Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

The Communication Accretion Spiral: A Communication Process for Promoting and Sustaining Meaningful Partnerships between Families and Early Childhood Service Staff

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

The Communication Accretion Spiral: A Communication Process for Promoting and Sustaining Meaningful Partnerships between Families and Early Childhood Service Staff

Article excerpt

Introduction

Good parent-staff relationships in early childhood services essentially underpin all that defines quality and yet, as Hughes and MacNaughton (1999; 2002) have said, these relationships are often the most problematic. While interest and rhetoric have focused on issues relating to parental involvement and effective interactive communication, much of the research highlights not so much the benefits but rather the concerns associated with it (Hepworth Berger, 2000; Johnson, 1996). However, if the inclusion of families in decision-making is an integral component of quality services and the service's role is to complement families in their child-rearing roles (Dahlberg, Moss & Pence, 1999; Doherty-Derkowski, 1995; Powell, 1998), then early childhood staff need to reconsider the processes and content of communications used.

The Communication Accretion Spiral, an interpretative model for promoting communication between staff and parents, has been developed as a result of implications drawn from the findings of an investigation designed to explore families' perceptions of 'quality early childhood care and education' (Elliott, 2003).

Approach to the investigation

Many parents in Australia today use early childhood services to assist them in their parenting roles by caring for and educating children too young to enter the formal school system. Yet little is known about the criteria these parents use when selecting services for their children, how they as consumers assess services, and if or how they are able to influence the quality of the services they use.

Bronfenbrenner and Morris (1998) explain how links between any two child-rearing settings must be supportive to positively impact on the child when in either setting. Yet there has been limited investigation about parents' experiences and understandings of how home and services collaborate to develop a shared approach to young children's care and education.

Research question

Powell (1998) notes that parents and teachers don't always view the world through the same lens. Hence this research sought to identify how parents perceived opportunities available to them to contribute to and engage with staff in the development of a shared approach to their children's care and education.

Method

Three separate but interrelated phases, using three distinct data collection methods, sought information from a total of 188 parents, representing 23 long day care services within the Greater Western Sydney geographical area. In phase one, nine parents were interviewed and asked to report on their experiences and expectations of early childhood service provision. Based on interview data, a questionnaire was developed and disseminated. A total of 143 parents completed the questionnaire, while the final phase involved the participation of 36 parents in one of five separate focus group discussions.

All participants were recruited by individual service providers and were either asked in person or responded to an invitation posted in the foyer of services. All services were accredited by the National Childcare Accreditation Council (NCAC) as being of 'high quality'.

Analysis

The investigation used both emergent qualitative processes (Guba & Lincoln, 1989) and descriptive statistics (Huck & Cormier, 1996) for data analysis. To profit from the unique strengths inherent in both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, the three approaches to data collection were designed to complement each other. Each approach corresponded to a particular phase of the investigation, which in turn influenced each subsequent phase.

Qualitative data was collected through semi-structured informal interviews and comments recorded on questionnaires. Focus group discussions were also analysed to determine trends and patterns of responses occurring across the various parent groups (Krueger, 1994). …

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