Parent-Teacher Conferencing Skills and Pre-Service Programs

By Henderson, Martha V.; Hunt, Sally N. et al. | Education, Fall 1993 | Go to article overview

Parent-Teacher Conferencing Skills and Pre-Service Programs


Henderson, Martha V., Hunt, Sally N., Day, Rebecca, Education


Increased concerns about and an awareness of the importance of parental involvement in education focus renewed attention on determining types of involvement and identifying appropriate activities. Societal changes continue to impact the traditional "neighborhood" school where teachers had frequent and informal contact with parents. In addition, a pluralistic population--including changing family structures and needs--reinforces the need for planned and pursued contacts between teachers and parents (Stafford, 1987).

Research data indicate a relationship between parent involvement and school achievement (Gotts, 1983). Seefeldt (1984) cites early childhood research findings indicating that parental involvement can be a critical factor in young children's achievement. A community involvement project in North Carolina reported a high correlation between child achievement and parental involvement (Graham, 1976). Rabbitt (1978) identified the parent-teacher conference as the single most educationally valuable event of the school year. However, Kroth (1979) suggests that approximately 10 percent of conferences result in unproductive experiences.

A survey (Stallworth, 1981) of teacher educators, cooperating personnel, and parents was designed to gather information about the need to include parent involvement training in preservice teacher education programs. For this survey, a definition of parent involvement training as cited by Gordon and Brievogel (1976) was used.

A form of citizen participation wherein parents receive and transmit information about their children, augment, and complement the process of formal education at home and/or at school, contribute to decision making on school related issues and activities, and generally seek to ensure their children's well-being as they experience formal education.

Data from the survey indicated that teachers agree that: parent participation in all school matters should be increased, teachers need extra training to prepare them for working with parents of different cultural backgrounds, parent involvement training should be included in undergraduate curricula. Respondents indicated that participation in parent teacher conferences serves as the most important activity in training teachers. Role-playing, actual conducting of conferences by students, and presentations by classroom teachers ranked high as additional activities. Involvement in parent organizations and writing of family histories were scored as least important.

Significantly, the most common format for parental involvement is the parent-teacher conference. Auten (1981) found that the parent-teacher conference is the form of communication most desired by parents. However, a study by Davis and Davis (1981) identified major differences between parent and teacher perceptions as to why conferences should be conducted and what type of information is most important.

To ascertain the importance given to preparing pre-service teachers to conduct parent-teacher conferences and the emphases in that preparation, a study of member AACTE and/or NCATE accredited institutions was conducted. For purposes of this study, parent-teacher conference was defined as "an exchange of feelings, beliefs, and knowledge between parents and teachers about a particular student" (Manning, 1984).

Procedure

A questionnaire was developed to determine pre-service program requirements relative to information and skills for parent-teacher conferences. Respondents were asked to indicate ways teacher education programs provide for acquisition of this information and/or these skills. A cover letter and questionnaire were mailed to 136 AACTE and/or NCATE member institutions accredited under the current NCATE standards or scheduled for evaluation during 1991-92.

Data were obtained from 124 institutions. Two respondents indicated parent-teacher conferencing is not a part of their preservice programs. Descriptive statistics were used to analyze data from the other 122 (90%) institutions. …

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