1.1 Literature Review

Documentation of the Literature Search

1. Preparation

Questions / Goal

  • Our main question for this literature review is: How do teachers and parents communicate, and how can we make it easier?
  • Other relevant questions are about the challenges in the information flow, what needs to be improved, and the available digital tools.
  • Our goal for this project is to improve the way teachers and parents communicate, such as sharing information and keeping in touch.

Keywords

  • Elementary school, teacher, parents / parent, information, communication, technology, problems, challenges, to improve, collaboration, everyday, digital tool
  • Barneskole, lærer, foreldre / forelder, informasjon, kommunikasjon, teknologi, problemer, utfordringer, å forbedre, samarbeid, hverdagslig, digitale verktøy

Combining Keywords

  • How do teachers and parents communicate? («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parents AND communication) OR («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parent AND communication) OR («teacher parent collaboration» AND everyday) OR (barneskole AND lærer AND foreldre AND kommunikasjon)
  • Do they use some type of technology to communicate? Or are there any available digital tools for them to use? («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parents AND communication AND technology) OR (barneskole AND lærer AND foreldre AND teknologi)
  • Are there any problems regarding teacher-parent communication? If so, what needs to be improved? («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parents AND communication AND problems) OR («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parents AND communication AND challenges) OR («Elementary school» AND teacher AND parents AND communication AND «to improve»)

Determine Nature of Literature

We’ll search for relevant literature through the web, f.i. Google Scholar and Google Search. Here we are mainly looking for articles, reports, and similar, which could tell us about the current process of teacher-parent communication. We have chosen the Internet as an information source, due to the fact that books are often outdated.

 

2. Search, Selection & Evaluation

As previously mentioned, we wanted to use Google Scholar and Google Search to research. First, we searched the combined keywords. Afterwards, we searched full texts to try and gather more useful information. We were mainly looking for free PDF-files we could download, however we were open to other kinds of sources as well.

As we were looking for relevant literature, we read the bibliographic information to gather a sense of what each of the documents were about. This way we could determine if they were indeed relevant for our research. To get the most recent piece of information, we filtered our searches. Thus the documents must have been released after 2010 for us to see it as relevant.

Once we had gathered a handful of sources, we dug deeper into the documents to look for answers. For a short time period, we deleted sources and went looking for new ones with better keywords. As soon as we were satisfied, we began writing the summary.

 

Literature Review

Information Flow Between Teachers and Parents 

Main Elements/Characteristics of the Information Flow 

According to the Norwegian Education Act § 1-1, the school and the pupil’s caregivers are bound to cooperate. This way the parents have the rights to obtain information about their child, including rights and duties, during parent-teacher conferences, other meetings, and conversations. These rights are connected to the parents’ responsibility for raising their child, giving care, and making decisions on their behalf, whilst the school’s main responsibility is to educate (Helgøy & Homme, 2015). 

The teacher-parent information flow is dynamic and everchanging, depending on what the context behind the approach is (Lilleindset, 2019), meaning it could be spontaneous or planned beforehand.  

It’s standard to divide the teacher-parent cooperation into three levels: information, dialogue and discussions, and involvement and codetermination (Odden, 2016). The exchange of information, for instance regarding a pupil’s academic- and social development, is essential in the teacher-parent communication. In this mutual exchange there is room for dialogue and discussions (Udir, 2016). Involvement and codetermination are part of the highest level of cooperation. On this level, teachers and parents have the influence to make decisions affecting the pupil (Odden, 2016). 

By using methods to create a good teacher-parent relation and cooperation, the home will become an active and responsible part of the pupil’s academic life (Lilleindset, 2019). Simultaneously, good cooperation will help the teachers develop a better educational environment, which again will help the pupil achieve better results. Once again, you can distinguish three forms of school-home cooperation: the representative-, the direct-, and the contactless cooperation (Helgøy & Homme, 2015) 

The representative cooperation involves different groups of individuals. In Norwegian elementary schools, it’s natural to have a parent council, consisting of all the pupils’ parents. The parent council selects a few individuals for the parent-teacher association, who will discuss important matters with the teachers and staff members on behalf of the rest of the parents (ibid).  

Direct cooperation is referring to direct yet formal meetings between the teacher and the caregivers, such as teacher-parent conferences and achievement review meetings. The parents will receive information about the pupil’s academic goals, their academic development, and how the home can contribute to reaching those goals. Which leads us to contactless cooperation. As mentioned earlier, the home should be an active and responsible part of the pupil’s academic life. The simple act of showing interest in the pupil’s everyday academic life, will increase the pupil’s motivation to do well in school (ibid). 

 

Challenges Encountered in the Information Flow 

Communication between parents and teachers at the elementary school levels is a two-way street. However, this street is often a bump one. The lack of information flow between the parents and the school creates challenges for everyone involved, and the kids are often the ones who pay the price for this unnecessary problem. Many parents today do not have the luxury to take time off work to go to every teacher-parent meeting, and to help out at school events. This creates less opportunities for teachers and parents to talk about the pupil (Hall, 2013). By giving both the parents and the teachers an easier way to convey both information and needs, the barriers and fear of missing out grow smaller (Edsys, 2017). 

The schools have a responsibility to inform the parents of events at school, such as; teacher-parent conferences, soccer days, hiking trips and so on. Other than general information, the school also has the responsibility to convey to the parents how their child is doing in classes, as well as advancing in social skills and over all behavior. On the other hand, the parents are responsible to convey any important information that can be relevant to the school, such as: allergies, if there is a situation at home the school should be aware of, diagnoses (ADHD, diabetes, and so on), the general normal behavior of the child, and so on (Drugli, Nordahl, 2016). 

At an elementary school level, kids are still discovering who they are, and who they want to be. This means that it is important for teachers to tell the parents how the pupil is behaving, whether it is good or bad behavior. However, at this level the teacher must take in consideration that the behavior of a child in a school setting, differs from the behavior the parents see in their child at home. This often makes for disagreements, and/or one offended party (Drugli, Nordahl, 2016). In moments like this, it is important not to forget that emotions need to be laid aside to come to the best conclusion. However, this disagreement and “on guard” attitude is a blockage in the communication flow.   

 

What needs to be Improved 

Parents and teachers need a good enough understanding towards a child’s needs in their learning process. Which means the teachers and parents would have to be on the same page throughout the child’s upbringing. Some schools blame the parents at home for not spending enough time throughout the child’s schooling and learning, while the parents at home blame the school for lack of information and bad learning guidance for their own child (Lilleindset, 2019). This shows that teachers and parents have different opinions on the child’s needs. This is something that must be improved to create better communication between the school and home, and for those two parties to come to an agreement. 

When teachers call a child’s parents for misbehaving actions it wouldn’t be pleasant news for a parent, and as Andrew McCormick stated, “Children don’t connect an error in their behavior from 9:00 am to a stern parent lecture at 4:00 pm.” Which points out that this might not be a good solution to teach a child, and at the same time the communication between the teacher and parent gives a negative impact. A pupil’s behavior is contextual. If there is a behavior in your class that you don’t like, it’s your responsibility to fix it.  This approach makes you the authority figure in the classroom (McCormick, 2015). 

Some parents would have this bad feeling once a teacher tries to reach out to them, in the thoughts of “oh no, what did the kid do?” Which can portray how a parent think of school in a negative way. Having a communication policy that asks teachers to contact parents monthly, say, would subvert parent’s expectations that a phone call from the teacher means trouble at school (Lanagan, 2015). 

 

An Overview of the Available Digital Tools and what Problem each of them Addresses 

Blog 

A teacher can start a blog to convey information and communicate. That allows a two-way communication system between parents and teachers, where parents can keep up with what’s happening in the classroom and teachers can connect with the families. When parents have questions, they can ask through the blog or read already published information. That makes it simple for parents to help their children with school when they know what’s going on in the respective classes. 

Email 

Communication with e-mail between parents and teachers is common way to communicate, which is used all over the world. This method is used by many because parents are already used to using e-mail daily. In the past, office staff would spend hours every two weeks typing and photocopying a school newsletter (Kathleen Morris, 2019). Today we have the easy option to use e-mail instead. By using e-mail, you can save a lot of time and it allows for a two-way communication where teachers can answer the e-mail. In addition, e-mail is more reliable in the way that it’s much harder to lose the information.  

Social Media 

As social media is getting bigger, and many parents use social media every day, it becomes more of a viable option for communication in schools. Social media is an excellent avenue to explore when considering how you can ‘meet parents where they’re at’ (Kathleen Morris, 2019). Rather than trying to make something new that requires much effort, communication can go through something that’s already in use. Social media is good for communicating both ways, but it can cause problems. For instance, there could be cases where not all parents use social media. Additionally, it’s easy for the information to get into the wrong hands. 

Apps 

In today’s social climate, waiting for even a couple of hours to receive a return email can be considered rude, and it can be difficult for teachers to keep up with the constant need for communication (Matthew Lynch, 2017). With different apps the communication process between teachers and parents can be easy and quick. For example, there are many communication apps with a feature that can translate into different languages (Kathleen Morris). The problem can be to get everyone to use it, but by using good communication apps the two-way communication will be improved.  

 

Sources  

Drugli, M.B. Nordahl, T. (2016) Forskningsartikkel: Samarbeidet mellom hjem og skole. Utdanningsdirektoratet. Obtained from: https://www.udir.no/kvalitet-og-kompetanse/samarbeid/hjem-skole-samarbeid/samarbeidet-mellom-hjem-og-skole/innledning/ 

Edsy (2017, 13. January) 7 Great Apps for Parent-Teacher Communication. Obtained from: https://medium.com/@Edsys/7-great-apps-for-parent-teacher-communication-61a7e6184cf2 

Helgøy, I., & Homme, A. (2015). Hjem–skole-samarbeid for et godt læringsmiljø. Evaluering av lokale hjem–skoleprosjekter og gjennomføring av forsterket hjem–skolesamarbeidObtained from: https://uni.no/media/manual_upload/Rapport_2-2015_Helgoy_og_Homme.pdf 

Lanagan.L (2015, 17. November) What Can Be Done To Improve Parent-Teacher CommunicationKQED News. Obtained from: https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/42715/what-can-be-done-to-improve-parent-teacher-communication 

Lilleindset, I. (2019). Det vanskelige samarbeidet (Bachelor’s thesis, NTNU.) Obtained from: https://ntnuopen.ntnu.no/ntnu-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2610321/no.ntnu%3ainspera%3a2316138.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y 

Lynch, M. (2017, 11. July). The tech edvocate’s list of 11 school communication apps, tools and resources. Obtained from: https://www.thetechedvocate.org/tech-edvocates-list-11-school-communication-apps-tools-resources/ 

McCormick. A. (2015). Why I Don’t Call Home AnymoreThe art of educationObtained from: https://theartofeducation.edu/2015/11/16/why-i-dont-call-home-anymore/ 

Megan Olivia Hall [TEDxBurnsvilleED], 2013, 7. November. Obtained from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kin2OdchKMQ  

Morris, K. (2019, 15. January). Ways Teachers And Schools Can Communicate With Parents In 2019 [Blogpost]. Obtained from: http://www.kathleenamorris.com/2019/01/15/communicate-parents-2019/#apps 

Odden, A. (2016). Samarbeid mellom skole og hjem når foreldrene ikke bor sammen (Bachelor’s thesis). Obtained from: https://brage.inn.no/inn-xmlui/bitstream/handle/11250/2495904/Odden.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y  

Udir (2016) Hjem-skolesamarbeidObtained from: https://www.udir.no/kvalitet-og-kompetanse/samarbeid/hjem-skole-samarbeid/ and https://www.udir.no/laring-og-trivsel/lareplanverket/prinsipper-for-opplaringen2/samarbeid-med-heimen/