Academic journal article School Community Journal

"I Feel Much More Confident Now to Talk with Parents": An Evaluation of In-Service Training on Teacher-Parent Communication

Academic journal article School Community Journal

"I Feel Much More Confident Now to Talk with Parents": An Evaluation of In-Service Training on Teacher-Parent Communication

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper describes a teacher in-service training program on teacher-parent communication in Cyprus and its impact on teacher trainees. Data were gathered through questionnaires completed by teachers prior to their training and after having tried, in real school settings, the communication skills and approaches taught during the course. The analysis of the data showed a considerable modification of teachers' perceptions about various aspects of communicating with parents and a positive appraisal of their competence in organizing and implementing communication sessions with parents. The findings provide evidence for the effectiveness of teacher training on communication skills.

Key Words: teachers, parents, in-service training, Cyprus, professional development, school-family communication, skills, conferences, active listening

Introduction

School-family communication appears to be the most prevalent practice initiated by schools aimed at linking them with their pupils' parents (Epstein & Sanders, 2006; Lightfoot, 2003; Martin, Ranson, & Tall, 1997; Symeou, 2002). Through their communication, teachers and families usually exchange information and ideas about the development and progress of the children in school and at home (Pang & Watkins, 2000; Wandersman et al., 2002). When effective, communication between teachers and families provides the two parties with a deeper understanding of mutual expectations and children's needs, thus enabling both to effectively assist children and to establish the basis of cooperation (Epstein, 2001; Epstein & Sanders, 2006; Wandersman et al., 2002).

Nonetheless, during their encounters with parents, schools and teachers are often criticized as sending out-either consciously or subconsciously-a message that parents are not welcome and that they should leave their children's schooling to the experts, that is, the teachers (Bastiani, 1996; Crozier, 2000; Epstein, 2005; Symeou, 2002). In addition, some evidence suggests that even though many schools attempt to establish a variety of practices in order to facilitate two-directional communication, it is more likely that the flow of information between school and families is mainly directed from the former to the latter and that communication and its content is likely to be controlled by the school (Cheatham & Ostrosky, 2011; Crozier, 2007; Epstein, 2005; Epstein & Sanders, 2006; Reay, 1998; Symeou, 2010; Vincent, 1996). In this sense, schools themselves appear to be inhibiting collaboration with parents. Hence it has been argued that blaming parents for the lack of interaction with school is incorrect and pathologizes parents (Bakker, Denessen, & Brus-Laeven, 2007; Crozier, 2000; Symeou, 2009), especially socially excluded parents (Crozier, 2007; Lareau, 2000; Symeou, Luciak, & Gobbo, 2009; Tett, 2004).

School communication with families is usually written or oral. Written communication might take the form of memos, lists, forms, permission notes, report cards, calendars of the school year, and notices of special events sent to the home. It refers to individual children, the whole class, or the school community as a whole. Schools usually establish some formal ways for achieving oral school-family communication also, for instance, parent-teacher conferences and open houses. Finally, many informal ways of contacting and communicating with parents may provide opportunities in which teachers and parents gain insights into one another's perspectives, for instance, casual conversations before school, afterschool meetings, and telephone calls.

School-Family Relationships in Cyprus

This paper describes the implementation of a teacher in-service training program in Cyprus, more specifically, in the Greek-Cypriot educational school system, aimed at enhancing teachers' effectiveness in communicating with pupils' parents. (Note: For the purposes of this study, any reference to formal education in Cyprus applies to the Greek-Cypriot educational system;? …

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