For families, good communication allows them to feel valued and respected, provides channels for them to be involved in their children’s education, and empowers them to share their family’s values, practices, traditions, and beliefs so they are understood and taken into account. It also allows families to learn about how to support children and helps families increase their confidence in their own parenting skills1.
For teachers, positive benefits of closer relationships include a sense of greater support and appreciation from parents, a rediscovery of enthusiasm for problem solving1, and more positive feelings about their work and the schools they work in2.
Most students do better in school when parents and teachers talk often. Students tend to have more positive attitudes and behavior as well. Effective communication also tends to increase the success of school programs, which improves the overall effectiveness of a child’s education3.
Communication is the most critical factor in teacher-family (and school-family) relationships. Effective communication is necessary to create partnerships and empower all parties to provide the best possible education to children. Participant attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions shape the communication process, and thus they should be taken into account along with communicative actions. In this module we will learn about effective communication strategies, important barriers to communication, and how to overcome them by designing and implementing a systematic communication approach.
1. NCCA, 2009
2. Epstein & Dauber, 1991
3. University of Illinois Extension: Parent-Teacher Communication, nd http://urbanext.illinois.edu/succeed/communication.cfm
What do families want?
A first step to establish good communication is to be aware of what the other party expects from the communication exchange. Read about the results of a 2011 parent involvement survey, reflect about it, and consider the next steps for your classroom and school.
1. Go to http://www.edutopia.org/blog/parent-involvement-survey-anne-obrien to learn about the results of a 2011 National School Public Relations (NSPRA) Communication Survey. Question 37 in the survey is aimed to a) understand what information is important to parents and residents at the school and district level and b) learn their preferred avenues of communication. Districts from 22 states and 451 participants completed the survey.
2. Note: For more information about the survey itself, please go to:
3. Read the results of the survey and answer the following questions:
- What are the main findings?
- How are the findings similar or different from what you would have expected?
4. Consider how you could gather similar information from the families you work with. For example, go to https://www.pta.org/docs/default-source/files/programs/school-of-excellence/2018/survey-questions-2018-19.pdf and use their survey or develop your own using the PTA survey as a reference.
5. Once you have gathered information from families, use it to enhance your communication system. What are some things you might change? What are some new things you will try?
6. At the end of the second semester, send home the same survey with a letter to families explaining its purpose (e.g., you want to get feedback on how well the school is developing partnerships with families and, if necessary, you would like information to improve communication). Use the feedback to inform the learning community, and to plan and take relevant actions.
InTASC Model Core Teaching Standards
Standard #1: Learner Development
1(k) The teacher values the input and contributions of families, colleagues, and other professionals in understanding and supporting each learner’s development.
Standard #2: Learning Differences
2(k) The teacher knows how to access information about the values of diverse cultures and communities and how to incorporate learners’ experiences, cultures, and community resources into instruction.
Standard #3: Learning Environments
3(f) The teacher communicates verbally and nonverbally in ways that demonstrate respect for and responsiveness to the cultural backgrounds and differing perspectives learners bring to the learning environment.
3(q) The teacher seeks to foster respectful communication among all members of the learning community.
Standard #8: Instructional Strategies
8(m) The teacher understands how multiple forms of communication (oral, written, nonverbal, digital, visual) convey ideas, foster self expression, and build relationships.
8(q) The teacher values the variety of ways people communicate and encourages learners to develop and use multiple forms of communication.
10(d) The teacher works collaboratively with learners and their families to establish mutual expectations and ongoing communication to support learner development and achievement.
Standard #10: Leadership and Collaboration
10(g) The teacher uses technological tools and a variety of communication strategies to build local and global learning communities that engage learners, families, and colleagues.
10(m) The teacher understands that alignment of family, school, and community spheres of influence enhances student learning and that discontinuity in these spheres of influence interferes with learning.
10(q) The teacher respects families’ beliefs, norms, and expectations and seeks to work collaboratively with learners and families in setting and meeting challenging goals.
1. The following parent and school partnership survey was developed by The Ohio State University and provides another example of a parent survey. Chose the following link and download the “Family Survey” to see this example: https://u.osu.edu/familyschoolpartnerships/surveyingfamilies/
2. The National Center for Education Statistics conducted the following survey in 2012: Parent and Family Involvement in Education, from the National Household Education Surveys Program of 2012. http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2013028
3. The Harvard Graduate School of Education PreK-12 Parent Survey provides another tool for understanding family-school relationships. https://archive.globalfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/a-new-tool-for-understanding-family-school-relationships-the-harvard-graduate-school-of-education-prek-12-parent-survey
4. A list of 11 parent surveys and questionnaires, as well as sample surveys developed by The Ohio State University at https://cpb-us-w2.wpmucdn.com/u.osu.edu/dist/8/41057/files/2016/12/CETE-Info-Brief-Family-Surveys-final-26tkl3v.pdf