Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

The Gmuend Model for Teacher-Parent Conferences - Application and Evaluation of a Teacher Communication Training

Academic journal article Journal for Educational Research Online

The Gmuend Model for Teacher-Parent Conferences - Application and Evaluation of a Teacher Communication Training

Article excerpt


There is strong evidence that a well-functioning cooperation between teachers and parents is an important predictor for children's education and student's success (Barnard, 2004; Cheung & Pomerantz, 2012; Fan & Chen, 2001; Hornby, 2011; Jeynes, 2003, 2007; Kratochvil, Carkhuff, & Berenson, 1969). To facilitate such a cooperation teachers are required to possess strong communication skills, and utilize these in their everyday work (Gartmeier & Wegner, in press; Gartmeier, Gebhardt, & Dotger, 2016; Sacher, 2008; Walker & Dotger, 2012).

Parent-teacher conferences are a centerpiece of facilitating the cooperation between teachers and parents (Textor, 2009), but can be challenging to teachers for various reasons, including the following (Graham-Clay, 2005; Ramirez, 2002):

* In many cases it is not really clear who is responsible for problems with the student's academic performance, e.g. classroom disturbances or learning disability, which makes the conversation demanding.

* The teacher is not as neutral as a professional counselor. The teacher is part of the school system and therefore bound to the rules of the organization, and parents may consider the teacher being part of the problem.

* The parents are obliged to come to the conferences (Aich & Behr, 2015; Schnebel, 2007).

It would be easy to continue the list but in the context of this article we just want to give a short impression of the difficulties teacher face in parent-teacher conferences. If we take these factors into account, one can conclude that the circumstances for parent-teacher conferences are very challenging. Therefore, teachers should be comprehensively prepared to act in a conversation and to avoid or resolve conflicts (Hertel, 2009). Some counselling skills are especially useful for this: Empathic responses and positive regard take negative energy out of a conflict, congruence induces credibility, transactional understanding helps teachers to understand the conflicts core and solution focused questions yield surprising new ideas. Empirical evidence of person-centered counselling's effects are refered to later. However, Baumert and Kunter (2006, 2011) indicate that counseling is a major task for teachers in their everyday work. Inappropriately, such skills are seldom provided within the basic teacher training at universities or during the on-thejob-training period. This lack of training has several negative effects for parentteacher conferences (Bauer & Brunner, 2006; Behr, 2005; Epstein, 2010; Epstein & Van Voorhis, 2010; Dotger, 2010, 2013; Terhart, Lohmann, & Seidel, 2010). Behr and Franta (2003) found that teachers are often unable to positively influence the outcome of a conversation. Teachers rather responded to parental communication patterns, e.g. if parents were helpless teachers gave advice, or if parents were dominant the teachers responded in a dominant fashion. There is also evidence that teachers who received a comprehensive training for acting in conferences with parents, seek the contact with parents more often than teachers who did not receive such a training (Hertel, 2009; Wild, 2003). Moreover, parent-teacher conferences are a source of stress and strain for untrained teachers (Unterbrink et al., 2008). In this respect the communication skills training for teacher students is also a health prevention program (Schaarschmidt, 2010; Schaarschmidt & Kieschke, 1999). To improve future parent-teacher communication outcomes, to improve teacher wellbeing and to professionalize teacher student's education at the University of Education in Schwaebisch Gmuend, we developed a training for conducting parent-teacher conferences.

Teacher trainings tend to be developed without evaluation, therefore the focus of this study is to evaluate the impact of the training on teacher students. The evaluation focuses on how trainees may better utilize the Rogerian core conditions empathy, positive regard and congruence. …

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