Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Education

Major

Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense

8-2-2013

Graduate Advisor

Kathleen Sullivan Brown, Ph.D.

Committee

Althof, Wolfgang

Owen, Ken

Murphy, Carole

Abstract

The topic of parental involvement has been widely studied but within the topic, the area of training teachers to work with parents has not. The training and preparation for teachers to work with parents are scarce and at times, non-existent. The primary purpose of this study is to examine effective middle school teachers about the steps on their path of learning to work effectively with parents. The study also included middle student teachers that shared their needs in learning how to work with parents. The study focused on interviewing highly successful middle school teachers in the area of working with parents. The first part of the study involved 18 semi-structured interviews with teachers who were recommended by their building administrators because the administrators have first hand information about the expert teachers in the area of working with parents. The second part of the study involved focus group interviews with middle school student teachers that shared their experiences, training and materials to learn to work with parents effectively in a university setting. Several homogeneous focus groups were established based on the SES (socio-economic status) level of schools where the student teachers were assigned. Data were analyzed and the results included eight categories that impacted the steps of learning for middle school teachers to work with parents: amount of training, methods of learning, personal experiences, communication tools, approaches to communication, teachers’ beliefs, support for teachers and suggestions for future training. The steps on the path of learning for teachers to work with parents were clearly established. Almost all teachers start with little to no training in the university as an undergraduate student. Often, teachers begin their first teaching position unprepared to work with parents. Therefore, they are left with a few methods of learning by being mentored, being observant and, unfortunately, trial and error as well. Moreover, teachers drew from their personal experiences ranging from being parents to doing other types of jobs. On the other hand, teachers learn to utilize the variety of communication tools that are widely available at most schools but the effectiveness of teachers comes from the wisdom in the usage of the communication tools for specific purposes. These steps of learning are supported by teacher’s own beliefs and approaches to communication. Furthermore, regardless of a teacher’s specific path of learning, he/she requires support and resources including administrators, counselors, teachers, other support staff and time. Finally, the participants gave suggestions for the purpose of improving training for future teachers.

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