receiving contact through other traditional or non-traditional media. Parents are regularly invited to be a part of the classroom community, however, they do not always take that invitation for whatever reason. Parents seem to be unsatisfied with parent-teacher interaction. Parents’ responses reflect a feeling of being “left in the dark” about student achievements and struggles in school. They suggest that teachers communicate more frequently with more specific advice for students.

A common theme throughout the teacher-generated Guide to Communicating with Parents as well as the research is to remain professional, open and honest and to work as a team with the parent(s) to better serve the student’s needs.  The guide discusses the three most common ways to be in contact with parents – e-mail, phone and in person meetings.  Certain student issues are better communicated in person rather than e-mail, while more minor day-to-day topics can help to keep parents involved through the use of e-mail and phone.  In addition to these three modes, there are additional ways to communicate with and involve parents in their child’s education including home visits and online blogs or class web pages.  While most in-person meetings between parents and teachers occur on school grounds, teachers can also arrange home visits with families to get to know them better and establish a better relationship.  This is especially helpful when parents are unable to attend school meetings due to their work schedules or do not feel comfortable going to schools. Some schools setup websites or blogs, such as edublogs, for their courses to keep parents updated on what their child is learning with posts of homework assignments, useful links, syllabi and class pictures.  Depending on how the teacher sets up the website and how often they update it, this can help to improve parental communication and involvement in their child’s education.

FUTURE RESEARCH

Because of the discrepancy between our middle school students reported high satisfaction with parental involvement and their reported negative or ambivalent feelings about parents and teachers communicating, further exploration about what these students would like that parental involvement to look like is needed. How are students’ perceptions of parent-teacher communication affected when most communication home is negative? Since the high school students surveyed reported feeling positively about encouraging phone calls home, how might this affect students’ attitudes and feelings toward school? If a positive phone call was warmly received by both parents and teachers, what sort of impact might a home visit make? Most of our teachers surveyed reported never inviting parents into school; how does the presence of a parent in the classroom affect students’ perceptions of parental involvement? Email was the most common method of communication between parents and teachers in the middle school we studied, but telephone the primary means of communication in the high school. How do the cultures of the students and demographic factors contribute to the frequency, methods, and reasons for which parent-teacher communication occurs?

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