Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Students Talking about Home-School Communication: Can Technology Support This Process?

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Students Talking about Home-School Communication: Can Technology Support This Process?

Article excerpt

Home-School partnership: what are the expectations?

Investigation of the literature clearly shows that the importance of partnerships between the home and school contexts has been emphasised for some time (e.g. Ashton & Cairney, 2001). The importance of parents/guardians and teachers working together to support student learning has been acknowledged and is generally accepted by both contexts. However, the traditional arrangements for communication, such as the parent-teacher interview, do not seem to adequately cater for the needs of key stakeholders. It appears that communication from the classroom to the home is often still infrequent and minimal. In this age of access to information 'anytime-anywhere', it is appropriate to explore alternate ways to facilitate dialogue between the contexts. This paper reports on student use of a mobile telephone to facilitate communication between the classroom and home.

Communication between the home and school contexts is often linked with the concepts of 'assessment' and 'reporting'. This process typically involves the teacher communicating to the parents/guardians the student's progress towards learning outcomes. In these situations, the 'power' is with the teacher. Criticisms of such communication include that this form of reporting is distanced from classroom experience and is often fabricated through reporting devices such as the written school report and learning portfolios. The current expectations of assessment and reporting within our schools which draw upon an outcome based approach is seen to further prevent clear and meaningful communication between the home and school contexts. Etlis (2003) reported that in evaluations conducted by the NSW Department of Education and Training, it was found that outcomes based assessment and the reporting of this, was considered by many teachers to be time consuming, challenging and demanding. In addition, parents were reported to find communication that stems from this format is not frequent enough and often confusing for many who are often unable to decipher the language and information being reported on their child. Instead, parents seem to want and need information about a range of different aspects of the child's achievement outlining both strengths and weaknesses, work samples that clearly indicate the ability of the child, helping them to create an overall picture of how their child is achieving via various information sources (Cuttance & Stokes, 2000). Thus it appears that there is a need to make these information sources more varied, frequent and timely.

In recent times, students have increasingly been involved in learning partnerships with their teachers. The literature cites examples where students are involved in setting learning goals for themselves drawing upon what they know and identifying focus areas. For example, research conducted by the National Foundation for the Improvement of Education (2000) found that students were more motivated in learning when they are able to indicate their own needs and direction through discussion and negotiation. The combination of student self-assessment and teacher assessment creates a sense of partnership in the learning environment (Victorian Department of Education, 2002). While this teacher-student partnership is important, it is vital that parents are included too so that all the key stakeholders have a clear idea of the direction of student learning and work together to reach these goals.

Communication has been consistently identified as being fundamental to establishing such partnerships. The issue of communication as an integral language feature to link the home and school contexts has been explored in recent studies (e.g. Cairney & Ruge, 1998). It is important that all key stakeholders have the opportunity to be involved and actively participate in student learning goals. The nature of who has 'power' in the classroom is changing. …

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