Researchers develop a scale to measure parent-teacher communication at the K-12 level

October 04, 2012

Communication between K-12 teachers and parents has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. Parent-teacher communication represents a primary form of parental support or involvement, elements which have recently received much attention given the connections between parental support and academic achievement. In fact, parental involvement at the K-12 level represents a major component in recent education policies at the national level.

Joseph Mazer, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Clemson University and and Blair Thompson, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Western Kentucky University published an article in the April 2012 issue of Communication Education in which they developed a scale to measure parent-teacher communication at the K-12 level.

The Parental Academic Support Scale (PASS) was developed to assess the supportive interactions between parents and teachers, including the frequency of specific behaviors associated with parental academic support, parents' perceptions of the importance of those supportive behaviors, and the modes (e-mail, face-to-face interactions, phone, etc.) of communication that parents commonly use to communicate with teachers.

School districts nationwide may find this scale useful in enhancing communication between parents and teachers.

Mazer and Thompson found that parent-teacher communication centers around five different topic areas: academic performance, classroom behavior, child's academic and social preparation for school, hostile communication between peers, and health related issues.

The findings suggest that parents most frequently communicate with teachers about their child's academic performance.

Additionally, Mazer and Thompson learned that parents most frequently chose e-mail to communicate with teachers across all five topic areas. This was somewhat surprising because topic areas such as classroom behavior and hostile communication between peers are fairly complex, often requiring more delicate communication that may be accomplished more effectively via face-to-face communication.

While parents used richer modes of communication such as face-to-face and phone communication to talk about behavioral, social, and health related issues to more accurately interpret the content of the messages as well as each other's reactions, convenience was often an overriding factor in which mode parents selected to communicate with teachers.

Mazer and Thompson's findings are useful to administrators, teachers, and parents. School superintendents can use the information from this research to advise and train teachers to communicate more effectively with parents.

New communication technologies such as iPhones and iPads increase the likelihood that parent-teacher communication will continue to expand. Therefore, it is important for teachers and parents alike to consider the importance of communication in fostering relationships and, most importantly, in enhancing student success and learning.
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Clemson University

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