Guest article written by Dr. Tammy Lynn Woody, Director of Continuous Program Improvement, School of Education, American Public University
One area of interest for providers of educator preparation programs is effective parent-teacher communications. We know from research that student learning improves when teachers and educational staff create opportunities that engage and involve parents and care-givers (Chen & Pakter, 2012). In fact, parental involvement provisions are now mandatory in many school districts and are often implemented by increased communication and interaction with parents.
Given the evolving dynamics of instructing “digital natives,” one recent change in these communications between school and home is the shift from print to digital formats. The popularity of social media like blogs, wikis, and websites, along with mobile devices, behooves us to have discussions about efficient (and appropriate) ways in which educators can keep parents and students informed.
The ability to post grades and assignments digitally and to communicate in real time is certainly efficient. While it can be very time-consuming to contact individual parents and care-givers, rapid advances in technology provide educators with more ways to maximize their communication efforts with minimal time investment. Still, there remain questions as to whether texting and the use of social media are more effective than “old fashioned” notes and phone calls. With digital natives becoming parents and educators themselves, it seems that a paradigm shift in how home-school communications occur is inevitable. However, guidelines still remain vague.
A practical solution is to meet parents on their own terms. In other words, the same approach we take to working with learners and helping them evolve can be applied to communications with parents. Some parents may not be comfortable using technology or may not have access, and are best served by written notes or phone calls, while other parents may not respond to anything but an electronic communication. Educators must be able to discern the parent’s preferred mode of communication and accessibility (and recognize their own personal preferences) in order to communicate in a way that is comfortable and clear.
The bottom line is that increases in parental involvement should be the byproduct of effective parent-teacher communications, along with a mutual sense of trust and partnership. When families feel there is a two way dialogue to support student success, there is a greater likelihood of academic achievement.
Chen, L.L. & Pakter, A. (2012). Texting for increasing parent involvement and student performance. In T. Bastiaens & G. Marks (Eds.), Proceedings of World Conference on E-Learning in Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education 2012 (pp.919-927). Chesapeake, VA: AACC.
About the Author: Dr. Tammy Lynn Woody is the Director of Continuous Program Improvement, School of Education at American Public University. She has been with APUS for more than five years and has functioned in a variety of roles including: certification officer, field experience coordinator and school counseling program director. Prior to joining the APUS team, she served in numerous capacities in PreK-12 education including: lead preschool teacher, substitute teacher, and professional school counselor. Her doctorate in Curriculum & Instruction was completed through West Virginia University while she was a member of the Eastern Panhandle doctoral cohort. She currently holds professional school counselor certification in both West Virginia and Virginia and serves on numerous regional educational and counseling boards in leadership positions.