14 SES 05 A, Parent-teacher Conferences and School Climate
The parent-teacher conference, or “parents’ evening” as it is known in England (MacLure & Walker, 2000) and “parents' day” as it called in Israel, is a common occasion in many education systems (Markström, 2009; Minke & Anderson, 2003). For this conference, parents are invited to the school once or twice a year to meet their children's teachers and learn about the former’s academic, social and emotional functioning at school. As a recurring event, the parent-teacher conference promotes relations of inside and outside. According to the school, parents’ involvement is considered as supporting students’ achievement and strengthening home-school relationships. According to the parents, it is opportunity for bridging between cultures (Quiroz, Greenfield & Altchech, 1999) and enhancing the community’s common values (Epstein & Sheldon, 2002; Stevens & Tollafield, 2003). These two sides of school and community or teacher and parent are also nested in broader societal and cultural systems such as class (Weininger & Lareau, 2003), institution (Meyer, Scott & Deal, 1981), and the dominant culture (Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005). Our assumption is that some of the common characteristics of the parent-teacher conference are derived from these broader systems, and especially from the dominance culture.
Thus, our research objective is to better understand how aspects of the Israeli dominant culture are formed and reformed by parent-teacher interactions during the parents’ day. We employed Hofstede’s cultural theory as a theoretical framework, which claims that every society has a national culture that affects and is reflected in organizational behavior (Hofstede, 1997; Hofstede & Hofstede, 2005). According to this theory, all societies are exposed to common problems such as relating to authority, relationships between the individual and society, concepts of masculinity and femininity, and ways of dealing with uncertainty. The solutions for these main problems differ from country to country and together comprise the national culture. Much of this culture has been acquired in early childhood and becomes the mind’s “software” that is reflected both in personal life and the organizational sphere (Hofstede, 1997).
The national culture is of course only one layer of many others that program our mind, such as gender, race, class, ethnicity, region, etc. Thus, we have focused on the Bourdieu's idea of dominant culture (Bourdieu, 1977), and have used the main problems initially found by Hofstede (power distance, individuality, masculinity, and uncertainty) to study aspects of the Israeli dominant culture and its reflection in the parent-teacher conference. This decision is based on three assumptions: (1) the values of the Israeli dominant culture affect the behavior of teachers and parents alike; (2) the studied schools were located in a middle-class neighborhood that usually reflects the dominant culture; and (3); as a publicly-funded organization the school is most likely to reflect the dominant culture for augmenting institutional legitimacy, which in turn ensures the flow of resources and increases the school’s prospects (Meyer, Scott & Deal, 1981). Thus, our research question is what aspects of the Israeli dominant culture are reflected in the parents' day routines and behaviors. Our findings can contribute to a better understanding of parent-teacher conference components and how to improve them.
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