14 SES 08 A, Parental Engagement, Goals and Communication: Influence on Students' Outcomes and Self-concept
The family-school communication has been actively studied in many countries in recent decades. Good communication between school and family is an important condition for high parental involvement in school life, which contributes to students’ academic achievements, positively influences the behavior of children in the classroom—their motivation and etc.
The concept of “parental involvement in the educational process” includes various types of actions and behaviors of parents that are directly or indirectly related to the education of their children. Parents can demonstrate involvement at home and in school. Parental involvement in the education of their children is also defined as “communication of the family with the school and with their children to promote academic success”. There is an emphasis on finding and developing effective communication channels and tools with families of students in educational institutions in many countries.
In the process of family-school communication, expectations about each other are not always clearly expressed. Communication can be a source of tension because of teachers being afraid of parental evaluation, their desire to maintain their professional autonomy, their personal lack of time and the lack of support from the principal. The empowerment of parents exacerbates existing conflicts between teachers and parents, especially when parents are from privileged backgrounds, and their power as clients can affect the autonomy of teachers.
In Russia, there is little empirical data on communication between parents and schools. Throughout the history of the development of Soviet and Russian education, there has been a transition from the school monopoly in issues regarding teaching and educating children to the importance of building productive communication with parents, and their involvement in the educational process. There is the principle of information openness of the school established in Art. 3 of the Federal Law No. 273-FZ “On Education in the Russian Federation”. This postulates the need to ensure a two-sided information exchange between participants of the educational process. The reform of the educational system that has taken place in recent years necessitates the creation of new forms of communication between the school and society, based on the principles of equality, dialogue and joint decision-making .
In conditions of information “closeness” the school does not have the opportunity to discuss any vital problems with parents. However, there is no information about how much existing practices of information openness contribute to building effective communication with parents. Parents note the lack of opportunities for discussing important issues with the school representatives and pay attention to the school’s “closeness”.
New trends in parenting have led to the desire of some parents to actively participate in the school life of their child. The trend is particularly evident among well-educated parents in schools located in large cities. At the same time, a significant number of teachers believe that the family remains uninvolved in the child rearing process. This contradiction is due to the high differentiation among parents in terms of their involvement in the educational process; however there are no effective methods of identification and providing differentiated requests of different groups of parents in the current work practices of educational organizations.
Under these circumstances, the urgent need is to find and to build new ways and channels of family-school communication, which will contribute to the growth of parental involvement in the educational process. While conducting the study, the following was investigated:
• which communication channels with the school are most common among parents and which one appears to be the most effective;
• what difficulties parents of students experience in communication with school;
• how actively parents are involved in school life.
There were two stages while conducting the empirical study: the qualitative research stage (semi-structured interview with parents of students, teachers and representatives of the school administration, N = 13) and the quantitative research stage (interviews with parents of students, N = 3576). The interviews allowed us to outline the main aspects of the issue and check the list of questions in the questionnaire. The main family-school communication tools and channels, the key difficulties in communication and parental satisfaction with this process, as well as the degree of their involvement in school life were determined with the help of the interviews. Data collection took place in several districts of one of the megacities of Central Russia.
Interviews with parents and school representatives as well as parent questionnaire results are used to describe the most popular ways in which parents communicate with schools, the main problems they encounter in such communication, and the degree of parental involvement in school life. Direct contact with teachers is found to be the most efficient channel of parent–school communication. Parents see the main communication problems in disagreement about instruction and education issues and in the disengagement of schools or individual teachers. These problems become more acute in middle and high school. On the whole, the existing level of parental involvement in school is measured as low in this study.
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