Scholarly article on topic 'Advantages and conditions for effective teacher-parent co-operation'

Advantages and conditions for effective teacher-parent co-operation Academic research paper on "Educational sciences"

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{"Co-operation of teachers and parents" / "reasons for co-operation" / "communicational skills" / "interpersonal relationships"}

Abstract of research paper on Educational sciences, author of scientific article — Jana Kalin, Barbara Šteh

Abstract Various studies researching the effectiveness of teacher-parent co-operation point out the positive effects of the partnership between teachers and parents. We were interested in to what extent the individual pupil's learning achievements, their wellbeing among peers and the teacher-pupil relationship are factors of co-operation between teachers and parents. We also asked ourselves about the manner teachers conduct discussions with parents and whether their co-operational skills are adequately developed. The results of the research show orientations and essential points of conflict for consideration and forming decisions which will make optimal co-operation possible and prove to be of maximum benefit to all concerned.

Academic research paper on topic "Advantages and conditions for effective teacher-parent co-operation"

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Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 2 (2010) 4923-4927

WCES-2010

Advantages and conditions for effective teacher-parent co-operation

Jana Kalina *, Barbara Steha

aUniversity of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts, Askerceva 2, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia Received November 9, 2009; revised December 10, 2009; accepted January 21, 2010

Abstract

Various studies researching the effectiveness of teacher-parent co-operation point out the positive effects of the partnership between teachers and parents. We were interested in to what extent the individual pupil's learning achievements, their wellbeing among peers and the teacher-pupil relationship are factors of co-operation between teachers and parents. We also asked ourselves about the manner teachers conduct discussions with parents and whether their co-operational skills are adequately developed. The results of the research show orientations and essential points of conflict for consideration and forming decisions which will make optimal co-operation possible and prove to be of maximum benefit to all concerned. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywords: Co-operation of teachers and parents; reasons for co-operation; communicational skills; interpersonal relationships.

1. Introduction

Being aware of how useful and necessary co-operation between teachers and parents is presents one of the foundations on which such co-operation is based. The awareness of the importance of co-operation between home and school is increasing and generally teachers and parents are positively predisposed towards their own involvement. At the same time this area of co-operation poses ever new and numerous challenges to both teachers and parents.

1.1. Advantages of involving parents in school - what research indicates?

Research into the involvement of parents, where teachers and parents continually support and encourage the child's learning and development, shows positive effects on children, family and school (Eccles & Harold, 1993, Henderson, 1987, Illinois State Board of Education, 1993 in Soo-Yin, 2003). As Henderson and Berla (1994) state, the most appropriate indicator of pupil's success at school is not the financial or social status of his family, but the degree to which the child's family is capable of creating a family environment which encourages/supports learning, expressing high (but not unreal) expectations for their child's learning achievement and his future career and getting involved in the child's school and community education.

* Jana Kalin Tel.: + 386 1 241 11 40; fax: +386 1 425 93 37 E-mail address: jana.kalin@guest.arnes.si

1877-0428 © 2010 Published by Elsevier Ltd. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2010.03.796

Henderson and Berla (1994) have examined and analysed 85 studies concerning the advantages of involving parents in the education of their child. Well-planned and successful involvement of parents has positive effects on the child and parents, as well as teachers and the school as a whole. Advantages of teacher-parent co-operation, which reflect in many areas and in all involved, are also confirmed by many other studies. The research by Gonzalez-DeHass et al. (2005) is noteworthy from this point of view. In their study made a comparative analysis of the research and noted a significant interaction between parent involvement and pupil motivation. Due to greater involvement of parents, pupils have demonstrated greater efforts, concentration and school attendance. Pupils were more interested in learning and demonstrated better achievements. Pupils whose parents get involved assume a higher degree of personal responsibility for their learning. When parents are interested in the education of their children, pupils develop more target-oriented learning, in which they look more for challenging tasks, persist in academic challenges, and are satisfied with their school work.

There are of course several reasons for such results, as they also have several implications. We can search for these reasons in various directions (Gonzalez-DeHass et al., 2005): involvement of parents contributes to pupil's self-control of learning and to a realistic perception of his or her learning capacities, provides a sense of security and affiliation, helps pupils internalize educational values and on the other hand also pupil's motivation enhances parent involvement.

Pomerantz et al. (2007) conclude their extensive study of various researches into the involvement of parents with the observation that adequate involvement of parents has an impact on higher learning achievements of the child, his mental health, and is a positive contribution to the child's emotional and social development.

Despite the fact that many teachers and schools have accepted the concept of involvement of parents and are aware of its impact on the child, many of them have not as yet transferred this knowledge and belief into practice. A number of studies confirm that parents are interested in co-operation at all levels, from attending individual events to decision-making at the school level. Many parents often still do not know how to enter into co-operation. It is, therefore, more a problem of parents' lacking knowledge of how to get involved rather than a low degree of interest (Nichols, 1991 in Soo-Yin, 2003). On the other hand there is a question whether teachers are really prepared to accept parents as partners in their mutual co-operation and whether they dispose with necessary knowledge and skills.

1.2. Conditions of efficient co-operation between teachers and parents

Apparently both teachers and parents are to some extent interested in co-operation, but there is a question how to develop productive mutual relations (Hornby, 2000). To achieve quality co-operation between school and home it is important for a particular school to have formed a common vision about this co-operation. The established forms are not enough; teachers and the school head staff have to accept quality co-operation with parents as one of their major goals, since this is the only way which allows looking for new and more efficient forms of such co-operation.

Considering this we have to be constantly aware that parents are a very heterogeneous group of individuals and that we have to adapt our activities and methods of co-operation accordingly. The more varied forms of co-operation and involvement we offer parents, the bigger is the chance to attract more of them to co-operate. Parents' involvement and co-operation also differ in relation to their characteristics, needs and qualifications (Kalin & Steh, 2008).

The more they try to intensify parents' involvement and to establish a partnership relation, the more participational, communicational and organizational skills teachers have to master. At this point we would particularly point out listening and assertive skills. Usually teachers have well developed their skills of transmitting information and explaining, but not so much their listening skills. It is probable that they see themselves more in the role of speaker, transmitter of information and advice, rather than in the role of listener. It is crucial for them to become aware how important it is for them to be able to listen - to their pupils, colleagues and of course, the parents. When parents were asked about how they would want the teachers to change, a very frequent answer was simply that they should listen better (Hornby, 2000). In listening it is not enough only to hear, but to be ready to understand. We can distinguish between four major components of listening: focusing attention, passive listening, paraphrasing and active listening (Bolton, 1979, Brammer, 1993 in Hornby, 2000). On the other hand teachers often have to face criticism, aggressive behaviour and unrealistic demands. In such circumstances it is important that the teachers are able to express their feelings, needs and demands clearly, peacefully, without any hostility - they need to be assertive in their behaviour (Hornby, 2000; Woolfolk, 2002). The most demanding task for them may be to distinguish between situations in which they primarily have to lend an ear and situations where they have to make

clear demands. Actually, they need both types of skills in their mutual co-operation with their colleagues, pupils and the parents: whenever they discuss measures and tasks of the ones and the others, when they plan common activities and during the process of mutual problem-solving.

To acquire participational and communicational skills teachers need additional training, but solely the training of these skills is not enough, because teachers' willingness to understand and help is essential for the success of their work with pupils and parents (Kottler & Kottler, 2001), together with their trust that pupils and parents are able to find their own powers or to additionally develop their problem-solving competence (O'Callaghan 1993, Saleebey 1997 in Cacinovic-Vogrincic 1999). Still, teachers are not all-powerful and it is right that pupils and parents take their own share of responsibility for effective learning and mutual co-operation.

2. The purpose of the research

In the empirical research conducted as part of the project entitled »Levers of successful co-operation between the school and the home: modern solutions and perspectives«, (Kalin et al. 2008), our main objective was to establish the goal of home-school co-operation from the teachers' and parents' perspectives, the expectations and experience of both groups, the original attitude towards co-operation and the limitations and possibilities for improvement. In this paper we will try to answer the following research questions:

1. To what extent are the following factors important for the co-operation between teachers and parents: a child's learning achievement, his or her wellbeing among school mates and the teacher-pupil relationship?

2. What is the role of teachers and parents in mutual consultations from the point of view of both groups?

3. To what extent do teachers and parents agree that teachers have to give concrete advice when a child faces problems and have to be ready to look for solutions together?

4. Do parents' and teachers' answers to the above-mentioned questions differ?

3. Method

In the empirical research we employed a causal - non-experimental method of educational research. We formed a representative sample of all Slovene urban and rural primary schools and sent questionnaires on their experiences of co-operation between school and home to all teachers of 40 schools. We also asked these schools to distribute a version of the questionnaire to parents of 3rd, 6th and 9th grade pupils. Anonymity was assured to both teachers and parents. By the end of 2007 we thus received 467 completed questionnaires from teachers and 1690 from parents. Questionnaires for teachers and parents contained multiple choice questions, scales and open-end questions. The data was processed using the statistical package SPSS for Windows, using the following statistical procedures: Descriptive Statistics, chi-square or Kullback 2Í test in cases where the expected count was less than 5 in more than 20 % of boxes of the contingency table.

4. Results and Discussion

4.1. Reasons for the co-operation between teachers and parents

Parents enter into co-operation with the teacher for various reasons, and their expectations usually also vary to a large degree. The same is true for teachers. We tried to verify varied expectations by asking teachers and parents which is the most important reason of co-operation, and how they rank three basic reasons: child's learning achievement, child's wellbeing among school mates and the teacher-child relationship. Parents' most frequent first ranking answer is the teacher-child relationship (45.8 %). The child's wellbeing among their school mates is the most frequent second ranking answer (37.9 %), however it was closely followed by the teacher-child relationship (37.4 %). The most frequently third ranking answer is the child's learning achievement (48.9 %).

Teachers most often chose the child's wellbeing among school mates as their first ranking answer (42.1 %) - this also appears as the second ranking answer in the same percentage of responses. The most frequently chosen third ranking reason is the learning achievement of the pupil with 56.5 % of answers. Child's relationship with teacher is a less important reason for teachers, while parents mention it as the most important.

It is noteworthy that among all three reasons learning success is the least important for both teachers and parents, even though some differences between teachers and parents appear, which certainly influences the readiness of

parents to get involved in and to co-operate with the school and teachers, while on the other hand it influences teachers and their organizing of those forms and methods of co-operation where parents will be able to get involved according to their basic expectations about co-operation with teachers.

4.2. What is the role of parents and teachers in mutual discussions?

Parents estimate teachers' competence of conducting parental meetings, consultations and co-operating with parents as good, as 55 % consider teachers to be quite well qualified, while as much as 40.3 % consider that they are excellently qualified. In this regard, teachers are more self critical as they less often consider themselves excellently qualified (9.7 %) and more often consider themselves to be quite well qualified (81.2 %). Let us now take a look at how both groups view a regular consultation meeting. In this perspective statistically significant differences appear among them (^2 = 1.49; df = 2, p = 0.000, n = 2057).

Almost all teachers (91.7 %) believe that parents listen to them and take their opinions and suggestions into account. In reality they probably see themselves as counsellors who suggest certain expert solutions. Only 3 % of teachers put themselves in the role of listeners where mainly parents voice their opinions and offer suggestions. Most parents (62.5 %) still experience teachers as listeners who take their opinions and suggestions into account, whereas one third (30.5 %) think that only teachers give opinions and suggestions and it is them who listen, while 7 % of parents point out that teachers listen to but do not take account of them.

In relation to analysis of carrying out consultations it is worth reviewing the expectations of both groups regarding their roles. Therefore we asked teachers and parents about their attitudes regarding offering specific teacher advice and looking for a mutual solution to an emerging problem.

4.3. Teachers' and parents' attitudes in regard to teacher's practical advice in case of child's difficulties and teacher's willingness to search for a solution together with others involved

Expectations of teachers and parents regarding teacher's advising are quite unified, since both groups predominantly agree or absolutely agree (70.1 % of teachers and 74.7 % parents) that teachers have to offer concrete advice to overcome a child's problem when they occur, while less than a quarter of both groups only partially agree. Respondents that did not agree were almost nonexistent (5 % of teachers and 3.3 % of parents).

We have noted the tendency that, together with the level of achieved education, the share of those parents who partially agree with giving advice increases (from 19.5 % to 27.2 %), while the share of those who agree diminishes (from 75.7 % to 69.9 %).

But the overwhelming majority of teachers and parents agree that in case of a child's troubles teachers have to give concrete advice to overcome such problems, which shows that the prevailing relationship between teachers and parents places the teacher in a superior role of an expert in all aspects, and this is contrary to the attitude that teachers, in case of a child's troubles, have to be ready for mutual searching of solutions and problem solving, with which a great majority of teachers and parents agree. In comparison to parents, significantly more teachers absolutely agree (59.3 % : 46 %), while there are fewer teachers who agree (38.3 % : 46.4 % ) or agree partially (2 % : 6.4 %). These differences proved to be statistically significant (2i = 35.85; df = 4, p = 0.000, n = 2073). Presumably on the basis of their previous experiences, some teachers came to the conclusion that the joint resolving of problems may be more efficient or that mere advising will not bring the desired effects.

In one of the previous research projects conducted in Slovenia by Kalin (2003) about expectations of grammar school students' parents it became evident that parents mostly expect teachers to understand their children, follow their work and help them in case of problems. The next highest ranking parents' expectation - expectation for the class teachers to co-operate with them and counsel them in case of troubles - follows. Thus parents expect teachers to correctly deal with the situation and only after this fails, to involve others if necessary. Teachers may be aware to a slightly larger extent that mutual problem-solving is more efficient. Most respondents (51.6 %) also point out that they would need additional training in the area of problem solving and conflicts when parents have to be included.

Although most parents (62.5 %) estimate that teachers listen to them and take their opinions and suggestions into account, it seems that in our environment the expert and possibly the transmission models of teacher-parent relationships are still widely present (in Hornby, 2000). Teachers are supposed to be experts in all aspects of development and education of children and when a child has problems, teachers should give concrete advice to

overcome such problems. But some teachers, probably based on previous experience, reach the conclusion that mutual problem-solving can be more effective.

5. Conclusions

We found that parents most often cite the teacher-child relationship as the reason for their co-operation with teachers (45.8 %), while teachers cite the child's wellbeing among school mates as the most important reason for cooperating with parents (42.1 %). The child's relationship with the teacher is a less important reason for teachers, while for parents it figures in the first place. To our surprise the child's school success is not the most important reason for co-operation neither for the parents nor for the teachers. The results also indicate that the parents and the teachers are increasingly aware of the importance of appropriate mutual relationships among peers and with the teachers.

The research indicates that both among the teachers and the parents the traditional concept of the teacher's role prevails, seen primarily as providing practical solutions and advice to the child in troubles. However, in comparison with parents teachers more often absolutely agree that they both should mutually solve the problems which arise. Teachers have reached the conclusion, probably based on previous experience, that solely the mutual problem-solving is successful. This requires a teacher to be highly professional and showing humane sensitivity in their interpersonal relationships with parents and their children. But it is still a matter of discussion whether they are really ready to accept parents as partners and demise from their role of the only experts, also due to the expectations of a wider social environment. The research also raises the question to what extent teachers are qualified for appropriate guidance of their discussions with parents and for their common problem-solving. More than half of the teachers (51.6 %) pointed out, that they would need additional training in the area of problem solving and conflicts when parents have to be included.

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