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Parent-teacher conferences : a descriptive study of student, parent and teacher opinions 1991

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PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES: A DESCRIPTIVE STUDY OF STUDENT, PARENT AND TEACHER OPINIONS Barry A. B.Ed., University of By MacDonald British Columbia, 1984 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of Counselling Psychology) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA July, 1991 © Barry A. MacDonald, 1991 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada DE-6 (2/88) i i ABSTRACT This study surveyed students, parents and teachers on a variety of matters that bear directly on the parent-teacher conference as a process of reporting pupil progress. To this end 669 pupils from grades 4, 7 and 10; 298 of their parents; and 101 of their elementary and secondary teachers (from a British Columbian school d i s t r i c t covering rural and urban areas) responded to the questionnaires. Its primary purpose was to survey and to describe pupil, parent and teacher perceptions and feelings about a number of dimensions of communication between the three parties about pupil performance at school; and to explore the data for patterns that might indicate matters upon which efforts could be focussed for the improvement of communication and collaboration between the parties. The latter instruments were constructed specifically for the purposes of the investigation and yielded the data collected. Gender, grade level, perceived best and worst grades and school (French Immersion and degrees of socio-cultural advantage or disadvantage) were variables analyzed for students. Parent responses were analyzed by gender, total number of school-aged children and school. Years of teaching experience, educational level, school and gender were analyzed for teachers. Aggregate descriptive results indicated on average that while 40% of students, 52% of parents and 51% of teachers were comfortable with the parent-teacher conference, 40% of students and parents and 30% of teachers reported discomfort or dissatisfaction with matters pertaining to parent-teacher conferences. The following issues were identified and discussed: (a) communication s k i l l s in-servicing for teachers; (b) time i i i length for conferences; (c) provision of receiving assistance to parents for discussion of student performance with pupils; and (d) alternate conference formats (e.g., student-led conference). Supervisor: Dr. John Allan Department of Counselling Psyshology Faculty of Education University of British Columbia i v TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE ABSTRACT i i TABLE OF CONTENTS i v LIST OF TABLES v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT v i i i DEDICATION i x CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION 1 Overview of Reporting P u p i l Progress 1 Statement of the Problem 2 Purpose of the Study 3 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF THE RESEARCH AND RELATED LITERATURE 5 Home-school Relations 5 Importance of the Conference 7 Teacher In-service 9 Procedural Guidelines 10 Conference Effectiveness 18 Summary 23 CHAPTER THREE: RESEARCH METHOD 26 Research Questions 26 Instrument Construction 29 Sampling Procedure 30 Data C o l l e c t i o n • 34 Data Analysis ' 35 CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS 37 Sample Desc r i p t i o n 37 Student Results 41 Parent Results 56 Teacher Results 64 Parent and Teacher Comparative Results 73 Missing Data 75 CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION 76 Student Findings 76 Parent and Teacher Findings 83 Summary 92 Li m i t a t i o n s of the Study 95 Recommendations 96 Di r e c t i o n s f o r Future Research 97 REFERENCES 99 APPENDICES 106 Appendix A. P i l o t Studies 106 Appendix B. Student Survey 108 Appendix C. Parent/Guardian Survey I l l Appendix D. Teacher Survey 114 Appendix E. L e t t e r Granting D i s t r i c t P a r t i c i p a t i o n 117 Appendix F. L e t t e r of Introduction to Parents 119 Appendix G. L e t t e r s of Transmittal to Teachers 121 Appendix H. Protocol f o r Administering Student Survey 122 LIST OF TABLES Table Page I Grades 4 & 7 Percent Scores on Provincial Assessments of Reading (1988) and Social Studies (1989) and Number of Referrals to Dis t r i c t Behavioural Disorder Program by School 32 II Frequency Summary of Student, Parent and • Teacher Respondents by School 38 III Frequency and Percent of Total Number . of School-aged Children per Family by School 40 IV Teachers 1 Years of Experience and Level of Education by School 42 V Student Feelings About Communication Concerning Pupil Progress 44 VI Student Opinions on Anticipation of Parent-teacher Conference 46 VII Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Student Opinions by Grade Level 48 VIII Student Opinions on Items One to Thirteen by Grade Level 49 IX Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Items One to Thirteen for Elementary and Secondary Students 52 X Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Survey Items for Perceived Best Letter Grades ('C & 'A') 53 XI Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Survey Items for Perceived Worst Letter • Grades ('C* & 'B') 54 XII Summary of Self-Reports of What Troubles Parents i n Parent School Communication 58 XIII Frequency Distribution Summary of Parent Perceptions of Teacher D i f f i c u l t i e s 60 XIV Summmary of Parent Opinions on Communication Matters 62 XV Teacher Self-reported D i f f i c u l t i e s 66 LIST OF TABLES (Continued) XVI Summary of Teacher Self- r e p o r t e d D i f f i c u l t i e s and Teacher Perceptions of Parent D i f f i c u l t i e s 68 XVII Teacher Opinions of Communication During the Parent-teacher Conference 70 XVIII Summary of Teacher Responses to Items Two and Six by Years of Experience 72 XIX Summary of Parent and Teacher Opinions 74 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS My deepest gratitude goes to Dr. John A l l a n and Dr. Roy Travis, whose wisdom and s e n s i t i v i t y encouraged me to undertake and complete t h i s study. I am e s p e c i a l l y g r a t e f u l f o r my c l i n i c a l experiences with Dr. A l l a n over the years. The seemingly endless time and energy both these men devoted to the shaping of the f i n a l document has been most appreciated. Thank you to Dr. DuFay Der f o r h i s input as a member of the examining committee. I t i s important to also acknowledge Edna Nash, who has i n s p i r e d me to thoughtfully consider gemeinschaftsgefuhl i n r e l a t i o n to home/school r e l a t i o n s . Thank you to the Langley School D i s t r i c t and i n p a r t i c u l a r Mr. I r v i n Redekopp, Assistant Superintendent, f o r t h e i r p r o v i s i o n of numerous d i s t r i c t services e s s e n t i a l to the completion of t h i s i n v e s t i g a t i o n . F i n a l l y , thank you to my wife, Therese, who a s s i s t e d with f i n a l r e v i s i o n s and has given me her quiet understanding, moral support and patience. DEDICATION For my wife, Therese Marie 1 C H A P T E R O N E : I N T R O D U C T I O N The content of t h i s chapter i s organized to include the following t o p i c s : (a) overview of reporting p u p i l progress, (b) statement of the problem and (c) purpose of the study. Overview of Reporting Pu p i l Progress The most common inguiry d i r e c t e d to educational agencies concerns the reporting of p u p i l progress to parents (Goodlad & Anderson, 1987). Although there e x i s t s numerous methods to report student progress, such as report cards, telephone c a l l s , newsletters, open houses and notes, G a l l u p 1 s (1980) findings i n d i c a t e d that e i g h t y - f i v e percent of the American p u b l i c favour parent-teacher conferences. Parents reported a preference to "meeting with school personnel before each new semester to examine the grades, t e s t scores, and career goals f o r each c h i l d and to work out a program to be followed both at home and i n school" (Gallup, 1980, p. 37). This preference f o r pre-arranged parent-teacher conferences to discuss progress was not always commonplace. Black and Nicklas (1980) have noted that when c i t i e s were smaller and community l i f e prospered, there ex i s t e d more impromptu opportunities to discuss student's progress. Informal discussions took place at church p i c n i c s , country f a i r s and other community events (Canady & Seyfarth, 1979). As large metropolitan centers developed, and teachers began to reside outside the school community, parents and teachers.seldom met informally and the need f o r parent-teacher conferences became apparent. Kroth and Simpson (1977) have i n d i c a t e d that ninety percent of teachers use scheduled parent-teacher conferences to report p u p i l progress. Crotts and Goeldi's (1974) research i n d i c a t e d that parents "strongly favour" parent-teacher conferences as a means t o discuss p u p i l progress. I t has al s o been shown that parents rank parent-teacher conferences as the most e f f e c t i v e means of communication (Sibert, 1979). Parents and teachers perceive that more information regarding a student's progress i s transmitted during a conference than the report card (Erickson, 1973). Perhaps t h i s occurs because a conference s e t t i n g may f a c i l i t a t e two-way or " r e a l communication" while a report card i s l i m i t e d to one-way communication (Cawelti, 1966). Truax and Wargo (1966) concluded from t h e i r research on human encounters which change behaviour that s e n s i t i v e and genuine two-way communication allows p a r t i c i p a n t s to grasp the meaning and s i g n i f i c a n c e of what i s being communicated. The l i t e r a t u r e considered thus f a r has provided groundwork f o r i n v e s t i g a t i n g a more complete understanding of t h i s type of communication as i t pertains to parent-teacher conferences. Statement of the Problem Despite the general acceptance of parent-teacher conferences as an e f f e c t i v e means to report p u p i l progress, several authors have noted that parents, teachers and students are not comfortable with the process. Black and Nicklas (1980) have suggested that because parents have had unpleasant experiences as students themselves, many parents harbour deep-seated resentment toward the educational system. Barron and C o l v i n (1984) described parent- teacher conferences as "monsters hovering on school calendars" (p. 76). F i n a l l y , Goodlad and Anderson (1987) discussed student a n x i e t i e s surrounding report cards and parental reactions to them. Two conditions gave r i s e to the problems t h i s study addressed: (a) the l i m i t a t i o n s of e x i s t i n g knowledge regarding parent-teacher conferences i n general and (b) the absence of knowledge of p u p i l s ' views of parent-teacher communication and a consideration of such views i n conjunction with parent and teacher views on the same subject i n p a r t i c u l a r . Conventional p r a c t i c e e n t a i l s use of both report cards and parent-teacher conferences to report p u p i l progress. Report cards are frequently studied and r e v i s e d or changed but parent-teacher conferences have- never been studied c a r e f u l l y and thoroughly. The present study addresses the l a t t e r subject with the view of reducing the s i z e of the lacuna of information. Purpose of the Study The s p e c i f i c purpose of t h i s study was to survey student, parent and teacher opinions on a v a r i e t y of matters that bear d i r e c t l y on the parent-teacher conference as a process of r e p o r t i n g p u p i l progress at three grade l e v e l s : mid-elementary (Grade 4), l a t e elementary (Grade 7), and mid-high school (Grade 10). The author's employment i n the Langley School D i s t r i c t (#35) afforded access to a sample that served the study's purposes. Students With respect to students, the present study attempted to gain a more complete understanding of the extent they report a sense of discomfort about report cards and parent-teacher conferences. Consideration was also given to whether t h e i r responses d i f f e r e d by grade l e v e l , gender, perceived best and worst l e t t e r grades or school. Farents As with students, the surveying of parents a l s o considered the degree t o which they experience a sense of discomfort during parent-teacher conferences. Questions a d d i t i o n a l l y addressed were: (a) are c e r t a i n kinds of student behaviour more d i f f i c u l t to discuss; (b) i s the time a l l o c a t e d f o r the conference adequate and; (c) are parents s a t i s f i e d with communication during the conference? Parent opinions were a l s o analyzed by gender, school and number of school-aged c h i l d r e n . Teachers Research questions p e r t a i n i n g to teachers were the same as parents. The teacher data was analyzed by gender, years of teaching experience and l e v e l of education. F i n a l l y , a comparison of parent and teacher opinions about parent-teacher conferences was also given a t t e n t i o n . CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF RESEARCH AND RELATED LITERATURE The following review contains an overview of the research and r e l a t e d l i t e r a t u r e focussing on the general t o p i c of parent- teacher conferences. A computer search was run on Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and D i s s e r t a t i o n Abstracts data bases. Upon completion of the review, i t was concluded that the research could be c l a s s i f i e d i n t o f i v e subtopics that are pertinent f o r present purposes: (a) home-school r e l a t i o n s ; (b) importance of the conference; (c) teacher i n - s e r v i c e ; (d) procedural guidelines; and (e) conference ef f e c t i v e n e s s . Home-schooi Relations Rich (1987) compared the r e l a t i o n s h i p between family and school to that of the r i g h t and l e f t hemispheres of the brain. "Both are necessary to each other - complementary, nonduplicative, unique and v i t a l " (p. 9). Since parent-teacher conferences are a valued communication strategy l i n k i n g the home and school (Berger, 1986; Gallup, 1980), a b r i e f consideration of the l i t e r a t u r e pertinent to t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p w i l l now be addressed. B a r r i e r s to home-school communication w i l l also be i d e n t i f i e d . A f t e r reviewing t h i r t y - f i v e studies that attempted to access the impact of "parent involvement i n school a f f a i r s , " Henderson (1988) concluded that there seems to be a p o s i t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p between achievement and parental involvement. "Children whose parents are i n touch with the school score higher than c h i l d r e n of s i m i l a r aptitude and family background whose parents are not involved" (Henderson, 1988, p. 149) . Moles' (1982) synthesis of fourteen studies on parent p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n children's education i n d i c a t e d that although there i s s t i l l much to be learned about the s p e c i f i c types of home-school r e l a t i o n s which p o s i t i v e l y a f f e c t student achievement, there i s ample reason f o r optimism and development o f improved communication techniques. He s p e c i f i c a l l y i d e n t i f i e d the need f o r improvement of parent-teacher conference s t r a t e g i e s . The coming together of parents and teachers to discuss ch i l d r e n ' s progress does not guarantee success (Kline, 1979). Henderson, Marburger & Ooms (1986) s a i d that a b a r r i e r to enhancing home-school r e l a t i o n s , through conferences, l i e s with the a t t i t u d e s and expectations of teachers and administrators. Glendinning (1988) c i t e d a 1987 Metropolitan L i f e Survey (American) which revealed that f i f t y - f i v e percent of parents surveyed perceived that schools only contact parents when there i s a problem with t h e i r c h i l d . Barron and C o l v i n (1984) claimed that low l e v e l s of s k i l l at conversation i n h i b i t teachers and impair t h e i r home-school i n t e r a c t i o n s . McDaniel (1982) i n d i c a t e d that there i s an occasional tendency f o r teachers to preach or pass judgement on parents during parent-teacher conferences. Sonnenschein (1981) reported that b a r r i e r s e x i s t when teachers misperceive parents. In p a r t i c u l a r when parents are regarded as: patient, a d v e r s a r i a l , vulnerable, l e s s i n t e l l i g e n t and responsible f o r the c h i l d ' s condition, d i f f i c u l t i e s can grow. When b a r r i e r s (either teacher or parent i n i t i a t e d ) e x i s t , contacts between home and school are often avoided; and, "unfortunately many unanswered schoo l - r e l a t e d problems become compounded by neglect" (Rotter, 1982, p . 6 ) . Emerging from the l i t e r a t u r e i s an i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the need f o r two-way (not one-way) communication; and communication that i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by empathy, a c t i v e l i s t e n i n g and encouragement. This i s a l s o supported by Al b e r t (1984 & 1989), Dreikurs, Grunwald & Pepper (1982) and E l k s n i n & E l k s n i n (1989). When genuine c o l l a b o r a t i o n e x i s t s , b e n e f i t s emerge. As El k s n i n and El k s n i n (1989) stated: "Collaborative consultation between teacher and parent promotes cooperative problem-solving a c t i v i t i e s that b e n e f i t students..." (p. 268). In B r i t i s h Columbia, c o l l a b o r a t i v e c o n s u l t a t i o n between home and school was given consideration by The S u l l i v a n Royal Commission on Education (Sullivan, 1988), which made several recommendations f o r changes concerning parent involvement. For the f i r s t time i n B r i t i s h Columbia, l e g i s l a t i o n e s t a b l i s h e d the r i g h t of parents to create Parent Advisory Councils i n order to advise educators of parental views. In ad d i t i o n t o parents' l e g a l r i g h t to c o l l a b o r a t i o n , The Royal Commission's Report recommended parents as valued members of the school community. P r o v i n c i a l Department of Education p u b l i c a t i o n s (The Year 2000: A framework f o r learning. 1990; The primary program. 1990; Changes i n education, 1991) r e f l e c t e d government acceptance of the commission's recommendations. In p a r t i c u l a r , each of these documents i d e n t i f i e d the importance of parent-teacher conferences and emphasized two and three-way c o l l a b o r a t i v e communication. Importance of the Conference The importance of parent-teacher conferences was i d e n t i f i e d by The tw e l f t h annual Gallup p o l l of the p u b l i c ' s a t t i t u d e toward p u b l i c schools (1980). Respondents were asked to i n d i c a t e t h e i r opinions concerning the most important elements of education. "Good parent-teacher r e l a t i o n s h i p s " was ranked f o u r t h on a l i s t of 14 elements (Gallup, 1980). In a study by Elam and Gough (1980), the same questions were given to 400 members of Phi Delta Kappa. Educators ranked home-school r e l a t i o n s h i p s as the t h i r d most important element i n education. Carlson and Hillman (1975) summarized the importance of good parent-teacher r e l a t i o n s as both gains f o r parents and gains f o r teachers. During the conference, parents, and teachers can focus on the growth c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s and needs of s p e c i f i c age groups as well as the educational program that are addressed to those c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . While the teacher may a d d i t i o n a l l y l e a r n about family values and how the c h i l d i s motivated at home, parents can l e a r n about how t h e i r c h i l d i s viewed outside the home. In a survey of B r i t i s h Columbian secondary schools, Kaushal and Larsen (1977), discovered that one to four parent-teacher conferences per school year are held i n 80% of secondary schools. Kroth and Simpson's (1977) estimation that at l e a s t 90% of American school d i s t r i c t s u t i l i z e parent-teacher conferences i s s l i g h t l y higher. Despite the apparent importance of parent- teacher conferences, Kaushal and Larsen's (1977) study fur t h e r i n d i c a t e d that parent p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n formal parent-teacher conferences i s f a r from s a t i s f a c t o r y . Parental p a r t i c i p a t i o n of le s s than twenty-five percent i s reported by f o r t y percent of the B r i t i s h Columbian schools sampled. The authors suggested that parents are- uncomfortable i n schools due to e a r l i e r childhood experiences. Other authors ( F i r t h , 1985; Long, 1976; Rathbun, 1978) i d e n t i f i e d the unrefined character of teacher diplomacy s k i l l s as a primary reason f o r parent d i s a t i s f a c t i o n and recommend teacher i n - s e r v i c e . Teacher In-service Researchers recommended in-service training for teachers to improve their diplomacy (Borgstrom, 1986; Chow et a l , 1979; McCabe, 1978; Witherspoon, 1983). Studies demonstrating the effectiveness of in-service training are scant. Three of the five studies described in Dissertation Abstracts International w i l l now be discussed. The f i r s t i s McCabe1s (1978) qualitative study which described a field-based in-service program for teachers that incorporated the following elements: goals, performance objectives, lessons, learning a c t i v i t i e s , and both process and outcome evaluations. He concluded his discussion by pointing out that the program's strength centers on providing inservice training to a much neglected area of teacher education. Another comprehensive in-service system was designed by Chow, Haggerty and Sorensen (1979) containing a f a c i l i t a t o r ' s manual, a participant's workbook and a. resource book. Their qualitative research indicated that teachers benefitted from involvement i n in-service training and recommended further research i n this area. Rotter (1982) commented on a major American study by Prichard (1977) involving 400 teachers which concluded that "the majority of educators f e l t better about their conferencing a b i l i t i e s after receiving some training i n specific s k i l l s that provide open communication" (Rotter, 1982, p. TO). Witherspoon (1983) evaluated the effectvof a communication s k i l l s teacher training program on teacher performance during parent-teacher conferences. The training consisted of ten two-hour sessions in which twenty pre-school teachers and their students' parents participated. Results of the study indicated that teachers who had p a r t i c i p a t e d i n the communication s k i l l s t r a i n i n g program were perceived by parents to be more e f f e c t i v e i n attending, l i s t e n i n g , i n i t i a t i n g and responding. The foregoing discussion of studies that support i n - s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g suggests that both teachers and parents b e n e f i t ; more s p e c i f i c a l l y , they may experience increased diplomatic and t a c t f u l communication during conferences. I t i s a n t i c i p a t e d that the r e s u l t s of the present study may i n d i c a t e s p e c i f i c t o p i c s to be addressed during i n - s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g of teachers. Procedural Guidelines There e x i s t s an abundance of l i t e r a t u r e i d e n t i f y i n g procedural guidelines f o r successful parent-teacher conferences. These are d i r e c t e d at both teachers and parents. A d i s c u s s i o n of teacher g u i d e l i n e s w i l l address both general and comprehensive guidelines and parent-teacher conference models. Suggested guidelines f o r parents w i l l a l s o be discussed. General Teacher Guidelines According to Borgstrom (1986) the l i t e r a t u r e ' s e a r l i e s t example of general parent-teacher conference guidelines was o f f e r e d by D'Evelyn (1945). She recommended that teachers: (a) assume r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r the success of the conference, (b) arrange f o r privacy, (c) not s i t behind a desk, (d) welcome parents i n a relaxed manner, (e) l i s t e n a t t e n t i v e l y , (f) draw out parents' thoughts and f e e l i n g s about the c h i l d , (g) follow through i f a parent i s worried about a c h i l d , (h) accept parents' reasons f o r the c h i l d ' s behaviour, (i) accept parents' plan of action, (j) not argue with parents, (k) not assume the parents want to help, (1) not c r i t i c i z e , (m) not give advice, (n) not get ahead of parents' thinking, (o) avoid embarassing the parent, (p) not show surprize or disapproval, (q) seek a d d i t i o n a l help i f necessary, and (r) end the conference on a p o s i t i v e note (pp. 95-96). The l i t e r a t u r e which followed expanded upon D'Evelyn's (1945) guidelines and emphasized the two-way communication aspect of parent-teacher conferences. Long (1976) emphasized twenty "do's and don'ts" to reduce anxiety during conferences and develop home- school partnerships. Rathbun (1978) o f f e r e d fourteen suggestions f o r avoiding c o n f l i c t . Cramer (1978), McSweeney (1983) and Re i s (1988) a d d i t i o n a l l y suggested general guidelines f o r encouraging parent p a r t i c i p a t i o n and enhancing e f f e c t i v e n e s s of parent-teacher conferences. Black and Nicklas (1980) presented t h e i r g uidelines through case examples contrasting e f f e c t i v e and i n e f f e c t i v e conferences. The f i r s t case exemplified i n e f f e c t i v e communication where the teacher was unprepared and not s e n s i t i v e to the parent's needs. The second case i l l u s t r a t e d the value of attending to r e l a t i o n a l aspects of the conference. Re' (1975) a l s o o f f e r d two case studies where p o s i t i v e teacher communication s k i l l s were modelled. Re's d i s c u s s i o n of these examples focussed on attending to non-verbal communication during the parent-teacher conference. Another strand of the procedural guidelines l i t e r a t u r e focussed on interviewing s k i l l s and empathy. Cawelti (1966) claimed that a c t i v e l i s t e n i n g during the conference i s the teacher's r e s p o n s i b i l i t y . Barron and C o l v i n (1984) emphasized responding s k i l l s and the use of language to communicate empathy and understanding. This was also supported by Dinkmeyer and McKay, (1976); Gordon, (1970); and Rogers, (1963). Stewart (1978) suggested i d e n t i f y i n g p o s i t i v e follow-up plans to support students and o f f e r e d a case study to i l l u s t r a t e t h i s process. Davis and Davis (1981) described the " r h e t o r i c a l approach" to viewing parent-teacher conferences from the parents' vantage point. Their approach underscored the i n t e r p l a y of r o l e s and circumstances. Rotter (1982) s a i d that warmth, empathy and respect are the three primary conditions of e f f e c t i v e parent-teacher conferences. Demonstrating care, p r i m a r i l y through nonverbal behaviour (Rogers, 1963), communicates warmth to parents during the conference. Empathy i s experienced by parents when teachers l i s t e n a t t e n t i v e l y and r e f l e c t back to parents both the content and a f f e c t of what they heard (Rogers, 1963). Parents f e e l respected when they sense that teachers t r u s t i n t h e i r c a p a b i l i t y to solve t h e i r own problems (Adler, 1930). Respect involves a c o l l a b o r a t i v e rather than a dependent r e l a t i o n s h i p , where teachers genuinely work with parents and avoid assuming the expert r o l e (Dreikurs et a l , 1982). Once these conditions of a p o s i t i v e psychological climate are met the teacher may work to be concrete, genuine, immediate, appropriately s e l f - d i s c l o s i n g and open to e f f e c t i v e confrontation (Rotter, 1982). The preceding d i s c u s s i o n of teacher guidelines f o r conferencing recommended p r a c t i c a l advice f o r the improvement of parent-teacher conferences and p a r t i c u l a r i l y brought a t t e n t i o n to empathic communication. This study w i l l l a t e r consider whether parents and teachers report experiencing two-way communication during the conference. Comprehensive Teacher Guides When reviewing.the l i t e r a t u r e which stressed the interviewing process, two teacher guides appeared p a r t i c u l a r i l y comprehensive. Kroth and Simpson's (1977) guide i s i n s i g h t f u l because they have drawn upon leading i n d i v i d u a l s i n the c o u n s e l l i n g l i t e r a t u r e to explain the interview process as i t pertains to parent-teacher conferences. They also o f f e r e d several r o l e - p l a y i n g senarios i n which teachers can p r a c t i c e t h e i r communication s k i l l s . The second guide o f f e r e d by Canady and Seyfarth (1979) welcomed disagreements i n the parent-teacher conference and suggested approaches t o s e n s i t i v e l y resolve c o n f l i c t . They presented several examples covering a broad range of p o t e n t i a l c o n f l i c t s . The Michigan A s s o c i a t i o n of Middle School Educators o f f e r e d a comprehensive teacher guide to conducting parent-teacher conferences (Hamachek & Romano, 1984). Although i t set f o r t h perceptual a l t e r n a t i v e s , or p o s i t i v e ways to discuss students' negative behaviours, i t d i d not appear to emphasize many of the communication s k i l l s described by the previous authors. The Toronto Board of Education (1982) o f f e r e d a comprehensive guide which h i g h l i g h t s r e l a t i o n s h i p b u i l d i n g i n the interview process. Topics such as parents of d i f f e r e n t ethno-cultural backgrounds, angry parents, p u n i t i v e parents, parents who discuss family problems, the presence of the c h i l d during the conference and p a r t i c i p a t i o n of other p r o f e s s i o n a l s were included. S p e c i f i c suggestions are offered. The B r i t i s h Columbia Teachers' Federation has a l s o published a general guide f o r elementary teachers (Poulton & Lombardi, 1981). Of p a r t i c u l a r interest to the present discussion i s the lack of research presented by these guides to support t h e i r recommendations. I t appears that they offer r e c i p e - l i k e approachs to conducting effective conferences which are not empirically validated. The present study w i l l provide a more thorough understanding of parent-teacher conferences and suggest s p e c i f i c recommendations based on survey data. Models for Conducting Parent-teacher Conferences Numerous models for conducting parent-teacher conferences are presented i n the l i t e r a t u r e . They may be categorized as t r a d i t i o n a l or alternative models. Gelfer and Perkins (1987) presented a nine-step model i n which s p e c i f i c suggestions are discussed for each component. The suggestions are aimed at reducing discomfort and confusion while creating a productive working relationship. In p a r t i c u l a r , they recommend that parents be allowed to t a l k without interruption (teachers should not t r y to respond to every issue) and send a conference summary home to parents to c l a r i f y the r esulting plan of action. Other models emphasized s i m i l a r suggestions. Mayers and Pawlas (1989) reported that teachers tend "to monopolize parent-teacher conferences by t a l k i n g 75 to 98 percent of the a l l o t t e d time" and that t h i s "expert" role can hinder parent p a r t i c i p a t i o n (p. 67). Kline (1979) and Meyers and Pawlas (1989) i d e n t i f i e d three-step models which also recommended a conference summary or action plan to implement outcomes of the conference. Alternate models for conducting parent-teacher conferences suggested more parent- collaboration, counsellor assistance and student p a r t i c i p a t i o n . Elksnin and Elksnin (1989) outlined a c o l l a b o r a t i v e consultation model, c o n s i s t i n g of an eight step process where the parent-teacher conference i s reconceptualized to focus on parents and teachers as mutual problem-solvers. They caution the teacher from assuming an expert r o l e but recommend a consultant r o l e ; thus recognizing the benefit of parent and teacher c o l l a b o r a t i o n . Involving counsellors i n selected parent-teacher conferences was suggested by Carlson and Hillman (1975). Their parent-teacher-counsellor model u t i l i z e d the helping s k i l l s of a t r a i n e d counsellor to f a c i l i t a t e mutual support, c o l l a b o r a t i o n and modelling of e f f e c t i v e communication s k i l l s . They recommended (a) c l a r i f y i n g the purpose of the meeting; (b) exploring the issues i n a non-threatening manner which avoids blaming and f a u l t - f i n d i n g ; (c) asking s p e c i f i c questions to p u l l together data; (d) a s s i s t i n g parent and teacher to understand the contingencies of the c h i l d ' s behaviour; and (e) obtaining a plan f o r r e o r i e n t a t i o n . Camp (1958) and Glasser (1969) have advocated that students be a c t i v e members of conference teams. Hogan (1975) also supported t h i s approach and suggested the following advantages: (a) students experience parent and teacher working as a team f o r h i s or her benefit; (b) the aura of secretiveness i s eliminated; (c) expectations become cl e a r to a l l i n t e r e s t e d p a r t i e s ; (d) student involvement encourages ownership of actions mutually decided upon; and (e) an open r e l a t i o n s h i p between home and school i s f a c i l i t a t e d (p. 313). Freeman's (1975) d e s c r i p t i o n of three-way communication (student-parent-teacher) included preparation guidelines f o r teachers and students. She advocated student rehearsal through roleplaying i n a variety of groupings. Hubert (1989) further suggested that parents, teachers and students each be oriented i n preparation for the conference. Readdick, Golbeck, Klein and Cartwright (1984) presented a child-centered, developmental three-way conference model for mildly disabled, normal and gifted children in preschools and elementary schools. Included in this model are suggestions for responding to active, passive and reactive modes of child involvement. They also identified the need to be sensitive to a child's developmental level; for example, younger pupils w i l l l i k e l y assume a more passive role during the conference. Wyatt and Wyatt (1985) reported a three-way conference model and emphasized that secondary students may also be active participants. Their model differs from the previous one (Readdick et a l , 1984) as i t i s teacher-centered and does not include students i n the pre-conference phase. The teacher decides the agenda, presents student profile and encourages three-way dialogue. L i t t l e (1986) developed the student-led parent-teacher conference model which places students of a l l grade levels i n a key leadership position, as they assume the role of reporting school progress to parents. The primary goal of these conferences i s to "teach students the basic principles of accepting responsibility for the work they do at school, to help students learn new concepts and s k i l l s , and to offer students the opportunity to show their achievement to parents" (p. 210). L i t t l e (1986) claimed that this approach to reporting student progress i s based on the Adlerian view that children are social beings whose behaviour i s purposeful and self-determining, thus thev are capable and w i l l i n g to take r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r t h e i r experience (Dinkmeyer & McKay, 1976). L i t t l e ' s (1986) o r i g i n a l work was elaborated by L i t t l e and A l l a n (1989), who reported that " t h i s program improved not only home-school communication patterns but a l s o the educational climate of the school during the conference time" (p. 217). L i t t l e and MacDonald (1991) also discussed how p o s i t i v e home-school r e l a t i o n s h i p s may be encouraged by implementing student-led conferences. Guyton and F i e l s t e i n (1989) s u c c e s s f u l l y implemented L i t t l e and A l l a n ' s (1989) student-led parent-teacher model and reported that a l l p a r t i e s were s a t i s f i e d with the approach. Parent Guidelines There are several guidelines f o r parents that contribute to p o s i t i v e outcomes of parent-teacher conferences. The United Federation of Teachers (1989) o f f e r e d a comprehensive parent guide f o r parent-teacher conferences at a l l grade l e v e l s of p u b l i c education. The manual suggested: (a) p o t e n t i a l questions to ask the teacher, (b) exchanging information about behaviour at home, (c) what should be noticed during the conference, (d) p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the parents' association, and (e) guidelines f o r home discussion. F i r t h ' s (1985) discussion e n t i t l e d "The dreaded parent- teacher conference: You both win or your c h i l d l o s e s " suggested the development of sixteen s k i l l s f o r a c t i v e parent p a r t i c i p a t i o n during conferences. He advises parents to: overcome f e e l i n g s of int i m i d a t i o n ; relax and be prepared; f a c i l i t a t e cooperative problem-solving; encourage or assume leadership i f the teacher i s s t r u g g l i n g ; and d i r e c t conference time toward constructive a c t i o n and e f f e c t i v e solutions (pp, 57-69). A l b e r t ' s (1984) chapter on es t a b l i s h i n g an e f f e c t i v e home-school partnership o f f e r e d parents p r a c t i c a l suggestions and guidelines f o r e f f e c t i v e communication. She accentuated honesty and respect. Conference Effectiveness The various studies of conference e f f e c t i v e n e s s gave emphasis t o f i v e t o p i c s : parent and teacher s a t i s f a c t i o n ; parent and teacher a t t i t u d e s ; e f f e c t s on parent a t t i t u d e s toward school; perceived problems; and comparison of methods. Parent and Teacher S a t i s f a c t i o n Homfeld (1953) surveyed parents and teachers to evaluate the e f f e c t i v e n e s s of a newly i n i t i a t e d program of r e g u l a r i l y scheduled parent-teacher conferences i n the Menlo Park School D i s t r i c t . Of the twenty-four teachers surveyed 90.2% i n d i c a t e d that both parents and teachers' understanding of the schools and c h i l d r e n had increased. Favorable outcomes from the conference were reported by 93% of parents surveyed. Haake's (1958) survey was l a r g e r (even i f remote i n time - pre-1960 - and circumstances - New York) : 838 parents and 211 teachers were included. He found that nearly 97% of the parents were s a t i s f i e d with the conferences when the content items important to parents were covered and procedures parents considered to be important were followed. The more teachers had conferred with parents, the more favorably the parents responded. Both parents and teachers were i n s u b s t a n t i a l agreement on the importance of conference content items. Rundberg (1979) examined how c e r t a i n dimensions of parent-teacher conferences r e l a t e d to s a t i s f a c t i o n with those conferences. These dimensions included usefulness, r e c i p r o c a l influence and accurate perceptions. Eighty-three parents p a i r e d with 12 elementary school teachers completed a post-conference survey. Results i n d i c a t e d that a majority of parents and teachers found t h e i r conferences s a t i s f y i n g , with parents more s a t i s f i e d than teachers. Parents were found to consider themselves more influ e n c e d by teachers. Both groups reported accuracy i n pe r c e i v i n g one another's responses to the conferences. In a more recent study, Borgstrom (1986) evaluated 270 parent responses from the Anaka-Hennepin School D i s t r i c t to pre and post-questionnaires on parent-teacher conferences. Responses were analyzed i n t o t a l and i n r e l a t i o n to parents' economic l e v e l and c h i l d ' s grade level.. She concluded that parent expectations are not met at the conference and responses d i f f e r according to economic l e v e l but not to c h i l d ' s grade l e v e l . She found that parents of lower economic l e v e l s expected more from conferences. S p e c i f i c a l l y , they held greater expectations with respect to c h i l d ' s p h y s i c a l growth, teacher behaviours, and, p a r t i c u l a r i l y , conference format. Borgstrom (1986) made the fo l l o w i n g recommendations: (a) i n s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g f o r teachers (with s p e c i a l emphasis on communicating with parents of lower economic l e v e l s ) ; (b) parent and teachers exchange information p r i o r to the conference, to determine objectives; (c) develop s p e c i f i c g u idelines; and (d) include the number of school-aged c h i l d r e n i n the respondent's family and years of teacher experience i n future studies. The present study included number of school-aged children i n respondent's family and years of teacher experience as variables to be analyzed. Parent arid Teacher Attitudes A comparison of parent and teacher attitudes toward parent-teacher conferences in selected California Seventh-day Adventist schools was conducted by Revel (1986). The study sampled 516 parents and 73 teachers and concluded that parents were less sa t i s f i e d with current conferencing practices than were teachers; and perceived a greater need for these practices to be improved than did teachers. Parents were consistently more interested than teachers i n the high potential quality of Christian education. The author recommended that teachers become better acquainted with the philosophy and culture of their school community. Gerdes (1956) attempted to discover i f the attitudes of parents and teachers were associated with success in the parent-teacher conference. The sample consisted of 22 teachers and 44 parents. Attitudes were measured with the Minnesota * Teacher Attitude Inventory: Form A (1956). The focus was in terms of agreement and understanding. Gerdes concluded that agreement was not primary in successful parent-teacher conferences; rather, understanding, particularily that of parent by teacher, was of greater significance. This agrees with the literature (discussed previously) that advocated active listening (e.g. Gordon, 1970; and Rogers,1963). Gerdes (1956) found that teachers in general were better predictors of parent attitudes than parents were of teacher attitudes toward the conference. Erickson (1973) compared parent and teacher attitudes to discover what types of information were thought to be gained from report cards and parent-teacher conferences. The sample consisted of 328 parents and teachers of 11 schools. Both parents and teachers indicated a preference for parent-teacher conferences over report cards. It was reported that while the achievement level of the student seems to most affect teacher responses, gender of the child most affects parent responses. Parents of g i r l s agreed more often than parents of boys when responding to information conveyed during the conference. Teacher responses regarding conferences tend to be more uncertain with parents of low achievers than with parents of average or high achievers. Effects on Parent Attitudes Toward School Kitchens (1961) attempted to determine whether existing parent attitudes toward schools could be positively changed as a result of successful conferences. Pre and post-questionnaire results indicated that parents who participated i n a structured conference had more favorable attitudes toward school and teachers than did other parents surveyed. His evidence also indicated that regularily scheduled unstructured conferences may have more negative impact on parent attitudes toward school than structured conferences. A similar study by Grant (1963) found that parent attitudes toward five specific aspects of school are not significantly changed as a result of structured parent-teacher conferences. Rather, teachers who are "doing a good job" and using a structured conference were shown in some instances to change parental attitudes. He further indicated that no significant change i s produced by "good" teachers using an unstructured conference, nor by "poor" teachers using a structured conference. Perceived Problems Beals (1973) attempted to gain an understanding of parents' views of parent-teacher conferences and to r e l a t e those problems to s e l e c t e d parental background f a c t o r s . Her survey of 239 elementary school parents i n d i c a t e d parental confidence i n the d i s t r i c t ' s use of parent-teacher conferences. She a l s o found that parental opinion was not influenced by age, education, gender, f a m i l y - r e l a t i o n s h i p or the number of conferences h e l d i n 1971-72. Parents i n d i c a t e d a preference f o r more conference time i n which to discuss student progress (unfortunately, the amount of conference time was not s p e c i f i e d ) . In another study, K l e i f e l d t (1975) i n v e s t i g a t e d problems perceived by parents concerning parent-teacher conferences. In a d d i t i o n to 154 parents, t h i s sample included 8 administrators and 122 teachers. Results i n d i c a t e d that parents and teachers hold d i f f e r i n g expectations toward the purpose and procedures of conferences. S p e c i f i c a l l y , reported d i f f e r e n c e s between parents and teachers concerned the discussion of intimate t o p i c s r e l a t e d t o the development of the c h i l d , purpose of the conference and procedure f o r discussing student progress at the conference. Comparison of Methods R o b i t a i l l e ' s (1959) study compared three d i f f e r i n g methods of r e p o r t i n g p u p i l progress at the fourth, f i f t h and s i x t h grades: report card, report card and parent-teacher conference and report card and parent-teacher-student conference. Results i n d i c a t e d that there was a tendency f o r parents to p r e f e r a parent-teacher conference when combined with a written report. Unfortunately, t h i s study d i d not inves t i g a t e which method students preferred. This present study w i l l report the extent that students experience discomfort during the repo r t i n g process. Ruttman (1987) l a t e r compared structured and i n d i v i d u a l l y s t y l i z e d parent-teacher conferences. Structured conferences consisted of four components: (a) subjective data; (b) objective data; (c) assessment of data; and (e) a plan of acti o n . I n d i v i d u a l l y s t y l i z e d conferences were defined as a myriad of approaches employed by teachers (the con t r o l group). Unfortunately, the v a r i e t y of these approaches was not c l e a r l y i d e n t i f i e d . No s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s between approaches were found. Both experimental groups i n d i c a t e d that while homework and c l a s s assignment were the most frequent problems discussed, substance abuse issues were l e a s t reported. Summary This chapter reviewed l i t e r a t u r e on parent-teacher conferences, addressed through the following subtopics: (a) home-school r e l a t i o n s , (b) importance of the conference, (c) teacher i n - s e r v i c e , (d) procedural guidelines, and (e) conference e f f e c t i v e n e s s . Some of the conclusions that may be drawn from each subtopic can be summarized as follows: (a) There e x i s t s a p o s i t i v e r e l a t i o n s h i p between e f f e c t i v e parent-teacher conferences and p o s i t i v e home-school partnerships; (b) Parents and teachers report v a l u i n g parent-teacher conferences as a means to report p u p i l progress; (c) Teachers b e n e f i t t e d from involvement i n i n - s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g ; (d) The l i t e r a t u r e i s f i l l e d with suggestions, guidelines and models f o r conducting both traditional and alternative conferences (most of which emphasized collaborative communication and mutual problem-solving)-- (e) Comprehensive teacher guides address a l l grade levels and specific communication issues; (f) Some writers also offered guidelines for parents; and (g) With the exception of Borgstrom (1986) and Revel (1986), studies revealed that sample proportions of parents and teachers expressing some degree of satisfaction or no dissatisfaction with parent-teacher conferences ranged from 90% to 97%. This researcher doubts that on average only ten percent of parents or teachers are dissatisfied with the present approaches and limitations of parent-teacher conferences. It i s interesting to note that the previously discussed studies on parent-teacher conferences do not examine whether students are satisfied with the reporting process, despite "the well known fact that children sometimes have anxieties about their 'report cards' and the ways their parents w i l l react to them" (Goodlad & Anderson, 1987, p. 136). Richardson's (1955) report of the Cooperative Council on In-service Education claimed: (a) that children want parents and teachers to know one another; (b) that children wish to participate i n the reporting conference; (c) that some children are anxious about the conference; and (d) that children want parents to appreciate their efforts. At this time, reports on empirical investigations of these matters are extremely hard to find. The only one found i s that of Anderson and Steadman (1950), who surveyed seventy-six grade eight students from I l l i n o i s with a questionnaire about the practice of sending achievement records to parents. The study concluded that students hold reservations about report cards and additionally indicated that children report discomfort about discussing report cards with parents. They claimed that valuable information could be obtained by surveying student opinions and attitudes concerning the parent-teacher conference. This present study i s designed to obtain student opinions about parent-teacher interaction; and i t conveys such information in conjunction with parallel data from parents and teachers. C H A P T E R T H R E E : R E S E A R C H M E T H O D The substance of t h i s chapter i s organized i n t o the following sections: (a) research questions; (b) instrument construction; (c) sampling procedure; (d) data c o l l e c t i o n ; and (e) data a n a l y s i s . Research Questions This study addressed the following questions f o r each sampled group: Students 1. In what ways and to what extent do students report a sense of discomfort about home-school communication concerning t h e i r school progress? S p e c i f i c a l l y , what i s the extent of concern about the following: a. reporting i n general; b'. teacher's written comments about performance; c. the p u p i l ' s communication with parent? 2 . In what ways and to what extent do students report a sense of discomfort about parent-teacher conferences? S p e c i f i c a l l y , what i s the degree of concern about the following: a. parent-teacher conferences i n general; b. what w i l l be discussed i n the student's absence; c. communication with parent? 3. In what ways and to what extent do student opinions of the reporting process d i f f e r by gender, grade l e v e l , perceived best and worst l e t t e r grades ana school? Parents 4. To what extent do parents report a sense of discomfort when di s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d " s progress during the parent-teacher conference? 5. In what ways and to what extent do parents report d i f f i c u l t y i n d i s c u s s i n g matters p e r t a i n i n g to t h e i r c h i l d ? S p e c i f i c a l l y , a. do parents report d i f f i c u l t y discussing: (i) t h e i r c h i l d ' s behaviour; ( i i ) the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h e i r c h i l d ' s a b i l i t i e s ; and ( i i i ) t h e i r c h i l d when he/she f a l l s short i n achievement; and b. to what extent do parents perceive that teachers have such d i f f i c u l t i e s d i s c u s s i n g students who: (i) have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s ; ( i i ) achieve above average; ( i i i ) misbehave; (iv) are average; and (v) achieve below average? 6 . To what extent do parents desire more time f o r d i s c u s s i n g student progress at the conference? 7. With respect to communication during the parent-teacher conference, i n what ways and to what extent do parents report d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with the following dimensions of parental p a r t i c i p a t i o n : a. the adequacy of teachers' responses to parent questions; b. how well teachers l i s t e n to what parents say; c. teachers being too p o s i t i v e or too c r i t i c a l about p u p i l performance; and d. c l a r i t y and directness of teacher's comments? 8 . With respect to parent-teacher conferences, do d i f f e r e n c e s become evident when the views of parents, whose c h i l d r e n attend schools that have fewer behavioural disorder r e f e r r a l s and r e l a t i v e l y higher achievement indices, are compared with the views of parents, whose children attend schools with more behavioural disorder r e f e r a l s and r e l a t i v e l y lower achievement indices? 9. To what degree does the number of respondent's school-aged children or respondent's gender affect parent's reported opinions of parent-teacher conferences? Teachers 10. In what ways and to what extent do teachers report d i f f i c u l t y discussing matters pertaining to students? S p e c i f i c a l l y , a. do teachers report d i f f i c u l t y discussing student's: (i) behaviour; ( i i ) l imitations of a b i l i t y ; and ( i i i ) f a l l i n g short i n achievement; b. do teachers report d i f f i c u l t y discussing students who: (i) have l i m i t e d a b i l i t i e s ; ( i i ) achieve above average; ( i i i ) misbehave; (iv) are average; and (v) achieve below average; and c. to what extent do teachers perceive that parents have such d i f f i c u l t i e s ? 11. To what extent do teachers desire more time for discussing student progress at the conference? 12. With respect to communication during the parent-teacher conference, i n what ways and to what extent do teachers report d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with the following dimensions of parental p a r t i c i p a t i o n : a. the adequacy of parent's responses to teacher questions; b. how well parents l i s t e n to what teachers say; c. expression of disporportionately negative (overly c r i t i c a l ) views of the c h i l d ; . d. understanding of teacher comments? 13. To what extent do years of teaching experience, educational l e v e l or respondent's gender a f f e c t teacher responses to survey items? Parents and Teachers 14. In what ways and to what extent do parent and teacher opinions d i f f e r with regard to parent-teacher conferences as assessed by the parent and teacher survey instruments? Instrument Construction Three instruments were required f o r t h i s study: one f o r each of the three groups of p a r t i c i p a n t s (students, parents and teachers). Care was taken to ensure that these instruments would y i e l d two types of data: that i s , each was designed to y i e l d information that r e f l e c t e d the views that are p a r t i c u l a r to the status of teacher, parent or p u p i l ; and, at the same time, each was designed with comparability between the three groups on given t o p i c s (of concern to a l l ) . Accordingly, a f t e r preliminary explorations with the three groups and appropriate consultations with researchers, the author's sense of the contents that warranted close s c r u t i n y was augmented and r e f i n e d . The composition of items and the formulation of the instruments used r e f l e c t e d considerations derived from consultation with: f a c u l t y ; p i l o t studies (see Appendix A); and discussions with concerned p a r t i e s . Each of the surveys u t i l i z e d a Likert-type scale which permitted degrees of agreement and disagreement. A c e n t r a l response point also allowed respondents to i n d i c a t e n e u t r a l i t y . The Student Survey (see Appendix B) i s comprised of fifteen items concerning the following: report cards (4 items); parent- teacher conferences (6 items); and topics permitting further analyses (e.g., "My best letter grade i s . . . " ) . The Parent Survey (see Appendix C) consists of 12 items reflecting concerns expressed by parents during preliminary investigations. The Teacher Survey (see Appendix D) has 10 items which also reflected their concerns. Each of the surveys began with background questions about the respondent. Sampling Procedure Approximately 20% (n=750) of the d i s t r i c t ' s 3,695 pupils (in three grade levels - see below) was deemed to be an adequate sample for purposes of (and i n keeping with the constraints on) this study. Three grade levels were chosen to provide a rough cross-section of stages i n schooling: grade 4 comes at the end of primary schooling and the middle of elementary school; grade 7 signals the end of elementary schooling and the transition to secondary schooling; and grade 10 marks the middle of secondary schooling. Accordingly, 250 pupils from each of these three grade levels were sought as the fulfillment of the 20% sample goal. After securing the approval and cooperation of school d i s t r i c t o f f i c i a l s (see Appendix E) schools were identified as catchment sources for participants i n the study (five elementary and two secondary schools). Just prior to administering the Student Survey, two of the selected elementary schools indicated that three grade seven classes would not be able to participate i n the study due to unforeseen circumstances. Two additional schools were selected for convenience of access (elementary schools #6 and #7) . To ensure that the sample included an adequate number of children from homes that were not blessed with socio-cultural advantages, schools that served such children i n greater numbers than i s typical i n the d i s t r i c t were included. Numerous studies indicate that socio-cultural disadvantages are well-known correlates of lower academic achievement (Jencks, 1972; Bourdieu, 1984; and Gray, MacPherson & Raffee, 1983). Jencks (1972) has stated that culturally advantaged families (i.e., white, middle class, academically talented) tend to select homes i n middle to high-income neighbourhoods where their children w i l l attend schools with culturally advantaged schoolmates; just as culturally disadvantaged families tend to liv e in lower-income neighbourhoods where their children attend schools with other disadvantaged schoolmates. As a d i s t r i c t counsellor the writer was i n a position to know which schools were i n culturally disadvantaged neighbourhoods. On the basis of achievement indices on two provincial assessments and referals to the d i s t r i c t ' s behavioral disorder program three such schools were selected. The specific c r i t e r i a for selecting these elementary schools was: (a) below d i s t r i c t and provincial mean performance for grades four and seven students on Bri t i s h Columbian assessments of social studies (1989) and reading (1988); and (b) more than average number of d i s t r i c t referrals to the d i s t r i c t ' s behaviour disorder program (1990 and 1991). Table I outlines provincial indices and numbers of behavioral disorder Table I Grades 4 & 7 Percent Scores on Provincial Assessments of Reading (1988) and Social Studies (1989) and Number of Referrals to Dist r i c t Behavioural Disorder Program by School School Grade Reading Social Studies Behavioural Disorder #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 Dist r i c t 4 7 Province 4 7 * 64% * 65% * 70% * 67% 72% 73% NA NA 77% * 70% 73% * 68% NA NA 71% 72% 71% 73% * 57% * 55% * 63% * 60% 67% 66% NA NA 74% 71% * 61% * 59% NA NA 66% 63% 68% 65% @ 6 @ 4 @ 2 NA Note: (a) percent scores are rounded to nearest whole number (b) * = below d i s t r i c t mean (c) @ = above d i s t r i c t mean (d) NA = data not available r e f e r r a l s f o r elementary schools. The reader w i l l note that data are not included f o r the two secondary schools. Research on French Immersion students has i n d i c a t e d that these p u p i l s are s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y advantaged (Cummins, 1984; Genesee, 1984; and Cummins & Swain, 1986). Cummins (1984) found that student success i n French Immersion programs appeared to be r e l a t e d to s o c i o - c u l t u r a l f a c t o r s "such as the degree of ambivalence v i v - a - v i s home and majority c u l t u r e s " (1984, p. 87). Genesee (1984) concluded that the majority of immersion programs i n Canada are populated by students who are c u l t u r a l l y advantaged (he i n d i c a t e d they were p r i m a r i l y middle to upper-middle c l a s s f a m i l i e s ) not because of t h e i r economic status but because of t h e i r parents' c u l t u r a l a s p i r a t i o n s . This notion has a l s o been supported by Cummins and Swain (1986) who agreed that immersion students are c u l t u r a l l y advantaged. They i n d i c a t e d that the f a m i l i e s of immersion students perceive greater c u l t u r a l value and p r e s t i g e of immersion programs. Two schools (#1 and #6) which o f f e r e d French Immersion programs were included i n the sample to permit contrasting of student responses according to d i f f e r i n g school programs. School #1 had a small grade seven immersion population (n=12), while School #6's program was somewhat la r g e r (grade 4, n=48; grade 7, n=23). I t i s i n t e r e s t i n g that both these schools were also s e l e c t e d as schools which had below average scores on p r o v i n c i a l assessments and above average numbers of r e f e r r a l s to the behavioural disorder program. I t i s important to note that because the immersion programs are located through out the d i s t r i c t , students who do not l i v e within the school's catchment area are e n t i t l e d to e n r o l l . Parents of the e n t i r e student sample were requested to complete the Parent Survey and teachers of p a r t i c i p a t i n g schools were requested to complete the Teacher Survey. P a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h i s study was voluntary and anonymous f o r students, parents and teachers. Data C o l l e c t i o n Students Once p a r t i c i p a t i n g schools were se l e c t e d a f i v e day schedule f o r surveying students was developed. The survey was administered to students and d i s t r i b u t e d to parents and teachers the week p r i o r to the dispersement of report cards i n March. Consideration had been given to conducting the research a f t e r report cards had been dispersed and parent-teacher conferences conducted, however, during that week which followed students and teachers were preparing f o r Spring Break (a one week h o l i d a y ) . I t would have been d i f f i c u l t to obtain cooperation of the concerned p a r t i e s during t h i s week. The w r i t e r followed the es t a b l i s h e d protocol f o r administering the Student Survey (Appendix I) to grades four and seven students, while a contact at each secondary school administered the Student Survey to grade ten students. Both of these secondary teachers were t r a i n e d by the researcher to administer the Student Survey. The survey items were read out loud by the wr i t e r to grade four students to ensure items were understood. Grades seven and ten students read the survey items without assistance. P u p i l surveys took an average of 20 minutes f o r grades four students and 10 - 15 minutes f o r grades seven and ten students to compete. P r o v i s i o n f o r c l a r i f y i n g student questions about the study was made a f t e r surveys were completed. Parents A f t e r completing the survey, students were issued an envelope containing the Parent Survey (Appendix B), a l e t t e r of int r o d u c t i o n from the As s i s t a n t Superintendent (Appendix G) and were requested to take the envelope home to parents and l a t e r return the surveys to t h e i r classroom teacher. Teachers Except f o r one of the secondary schools, a l l surveys were d i s t r i b u t e d to teacher mailboxes by the wri t e r . Each teacher received a l e t t e r of t r a n s m i t t a l (Appendix H) from the researcher and a Teacher Survey (Appendix C). The contact at one secondary school chose to administer the survey at a s t a f f meeting, which r e s u l t e d i n a t h i r t y percent increased teacher p a r t i c i p a t i o n rate. A d i s c u s s i o n of how the responses from t h i s school d i f f e r e d from the remainder of schools w i l l be addressed i n the chapter d i s c u s s i n g r e s u l t s . Teachers from two of the elementary schools (#5 and #7) were not surveyed as members from these schools attended an i n s e r v i c e presented by t h i s researcher on communication with parents and may have been influenced by such p a r t i c i p a t i o n . A l l data was meticulously entered i n t o the u n i v e r s i t y ' s mainframe computing system by the researcher. Data Analysis D e s c r i p t i v e s t a t i s t i c s and i n f e r e n t i a l analyses of the data were derived u t i l i z i n g the S t a t i s t i c a l Package f o r S o c i a l Sciences: Extended v e r s i o n Release 3.0 (Under MTS). The Chi-square s t a t i s t i c was used to analyze the data, and the c r i t e r i o n f o r judgement of s t a t i s t i c a l s i g n i f i c a n c e was p<.05, i n a l l cases. Student grade l e v e l was one v a r i a b l e addressed i n t h i s study. The grade l e v e l s were placed i n t o three groups: grades four, seven and ten. Another v a r i a b l e addressed i n t h i s study was school, as defined by below d i s t r i c t mean scores on p r o v i n c i a l assessments, number school r e f e r r a l s to behavioral disordered programs and p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n French Immersion programs. Student self-p e r c e p t i o n s of best and worst l e t t e r grades u s u a l l y received were a l s o considered. The number of school-aged c h i l d r e n per family was a l s o considered i n the a n a l y s i s of parental responses. V a r i a b l e s s p e c i f i c to teachers were years of teaching experience and l e v e l of education. Gender was considered i n the analyses of students, parents and teachers. The reader may notice p r o v i s i o n f o r respondents to make general comments at the completion of the surveys. Due to time and resource constraints and objectives of t h i s study, the comments were not systematically analyzed f o r purposes of t h i s document. CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS This study was designed to survey student, parent and teacher opinions on a v a r i e t y of matters that bear d i r e c t l y on the parent- teacher conference as a process of reporting p u p i l progress. A de s c r i p t i o n of the sample w i l l f i r s t be discussed, followed by a presentation of student, parent and teacher survey responses, as they r e l a t e to the fourteen research questions e a r l i e r outlined. Sample Description The Township of Langley and C i t y of Langley are located i n the Fraser Valley, about f i f t y kilometers east of Vancouver, B r i t i s h Columbia and have populations of 63,000 and 19,000, re s p e c t i v e l y . The school d i s t r i c t that encompasses both township and c i t y i s a mix of r u r a l and urban development. While l i t t l e abject poverty i s to be found i n the area, there i s a range of prosperi t y or affluence, and a concomitant range of c u l t u r a l c a p i t a l i s to be found i n the homes. Table II presents a summary de s c r i p t i o n of the sample. Students As of Febuary 1991 the Langley School D i s t r i c t served 17,092 students (11,136 elementary and 5,956 secondary students) i n thirty-two elementary schools and seven secondary schools. Of the p o t e n t i a l grade four sample i n f i v e elementary schools (n=250), ninety-six percent (n=241) completed the survey. Due to. absence, nine students d i d not complete the survey. Table II Frequency Summary of Student, Parent and Teacher Respondents by School 38 School Grade 4 Grade 7 Grade 10 Parents Teachers Elementary #1 38 49 - 35 8 #2 46 - - 28 10 #3 55 52 - 58 11 #4 - 34 - 17 11 #5 33 28 - 45 #6 69 23 - 65 12 #7 41 - 22 - Secondary #8 - - 86 7 15 #9 - - 115 21 34 Total Sample 241 227 201 298 101 Gender Male 139 110 100 69 39 Female 102 117 101 229 62 Ninety percent (n=227) of grade seven students from s i x elemantary schools completed the survey. Twenty-three students were absent. Eighty percent (n=201) of grade ten students from two secondary schools completed the survey. Forty-nine of these were absent and or were outside of the classroom during administration of the survey. This was expected as secondary students are often involved i n e x t r a - c u r r i c u l a r a c t i v i t i e s which may at times take them away from c l a s s . Fifty-two percent of student respondents completing questionaires were male (Gd.4: n=139, 57%; Gd.7: n=110, 48%; Gd.10: n=100, 50%). Parents Of the surveys (n=468) d i s t r i b u t e d to elementary school parents, f i f t y - s e v e n percent were returned (n=268). The secondary parent response rate of fourteen percent (n=28) was s i g n i f i c a n t l y lower. This low rate of return might have been improved had the po s t a l system been u t i l i z e d to return completed surveys. No incentiv e s were provided f o r the return of parent surveys. Seventy-seven percent of t o t a l parent respondents completing surveys were female. Data p e r t a i n i n g to family c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s was a l s o c o l l e c t e d . Table I I I presents the frequency and percent of t o t a l number of c h i l d r e n per family by school. Table III Frequency and Percent of Total Number of School-aged Children per Family by School 40 Children per Family School 1-2 3 + Elementary #1 18 (54.1%) 17 (45.9%) #2 17 (60.7%) 11 (39.3%) #3 39 (67.2%) 19 (32.8%) #4 12 (70.6%) 5 (29.4%) #5 21 (46.7%) 24 (53.3%) #6 47 (72.3%) 18 (27.7%) #7 13 (59.1%) 9 (40.9%) Secondary #8 5 (71.4) 2 (28.6) #9 16 (76.2%) 5 (23.8%) Total 188 (63.1%) 110 (36.9%) Teachers F i f t y - o n e percent (n=101) of a l l teachers i n the schools surveyed (n=200) returned surveys. F i f t y - n i n e percent (n=50) of secondary teachers responded while forty-one percent (n=51) of elementary teachers returned surveys. This might be explained by d i f f e r e n t i a l circumstances: When the surveys were d i s t r i b u t e d elementary teachers were completing student report cards; one secondary school administered the Teacher Survey at a s t a f f meeting rather than to i n d i v i d u a l teacher mailboxes. Table IV summarizes demographic information about teacher respondents by school. The following demographics characterized the sample of teacher respondents returning completed questionaires: 61% female; 5% hold a three year teaching c e r t i f i c a t e ; 77% have a bachelor's degree; while 18% have a master's degree. Years' of teaching experience ranged from one to twenty-eight years, with a mean of about ten years experience (SJ}=5.6) . Student Results In the aggregate r e s u l t s on average, 40% of students expressed discomfort and 40% i n d i c a t e d no such f e e l i n g s with the r e p o r t i n g process as i t i s addressed i n the Student Survey. Students' responses (as are parent and teacher) have been coll a p s e d to a three point scale (e.g., 1 & 2 f o r agree; 3 f o r neutral; and 4 & 5 f o r disagree) during the f o l l o w i n g discussion, except where i t i s h e l p f u l to d i s t i n g u i s h between the two choices of agreement (strongly agree and agree somewhat) and disagreement (strongly disagree and disagree somewhat). Five point scale responses are presented i n tabular form. Table IV Teachers' Years of Experience and Level of Education by School (in percent) Years of Experience Levels of Education* School 0-5 6-10 11-15 16+ 1 2 3 Elementary #1 37% 13% #2 44% #3 45% 9% #4 18% 18% #5 - - #6 30% 40% #7 - - Secondary #8 23% 15% 23% 39% 0% 73% 27% #9 15% 21% 18% 46% 0% 79% 21% * Levels of education: l=three year certificate; 2= Bachelor of Science, Arts or Education; 3=Master of Arts or Education. Data for schools #5 and #6 not provided as these teachers were not surveyed. 25% 25% 44% 12% 9% 37% 46% 18% 10% 20% 0% 87% 13% 11% 89% 27% 55% 18% 9% 64% 27% 0% 90% 10% R e s e a r c h Question 1 Table V summarizes r e s u l t s pertinent to research question one: "In what ways and to what extent do students report a sense of discomfort about home-school communication concerning progress?" The survey items which y i e l d e d data that asked students to express reactions to (a) repo r t i n g i n general, (b) teacher's w r i t t e n comments about performance, and (c) the p u p i l ' s communication with parent are reported here. These are items numbered 2, 8, 9 and 1 (see Appendix B). a. r e p o r t i n g i n general? The r e s u l t s of item two (I f e e l relaxed around report card time) i n d i c a t e d that while 43.6% of students f e l t relaxed, 39% d i d not f e e l relaxed and 17.4% of respondents were neutral. b. teacher's written comments about performance? Responses to item eight revealed that 44.5% of students worried about what t h e i r teacher would write about them on t h e i r report card, 37% d i d not worry and 18.5% were ne u t r a l . This matter w i l l be further considered i n the d i s c u s s i o n chapter. c. the p u p i l ' s communication with parent? While 45.4% of students l i k e d e x plaining t h e i r report card to parents (item nine), 35.3% d i d not and 19.3% remained neutral on t h i s item. The r e s u l t s of item one found that 35.2% of students f e l t uncomfortable t a l k i n g to t h e i r parent about t h e i r report card, 49.3% d i d not and 15.5% were neutral. Table V Student Feelings About Communication Concerning P u p i l Progress (in Frequency and Percent) Student Responses* Item SA A N D SD 2. "I f e e l relaxed 123 169 116 159 102 around report card 18.4% 25.3% 17.3% 23.8% 15.2% time." 8. "I am worried about what my teacher 148 150 124 128 119 w i l l write about me 22.1% 22.4% 18.5% 19.1% 17.8% on my report card." 9. "I l i k e e x p l a i n i n g my report . 131 173 129 123 113 card to my parent." 19.6% 25.9% 19.3% 18.4% 16.9% 1. "I sometimes f e e l uncomfortable i n 67 168 104 162 168 t a l k i n g to my parent 10% 25.1% 15.5% 24.2% 25.1% about my report card." * Student responses: SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree. Student Survey - see Appendix B. Research Question 2 The results of this second research question are presented i n Table VI. "In what ways and to what extent do students report a sense of discomfort about parent-teacher conferences?" Specifically, what is the degree of concern about the following: (a) parent-teacher conferences in general; (b) what w i l l be discussed i n the student's absence; and (c) communication i n general? Items 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 were deemed to y i e l d data pertinent to this question. a. parent-teacher conferences in general? Responses to item eleven (I look forward to my parent/guardian talking to my teacher about my report card) may be summarized as follows: 28.3% positively anticipated the discussion, 54.7% did not look forward to i t and 17% were neutral. Student apprehension w i l l be further discussed in the f i n a l chapter. b. what w i l l be discussed in the student's absence? This researcher was impressed by the numbers of students who reported worry about home/school communication as i t pertained to parent-teacher conferences. The largest proportion of students (53.8%) said that they worried about what would be said about them (item six), while only 31.5% did not worry and 14.6% were neutral. c. communication with parent? The results of item five (I enjoy i t when my parent/guardian talks to me about the conference) indicated that 46.3% of students enjoyed conversing with parents about the conference, 33.6% of students did not and 20% were neutral. Table VI Student A n t i c i p a t i o n of Parent-teacher Conferences (in Frequency and Percent) Student Responses* Item SA A N D SD 11. " I look forward to my parent t a l k i n g 72 117 114 174 192 to my teacher about 10.8% 17.5% 17% 26% 28.7% my report card." 6. "I worry about what w i l l be s a i d 183 177 98 99 112 about me at the 27.4% 26.5% 14.6% 14.8% 16.7% conference." 5. "I enjoy i t when my parent t a l k s to me 160 150 134 128 97 about the conference." 23.9% 22.4% 20% 19.1% 14.5% 13. "Talking about the conference with my 89 122 157 147 154 parent i s enjoyable." 13.3% 18.2% 23.5% 22% 23% 12. "After the conference I worry 86 138 147 138 160 about what I ' l l say 12.9% 20.6% 22% 20.6% 23.9% to my parent." 4. "I f e e l f r u s t r a t e d when I t a l k with my 89 149 126 146 159 parent about my , 13.3% 22.3% 18.8% 21.8% 23.8% report card a f t e r the conference." * Student responses: SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree. Student Survey - see Appendix B. While 31.5% of students enjoyed talking about the parent-teacher conference with their parent (item thirteen), 45% did not and 23.5% were neutral. To item twelve (After the parent-teacher conference I worry about what I ' l l say to my parent/guardian) 33.5% of students agreed, 44.% disagreed and 22% were neutral. Student responses to item four (I feel frustrated when I talk with my parent/guardian about my report card after the parent- teacher conference) indicated that 35.6% f e l t frustrated, 45.6 were not frustrated and 18.8% were neutral. Research Question 3 In what ways and to what extent do student opinions of the reporting process dif f e r by (a) gender, (b) grade, (c) perceived best or worst letter grades or (d) school (differences between elementary or secondary schools)? The only significant difference i n total aggregate student opinions by gender was found with item four: "I feel frustrated when I talk with my parent/guardian about my report card after the parent-teacher conference" (X=14.80995; df=2; p=0.0006; n=669). Reported differences to this item may also be summarized by the following data: 38.1% of males and 32.8% of females agreed; 39% of males and 52.8% of females disagreed; and 22.9% of males and 14.4% of females indicated neutrality. With respect to items one to thirteen, significant differences between grades were found on a l l items except item ten (My parent/guardian knows how I work at school). Tables VII and VIII summarize the foregoing results. Table VII Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Student Opinions by Grade Level * Item Chi-square p-value 1. 37.12139 0.0000 2. 20.80656 0.0003 3. 31.07307 0.0000 4. 29.79486 0.0000 5. 66.08280 0.0000 6. 37.87864 0.0000 7. 53.74410 0.0000 8. 42.71800 0.0000 9. 14.70076 0.0054 11. 51.52156 0.0000 12. 37.58865 0.0000 13. 94.56024 0.0000 * Note: n=669; df=4 Table VIII Student Opinions on Items One to Thirteen by Grade Level (in percent)* Student Responses* Item Grade Agree Neutral Disagree 4 7 10 41.5% 29.1% 34.3% 17.3% 14.5% 26.4% 51.0% 56.4% 39.3% 4 7 10 52.7% 44.9% 31.3% 13.7% 17.2% 21.9% 33.6% 37.9% 46.8% 4 7 10 63.5% 65.2% 83.6% 12.9% 15.4% 10.4% 23.7% 19.4% 6.0% 4 7 10 39.0% 30.0% 37.8% 10.8% 18.9% 28.4% 50.2% 51.1% 33.8% 4 7 10 59.3% 52.4% 23.9% 13.3% 15.4% 33.3% 27.4% 32.2% 42.8% 4 7 10 53.9% 56.4% 50.7% 7.9% 12.3% 25.4% 38.2% 31.3% 23.9% 4 7 10 82.6% 71.8% 51.7% 6.2% 16.3% 25.9% 11.2% 11.9% 22.4% * Note: grade 4, n=241; grade 7, n=227 and; grade 10, n=201. table continued... Table VIII (continued) Student Opinions on Items One to Thirteen by Grade Level (in percent)* Student Responses* Item Grade Agree Neutral Disagree 8. 4 48.5% 12.4% 39.0% 7 45.8% 11.9% 42.3% 10 38.3% 33.3% 28.4% 9. 4 52.3% 12.4% 35.3% 7 44.5% 22.5% 33.0% 10 38.3% 23.9% 37.8% 10. 4 67.2% 15.4% 17.4% 7 70.5% 13.2% 16.3% 10 73.1% 18.9% 8.0% 11. 4 41.9% 10.0% 48.1% 7 27.8% 18.5% 53.75 10 12.4% 23.9% 63.7% 12. 4 36.5% 14.1% 49.4% 7 35.7% 17.2% 47.1% 10 27.4% 36.8% 35.8% 13. 4 47.3% 11.6% 41.1% 7 35.2% 21.6% 43.2% 10 8.5% 39.8% 51.7% * Note: grade 4, n=241; grade 7, n=227 and; grade 10, n=201. Student Survey - see Appendix B. Except f o r items two and nine a l l s i g n i f i c a n t p-values were reported at a l e v e l of 0.0000. When elementary students (grades four and seven) were compared to secondary students (grade ten), s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were found with a l l items. Table IX presents a summary of the Chi-square a n a l y s i s f o r elementary and secondary responses to survey items one to t h i r t e e n . A MANOVA ana l y s i s of the survey items by student gender and grade l e v e l i n d i c a t e d that there was no s i g n i f i c a n t i n t e r a c t i o n between gender and grade l e v e l . Students who perceived that t h e i r best grade l e t t e r grade was a 'C (n=73) were compared with students who perceived that t h e i r best l e t t e r grade was an 'A' (n=310). This a n a l y s i s y i e l d e d s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t reported opinions to 10 items. Table X presents the data on t h i s matter. Non-significant d i f f e r e n c e s were found on items 5 (enjoys parent t a l k i n g about conference to c h i l d ) , 10 (parent knows how c h i l d works at school) and 13 (enjoys t a l k i n g with parent about conference). A s i m i l a r comparison was made with students who perceived that t h e i r worst l e t t e r grade was a 'C (n=350) to those who perceived that t h e i r worst l e t t e r grade was a 'B' (n=122). This i n v e s t i g a t i o n found s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s to a l l items except item 3 (I could work harder i n school). Table XI summarizes the data f o r t h i s a n a l y s i s . Table IX Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Items One to Thirteen for Elementary and Secondary Students (n=669) * Item Chi-square p-value 1. 34.45804 0.0000 2. 20.69023 0.0004 3. 31.80330 0.0000 4. 26.35958 0.0000 5. 71.66644 0.0000 6. 28.64104 0.0000 7. 74.65297 0.0000 8. 45.11625 0.0000 9. 15.33019 0.0041 10. 28.00945 0.0000 11. 38.31460 0.0000 12. 47.33044 0.0000 13. 86.62363 0.0000 Note: (a) Elementary (n=468); Secondary (n=201) (b) df=4 (except for item 10: df=5) (c) See Appendix B for Student Survey Table X Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Survey Items for Perceived Best Letter Grades ('C & 'A') Item Chi-square p-value 1. 12.35683 0.0149 2. 19.07142 0.0008 3. 15.35515 0.0040 4. 18.96357 0.0008 5. 2.72402 0.6050 6. 20.56439 0.0004 7. 9.73455 0.0451 8.. 15.82257 0.0033 9. 12.41239 0.0145 10. 7.24238 0.1236 11. 18.13740 0.0012 12. 21.25026 0.0003 13. 7.07743 0.1319 * Note (a) 73 students perceived their best letter grade was a 'C; 310 students perceived their best letter grade was an 'A' (b) df=4; n=669 (c) See Appendix B for Student Survey Table XI Summary of Chi-square Analysis of Subjects on Survey Items for Perceived Worst Letter Grades ('C & 'B') Item Chi-square p-value 1. 25.97151 0.0000 2. 14.72812 0.0053 3. 3.65403 0.4548 4. 25.08890 0.0000 5. 18.47415 0.0010 6. 19.64781 0.0006 7. 24.23489 0.0001 8. 30.11515 0.0000 9. 14.05514 0.0071 10. 18.52992 0.0010 11. 35.21819 0.0000 12. 16.38247 0.0025 13. 30.38577 0.0000 * Note (a) 350 students perceived their worst letter grade was a 'C; 122 students perceived their worst letter grade was an 'B' (b) df=4; n=669 (c) See Appendix B for Student Survey With respect to differences amongst elementary schools, schools #1, #2, and #6, or Group A schools (which were identified as those with below d i s t r i c t mean scores on two provincial assessments and above d i s t r i c t mean totals for referrals to a behaviour disorder program) were compared to schools #3, #4, #5 and #7, or Group B schools (which had above average scores and below average referrals). A significant difference was only found with item two (I feel relaxed around report card time): X=16.614; df=4; p=0.0023; n=469. The researcher was surprised to learn that while 54.4% of students from Group A schools (n=226) reported that they f e l t relaxed around report card time, only 43.6% of students from Group B schools (n=243) f e l t comfortable around report card time. This w i l l later be discussed i n more detail. Responses of grade four French Immersion students (n=48) were compared to those of regular grade four students (n=194). Only item six (I worry about what w i l l be said about me at the parent-teacher conference) revealed a significant difference (X=13.83685; df=4; p=0.0078). While only 39.6% of French Immersion students worried about what would be said about them at the conference, 57.7% of regular students held the same concern; 56.3% and 33.5% disagreed respectively. On this same item the most frequent response was "strongly disagree" (41.7%) for immersion students, while for regular grade four students the most frequent response was "strongly agree" (31.4%). When responses of grade seven French Immersion students (n=35) were compared with those of regular grade seven students (n=192) items 6, 10 and 11 revealed significance: (item six: X=10.98396; df=4; p=0.026); (item 10: X=9.73888; df=4; p=0.045); and (item 11: X=15.94369; df=4; p=0.003). A comparison of grade ten student responses at the two secondary schools found no s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s . Parent Results Parent responses to a l l survey items t y p i c a l l y reported that while approximately 50% of parents were s a t i s f i e d with parent-teacher conferences, approximately 40% were not. Research Question 4 Results f o r research questions four and f i v e are presented i n Table XI. This question asked: "To what extent to parents report a sense of discomfort when di s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress during the parent-teacher conference?" Results from item one (I sometimes f e e l uncomfortable when d i s c u s s i n g my c h i l d ' s report card at the parent-teacher conference) reported that 31.5% of parents f e l t uncomfortable, while 54.1% reported no such f e e l i n g s . That approximately one-third of the parent sample reported discomfort impressed the researcher and w i l l be l a t e r discussed. Research Question 5 This question asked: "In what ways and to what extent do parents report (a) d i f f i c u l t y i n di s c u s s i n g matters p e r t a i n i n g t o t h e i r c h i l d , or (b) that teachers have d i f f i c u l t i e s ? " Discussion focussed on t h e i r c h i l d ' s behaviour, l i m i t a t i o n s and achievement are t r e a t e d separately below. a. (i) Do parents report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s behaviour? In d i s c u s s i n g matters p e r t a i n i n g to t h e i r c h i l d , parents reported the most d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s behaviour. Item seven (My c h i l d ' s behaviour at school can be d i f f i c u l t to discuss with teachers at the parent-teacher conference) addressed t h i s question and may be summarized i n the fo l l o w i n g manner: 31.2% agreed; 58.4% disagreed; and 10.4% were neutral. a. ( i i ) Do parents report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u ssing the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h e i r c h i l d ' s a b i l i t i e s ? The r e s u l t s of item eight (The l i m i t a t i o n s of my c h i l d ' s a b i l i t i e s can be d i f f i c u l t to discuss with teachers at the parent- teacher conference) i n d i c a t e d that 28.5% of parents found i t d i f f i c u l t to discuss the l i m i t a t i o n s of t h e i r c h i l d ; s a b i l i t i e s and 65.5% d i d not f i n d t h i s matter d i f f i c u l t . a. ( i i i ) Do parents report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d when he/she f a l l s short i n achievement? Parent responses to item nine (If my c h i l d f a l l s short i n his/her achievement I f i n d i t d i f f i c u l t to discuss at the conference) found that 24.8% of parents agreed and 65.5% disagreed. Results of research question 5 a may be found i n Table XII. Table XII Summary of Self-Reports of What Troubles Parents i n Parent School Communication (in Frequency and Percent) Item SA Parent Responses* A N D SD 1. "I sometimes feel uncomfortable discussing my child's report card at the conference." 23 7.7% 71 23. 43 14.4% 64 21.5% 97 32. 7. "My child's behaviour at school can be 19 d i f f i c u l t to discuss 6.4% with teachers at the conference." 8. "The limitations of my child's a b i l i t i e s can 15 be d i f f i c u l t to discuss 5% with teachers at the conference." 56 43 79 101 18.8% 14.4% 26.5% 33.9% 70 54 78 81 23.5% 18.1% 26.2% 27.2% 9. "If my ch i l d f a l l s short i n his/her achievement I find i t d i f f i c u l t to discuss at the conference." 12 4% 62 20.8% 29 9.7% 100 33.6% 95 31.9% * Note (a) n=298 (b) SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=Neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree (c) See Appendix C for Parent Survey b. Item eleven requested that parents i n d i c a t e whether or not they noticed teachers having d i f f i c u l t i e s d i s c u s s i n g students who: (i) have l i m i t e d a b i l i t i e s ; ( i i ) achieve above average; ( i i i ) misbehave; (iv) are average; and (v) achieve below average. Each of these t o p i c s are discussed i n turn below. (i) Perceived teacher d i f f i c u l t y with d i s c u s s i o n of l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s : Results f o r t h i s s ection reported that 23.5% of parents perceive that teachers have d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students who have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s . ( i i ) Perceived teacher d i f f i c u l t y with d i s c u s s i o n of above average achievement: A smaller group of parents (11.4%) perceive that teachers have d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students who achieve above average. ( i i i ) Discussion of misbehaviour: Parent response to t h i s t o p i c received the most at t e n t i o n : 30.2% of parents perceived that teachers have d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students who misbehave. (iv) Common or average performance or a b i l i t y : Nineteen and a h a l f percent of parents reported that teachers have d i f f i c u l t i e s with students who are average. (v) Below average achievement: Of the parents surveyed, 23.5% i n d i c a t e d that teachers have d i f f i c u l t i e s d i s c u s s i n g students who achieve below average. Parents perceived that teachers have most d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g student misbehaviour and the l e a s t d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g above average achievement. Table XIII summarizes the data on parent perceptions of teacher d i f f i c u l t i e s . Table XIII Frequency D i s t r i b u t i o n Summary of Parent Perceptions * of Teacher D i f f i c u l t i e s Perceived D i f f i c u l t i e s Discussing... Frequency Percent Student misbehaviour 90 30.2% Limited c a p a b i l i t i e s 70 23.5% Below average achievement 70 23.5% Average achievement 58 19.5% Above average achievement 34 11.4% * n=298; see Appendix C f o r Parent Survey Research Question 6 To what extent do parents desire more time f o r d i s c u s s i n g student progress at the conference? While 61% of parents agreed that "I would l i k e to have more time f o r d i s c u s s i o n during the conference" (item four), 12% disagreed and 26.8% were neutral. Research Question 7 Results of t h i s question are presented i n Table XIV. With respect to communication during the parent-teacher conference, i n what ways and to what extent do parents report d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with the f o l l o w i n g matters: (a) the adequacy of teachers' responses t o parent questions; (b) how well teachers l i s t e n to what parents say; (c) teachers being too p o s i t i v e or negative about p u p i l performance; and (d) c l a r i t y and directness of teacher's comments? a. The adequacy of teachers' responses to parent questions: Approximately 20% of parents reported that teachers d i d not r e a l l y answer t h e i r questions about p u p i l progress (item 10); that only 62% of parents i n d i c a t e d teachers d i d answer t h e i r questions w i l l be l a t e r discussed. b. How well teachers l i s t e n to what parents say: Results of item 12 (Teachers r e a l l y l i s t e n to what I have to say about my child ) found that while 62.4% of parents were s a t i s f i e d on t h i s matter, 15.7% of parents f e l t teachers d i d not l i s t e n to them. c. Teachers being too p o s i t i v e or too c r i t i c a l about p u p i l performance: With respect to being too p o s i t i v e , item three found that 28.5% of parents reported that teachers were too p o s i t i v e about t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress; a l a r g e r proportion (40.3%) of parents d i d not f i n d teachers to be overly p o s i t i v e . As f o r being too c r i t i c a l , item f i v e (Teachers can be overly c r i t i c a l when dis c u s s i n g my c h i l d ' s progress) reported that 18.4% of parents agreed with the statement and 56.7% disagreed. d. C l a r i t y and directness of teacher's comments: The greatest proportion of parents expressed d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with t h i s matter. Results of item s i x reported that 31.2% of parents experienced d i f f i c u l t y understanding what the teacher was saying about t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress; almost double that proportion (58.4%) expressed comfort. Table XIV Summary of Parent Opinions on Communication Matters (in Frequency and Percent) Parent Responses* Item SA A N D SD 10. "Teachers r e a l l y 63 122 54 51 8 answer the questions I 21.1% 40.9% 18.1% 17.1% 2.7% have about my c h i l d . " 12. "Teachers r e a l l y 61 125 66 35 11 l i s t e n to what I have 20.5% 41.9% 22.1% 11.7% 3.7% to say about my c h i l d . " 3. "Teachers can be too 15 70 93 81 39 p o s i t i v e about my 5% 23.5% 31.2% 27.2% 13.1% c h i l d ' s progress." 6. " I t i s d i f f i c u l t t o understand what the 17 76 31 101 73 teacher i s t r y i n g to 5.7% 25.5% 10.4% 33.9% 24.5% say about my c h i l d ' s progress." * Note (a) n=298 (b) SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=Neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree (c) See Appendix C f o r Parent Survey Research Question 8 Do parent responses d i f f e r by school achievement l e v e l ? S p e c i f i c a l l y , with respect to parent-teacher conferences, do d i f f e r e n c e s become evident when the views of parents, whose c h i l d r e n attend schools that have fewer behavioural disorder r e f e r r a l s and r e l a t i v e l y higher achievement i n d i c e s (Group B schools), are compared with the views of parents, whose c h i l d r e n attend schools with more behavioural disorder r e f e r r a l s and r e l a t i v e l y lower achievement indic e s (Group A schools)? When parent responses from Group A schools (#1, #2, & #6; n=128) were compared to parents from Group B schools (#3, #4, #5 & #7; n=142) s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were found on four survey items. Prents from Group A schools reported that 41.4% of parents sometimes f e l t uncomfortable d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress, 44.5% expressed comfort on t h i s matter and 14.1% were neutral. Responses t o the same item by parents from Group B schools i n d i c a t e d that 21.1% sometimes f e l t uncomfortable, 64.4% f e l t comfortable and 14.8% were neutral (X=13.72604; df=2; p=.0010; n=270). Item four (I would l i k e to have more time f o r d i s c u s s i o n during the conference) found that parents from Group A and B schools responded as follows, r e s p e c t i v e l y : 69.5% and 51.4% i n d i c a t e d a desire for more conference time, 8.6% and 15.5% were not i n t e r e s t e d i n more time and 21.9% and 33.1% were neutral (X=9.35949; df=2; p=.0093; n=270). Parents of Group A schools reported that 18.8% agreed to item f i v e (Teachers can be overly c r i t i c a l when di s c u s s i n g my c h i l d ' s progress), 50% disagreed and 31.3% were neutral. Responses to the same item by parents from Group B schools i n d i c a t e d that 11.3% agreed, 66.2% disagreed and 22.5% were neutral (X=7.47928; df=2; p=.0238; n=270). Item s i x (It i s d i f f i c u l t to understand what the teacher i s t r y i n g to say about my c h i l d ' s progress) found that parents from Group A and B schools reported the following: 39.8% and 21.8% agreed, 48.4% and 70.4% disagreed and 11.7% and 7.7% were neutral, r e s p e c t i v e l y (X=13.71796; df=2; p=.0010; n=270). Research Question 9 To what degree does (a) the number of respondent's school- aged c h i l d r e n , or (b) respondent's gender a f f e c t parent's reported opinions of parent-teacher conferences? a. No s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s to survey items were found when parents with one or two school-aged c h i l d r e n (n=188) were compared with parents with three or more school-aged c h i l d r e n (n=110). b. With respect to gender, the only s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e was found with item 11 (X=4.15433; df=l; p=.0415; n=298). Of the male parent sample (n=69) 33.3% i n d i c a t e d that they have noticed teachers have d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g c h i l d r e n who have l i m i t e d a b i l i t i e s , while 20.5% of female parents (n=229) reported t h i s same concern. Teacher Results When opinions expressed by teachers on survey items 1, 2 and 5 through 10 were summarized i n general terms the data revealed that approximately 60% of teachers were comfortable with parent-teacher conferences and approximately 25% were not. Research Question 10 In what ways and to what extent do teachers (n=100) report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u ssing matters p e r t a i n i n g to students? S p e c i f i c a l l y : a. Do teachers report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u ssing student's (i) behaviour, ( i i ) l i m i t a t i o n s of c a p a b i l i t y and ( i i i ) f a l l i n g short i n achievement? Table XV presents the data f o r the f i r s t part of research question ten. With respect to discussing student behaviour, teacher responses to item one (A student's behaviour i s d i f f i c u l t to discuss with parents during parent-teacher conferences) i n d i c a t e d that 30.7% found behaviour d i f f i c u l t to discuss 61.2% d i d not and 8.2% were neutral. Teacher responses to item s i x (The l i m i t a t i o n s of a student's c a p a b i l i t y are d i f f i c u l t to discuss with parents during parent-teacher conferences) found that 34.4% agreed with the item, 51.5% disagreed and 14.6% were neutral. Item two pertained to d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students who f a l l short i n t h e i r achievement. Approximately 41% of teachers reported experiencing d i f f i c u l t y with t h i s matter, 52.1% d i d not and 7.1% were neutral. The second and t h i r d part to research question ten concerned teacher s e l f - r e p o r t s of student matters which they found most d i f f i c u l t to discuss with parents at conferences and teacher perceptions of matters that parents had most d i f f i c u l t y d i scussing. Table XVI summarizes the r e s u l t s of research question 10b and 10c. Table XV Teacher Self-reported D i f f i c u l t i e s (in Frequency and Percent) Teacher Responses* Item SA A N D SD 1. !'A student's behaviour i s d i f f i c u l t 4 27 8 31 29 to discuss with parents 4% 27.3% 8.1% 31.3% 29.3% during the conference." (n=98) 6. "The l i m i t a t i o n s of a student's c a p a b i l i t y 4 30 14 38 11 are d i f f i c u l t t o . 4.1% 30.9% 14.4% 39.2% 11.3% discuss with parents during the conference." (n=97) 2. " I t can be d i f f i c u l t to discuss students who 5 36 7 28 23 f a l l short i n t h e i r 5.1% 36.4% 7.1% 28.3% 23.2% achievement." (n=99) Teacher responses: SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree. See Appendix D f o r Teacher Survey. To what extent do teachers report that they have the most d i f f i c u l t y discussing students who: (i) have limited capabilities; (ii) achieve above average; ( i i i ) misbehave; (iv) are average; and (v) achieve below average? (item four on survey). As indicated in Table XVI, teachers expressed most d i f f i c u l t y discussing students who misbehaved and the least d i f f i c u l t y with students whose achievement was average. To what extent do teachers perceive that parents have the most d i f f i c u l t y discussing students who: (i) have limited capabilities; (ii) are above average; ( i i i ) misbehave; (iv) are average; and (v) are below average achievers? (item three on survey). Teachers reported that they perceived parents had the most d i f f i c u l t y discussing students with limited capabilities and those who misbehaved and the least d i f f i c u l t y with students whose achievement was above average. Table XVI presents the results of teachers' self-reported d i f f i c u l t i e s and teachers' perceptions of parent d i f f i c u l t i e s . Research Question 11 To what extent do teachers desire more time for discussing student progress at the conference? Approximately 36% of teachers indicated satisfaction with the amount of time allotted for conferencing with parents (item 5), 57% were dissatisfied and 7% were neutral. Table XVI Summary of Teacher Self - r e p o r t e d D i f f i c u l i t i e s and Teacher Perceptions of Parent D i f f i c u l i t i e s (in percent; n=101) D i f f i c u l t i e s Discussing Students Who: Teacher* Parent* Misbehave 30.7% 19.8% Have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s 22.8% 20.8% Are below average achievers 13.9% 9.9% Are above average achievers 5.9% 5.0% Are average 5.0% 10.9% * Data source: Item 4 f o r teachers; item 3 f o r parents (see Appendix D f o r Teacher Survey). A s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e was found when comparing elementary (n=50) and secondary (n=48) teachers on the matter of time a l l o c a t i o n f o r the conference (X=9.73292; df=4; p=0.0452; n=98). While 70% of elementary teachers i n d i c a t e d that there was not enough time only 43.8% of secondary teachers held the same concern. This f i n d i n g w i l l l a t e r be discussed i n chapter f i v e . Research Question 12 Table XVII summarizes the data on the fo l l o w i n g question. "With respect to communication during the parent-teacher conference, i n what ways and to what extent do teachers report d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with the following t o p i c s : (a) the adequacy of parent's responses to teacher questions; (b) how well parents l i s t e n t o what teachers say; (c) expression of dis p r o p o r t i o n a t e l y negative views (overly c r i t i c a l ) of the c h i l d ; and (d) parent understanding of teacher comments?" While 66.3% of teachers found that parents r e a l l y answered questions about the p u p i l (item 10), only 9.2% i n d i c a t e d that parents d i d not answer questions. An even l a r g e r porportion (74.3%) of teachers reported that parents r e a l l y l i s t e n e d to what they had to say about students (item 9). Only 4.2% of teachers perceived that parents d i d not l i s t e n t o them. With respect to parents being overly c r i t i c a l of t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress (item seven), 45.9% of teachers reported that parents were too negative and only 17.4% perceived that they were not overly c r i t i c a l . Table XVII Teacher Opinions of Communication During the Parent-teacher Conference (in frequency and percent) Teacher Responses* Item SA A N D SD 10. "Parents r e a l l y answer questions I have 11 54 24 8 1 about t h e i r c h i l d . " 11.2% 55.1% 24.5% 8.2% 1% (n=98) 9. "Parents r e a l l y l i s t e n to what I have 28 44 21 2 2 to say about t h e i r 28.9% 45.4% 21.6% 2.1% 2.1% c h i l d . " (n=97) 7. "Parents can be overly c r i t i c a l of 10 35 36 14 3 t h e i r c h i l d ' s 10.2% 35.7% 36.7% 14.3% 3.1% progress." (n=98) 8. "I doubt whether parents r e a l l y understand my comments 2 18 23 36 18 about t h e i r c h i l d 2.1% 18.6% 23.7% 37.1% 18.6% during these conferences." (n=97) * Teacher responses: SA=strongly agree; A=agree; N=neutral; D=disagree; and SD=strongly disagree. See Appendix D. While 20.7% of teachers doubted whether parents r e a l l y understood t h e i r comments about a p u p i l i n question (item 8), 55.7% of teachers reported that parents appeared to understand t h e i r comments. Research Question 13 To what extent do (a) years of teaching experience, (b) educational l e v e l or (c) respondent's gender a f f e c t teacher responses t o survey items? Teacher survey responses were analyzed by years of teaching experience at f i v e year i n t e r v a l s (0-5; 6-10; 11-15; and 16 or greater years). S i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were found with only two items (2 & 6) and are summarized i n Table XVIII. Results to item 2 (It can be d i f f i c u l t to discuss students who f a l l short i n t h e i r achievement) reported: X=15.82041; df=6; p=.0148; and n=93. While only approximately 23% of teachers with 16 or greater years experience i n d i c a t e d d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students who f a l l short i n t h e i r achievement, about 71% of teachers with 0 to 5 years experience reported d i f f i c u l t y . In response to item 6 (The l i m i t a t i o n s of a student's c a p a b i l i t y are d i f f i c u l t to discuss with parents during parent-teacher conferences) di f f e r e n c e s with experience were noticed: X=13.00115; df=6; p=.0430; and n=91. Approximately 46% of teachers with 0 - 5 years of experience reported d i f f i c u l t y ; 50% of teachers with 5 - 1 0 years experience i n d i c a t e d d i f f i c u l t y ; 15% of teachers with 11 - 15 years expressed d i f f i c u l t y ; and 29% of teachers with the most experience found the l i m i t a t i o n s of a student's c a p a b i l i t y d i f f i c u l t to t a l k about. Table XVIII Summary of Teacher Responses to Items Two and Six by Years of Experience (in frequency and percent) Item Experience Agree Neutral Disagree 2. It can be 0 - 5 17 1 6 d i f f i c u l t to 70.8% 4.2% 25.0% discuss students who f a l l short 6-10 6 2 9 in their 35.3% 11.8% 52.9% achievement. (n= 93) 11 - 15 9 0 12 42.9% 0% 57.1% 16+ 7 2 22 22.6% 6.5% 71.0% 6. The 0 - 5 11 5 8 limitations of 45.8% 20.8% 33.3% a student 1s capability are 6-10 8 3 5 d i f f i c u l t to 50.0% 18.8% 31.3% discuss with parents during 11 - 15 3 2 15 the conference. 15.0% 10.0% 75.0% (n=91) 16+ 9 2 20 29.0% 6.5% 64.5% See Appendix D for Teacher Survey. Educational l e v e l was analyzed i n three catagories: B.Ed. (n=31), B.A. (n=31), and M.A or M.Ed. (n=18). No s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were found. When teacher responses were examined by gender i t was discovered that s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s d i d not e x i s t . Parent and Teacher Comparative Results Research Question 14 In what ways and to what extent do parent and teacher opinions d i f f e r regarding aspects on parent-teacher conferences when measured by the Parent Survey and Teacher Survey? The present d i s c u s s i o n w i l l address p a r a l l e l items which i n d i c a t e d that there was more than a 10% d i f f e r e n c e i n agreement. Greater than 10% d i f f e r e n c e s i n agreement were reported on the following t o p i c s : (a) t o what extent to parents and teachers report d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g matters p e r t a i n i n g to t h e i r c h i l d / p u p i l ; and (b) t o what extent to parents and teachers i n d i c a t e d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with communication. The reader w i l l note that Table XVIII summarizes parent and teacher opinions on the above matters. Item 9 on the parent survey and item 2 on the teacher survey concerned whether or not respondents found i t d i f f i c u l t to discuss students who f e l l short i n t h e i r achievement. While 24.8% of parents agreed that t h i s t o p i c was d i f f i c u l t , 40.8% of teachers agreed (a 16% d i f f e r e n c e ) . Parent survey item 12 and teacher survey item 9 concerned whether teachers and parents r e a l l y l i s t e n to what the other had to say. Approximately 62% of parents agreed that teachers r e a l l y l i s t e n e d to t h e i r comments. A greater proportion (74.3%) of teachers agreed that parents r e a l l y l i s t e n e d to t h e i r comments (an 11.9% d i f f e r e n c e ) . Item 5 on the parent survey and item 7 on the teacher survey concerned whether parents and teachers perceived that each other were overly c r i t i c a l of student progress. While 18.4% of parents agreed that teachers were too negative, a greater proportion (45.9%) of teachers reported that parents were overly c r i t i c a l (a 27.5% d i f f e r e n c e ) . Table XIX Summary of Parent and Teacher Opinions On Three P a r a l l e l Survey Items * Survey Item Agreement Disagreement Parent Teacher Parent Teacher Parent Teacher 9 2 24.8% 40.8% 65.5% 51.5% 12 9 62.4% 74.3% 15.4% 4.2% 5 7 18.4% 45.9% 56.7% 17.4% * Parents (n=298); Teachers (n=98) See Appendix C f o r Parent Survey & Appendix D f o r Teacher Survey M i s s i n g Data Respondents who completed l e s s than 80% of a survey were to be excluded from the study. No respondents f i t such a category. In several instances however, teacher and parent respondents missed two or three items. This r a r e l y occured with student respondents. In a l l cases nonresponses were excluded from s t a t i s t i c a l analyses. CHAPTER FIVE: DISCUSSION The primary i n t e r e s t of t h i s study was to survey the opinions of students, parents and teachers on a v a r i e t y of matters p e r t a i n i n g to the pup i l reporting process, and i n p a r t i c u l a r , parent-teacher conferences. Results of the 1068 returned surveys were analyzed and presented i n the previous chapter. This f i n a l chapter i s div i d e d i n t o four sections: (a) Interpretation of r e s u l t s ; (b) Limitations of the study; (c) Recommendations; and (d) Directions f o r future research. Interpretation of Results The i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of r e s u l t s begins with consideration of student responses. Following t h i s a discussion of parent and teacher outcomes ensues. Discussion of Student Findings "Children should not be reminded of t h e i r l i t t l e n e s s or of t h e i r lack of knowledge and a b i l i t y . " (Adler, 1931, p.38) Studies and l i t e r a t u r e p e r t a i n i n g to student opinions of the reporting process are l i m i t e d . The authors who have considered t h i s matter (Anderson & Steadman, 1950; Goodlad & Anderson, 1987; Richardson, 1955) have in d i c a t e d that students are frequently unsettled by and uncomfortable with the reporting process and discussion of report cards with t h e i r parents i n p a r t i c u l a r . At t h i s time no studies or l i t e r a t u r e could be found which reported student views on parent-teacher conferences. The current i n v e s t i g a t i o n surveyed just under 700 students at mid-elementary, l a t e elementary and mid-high school regarding the perception of and f e e l i n g s about a v a r i e t y of aspects of the reporting process and parent-teacher conferences. Before commencing a di s c u s s i o n of the s i g n i f i c a n t student f i n d i n g s , i t i s h e l p f u l to b r i e f l y step back and consider what student responses y i e l d e d i n general. Just over f o r t y percent of sampled students reported experiencing a sense of discomfort and approximately 40% i n d i c a t e d no discomfort regarding communication as i t pertained to the r e p o r t i n g process. This magnitude of student discomfort with these matters warrents f u r t h e r a t t e n t i o n . Moreover, t h i s w r i t e r ponders whether these d i s s a t i s f i e d students experience fear of f a i l u r e or c r i t i c i s m , or a sense of i n s i g n i f i c a n c e and or disconnection from the r e p o r t i n g process. Might t h e i r report card or discussions with parents about t h e i r achievement remind them of t h e i r " l i t t l e n e s s " , t h e i r shortcomings, or t h e i r "lack of knowledge and a b i l i t y " ? These, and other associated questions w i l l be r e f l e c t e d upon, during the following d i s c u s s i o n of student f i n d i n g s . Meanwhile, i t appears that t h i s aggregate r e s u l t alone speaks to the need f o r fur t h e r consideration of t h i s matter and the development of procedures which are more s e n s i t i v e to and demonstrate consideration f o r p u p i l ' s f e e l i n g s , perceptions and concerns. Student Discomfort In a d d i t i o n to being impressed by the extent of student apprehension and discomfort with the r e p o r t i n g process, t h i s researcher found that student opinions on several items were p a r t i c u l a r i l y worthy of a t t e n t i o n . The three survey items i n which students responded with the highest proportions of discontent (items 11, 6 and 8; see Appendix B) concerned a n t i c i p a t i o n of the r e p o r t i n g process. Approximately 55% of students reported that they d i d not look forward to parent-teacher discussions about the degree and character of t h e i r progress. Just over 54% of students s a i d they worried over what would be s a i d about them i n t h e i r absence. F i n a l l y , just under h a l f - o f the students s a i d they worried about teachers' written comments about t h e i r performance. Unfortunately, a discussion of these fin d i n g s i n conjunction with other studies i s not p o s s i b l e as the research on t h i s t o p i c i s p r a c t i c a l l y nonexistent. At t h i s point i t i s important to note that some student anxiety and apprehension with- respect t o the r e p o r t i n g process may be h e l p f u l . T r avis (1991) has stated that superego anxiety i s necessary f o r achievement, c i v i l i z e d l i v i n g and peaceful s o c i a l l i f e . The f i n d i n g s of the present study support the ideas of Goodlad and Anderson (1987), who suggested that students hold a n x i e t i e s about the reporting process because of t h e i r lack, of knowledge of what i s to be exchanged i n t h e i r absence. To t h i s end they have recommended student p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the r e p o r t i n g process i n the forms of teacher-student (to prepare the p u p i l f o r what w i l l be exchanged between teacher and parent) or student-parent-teacher conferences (to involve students i n the process). Student responses to these three items became even more i n t e r e s t i n g to consider when t h e i r perceptions of achievement l e v e l was considered. Students who perceived t h e i r best l e t t e r grade was a 'C were compared to those who perceived t h e i r best grade was an 'A'. I t i s not s u r p r i s i n g to t h i s researcher that comparatively 20% more 'C students than 'A' students i n d i c a t e d greater apprehension to these three items. I t could be speculated that the present reporting system i n general has served to remind lower achieving students of t h e i r f a i l i n g s and academic misgivings. Goodlad and Anderson (1987) have c i t e d several studies i n d i c a t i n g that the l a b e l i n g of students with lower l e t t e r grades may serve to discourage and hinder t h e i r development of sound l i f e l o n g learning a t t i t u d e s . Although t h i s may be true f o r some students, f o r others i t may serve as a s i g n a l to buckle down and s t r i v e . School Only one s i g n i f i c a n t f i n d i n g was i d e n t i f i e d f o r students who attended schools characterized by (a) lower achievement i n d i c e s and more frequent behavioural disorder r e f e r r a l s and (b) higher achievement indic e s and l e s s frequent behavioural disorder r e f e r r a l s . Results i n d i c a t e d that students from lower achieving schools f e l t more relaxed around report card time (item 2 of Student Survey) than students from higher achieving schools. Approximately 11% more students from lower achieving schools expressed f e e l i n g relaxed around report card time. One might speculate that students from higher achieving schools were more anxious when reports were being completed because of t h e i r heightened v i g i l a n c e and awareness of pos s i b l e r a m i f i c a t i o n s . Perhaps these students f e e l more pressure to achieve. Responses to t h i s item underscore the importance of not assuming that student discomfort with respect to the repo r t i n g process i s not ne c e s s a r i l y deleterious. I t i s also important to note that school climate might a l s o a f f e c t student responses to the repo r t i n g process. French Immersion With respect to d i f f e r e n c e s associated with school language programing a s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e was only found with the item concerning students who worried about what might be s a i d about them at the conference (item 6). A smaller proportion (approximately 20%) of French Immersion students i n d i c a t e d worrying about what might be s a i d about them i n t h e i r absence than regular e n g l i s h program students. The most frequent responses of both these groups i n d i c a t e d opposite views of item s i x . About 42% of immersion students "strongly disagreed" that they worried while about 32% of regular students "strongly agreed" that they worried. This d i f f e r i n g view might be bett e r understood when parental involvement i s considered. Genesee (1984) has stated that parents of French Immersion students are often more involved i n t h e i r c h i l d r e n ' s education. Perhaps immersion students were l e s s worried about what might be s a i d about them at the conference because they were already aware of what t h e i r parents thought about t h e i r progress? Communication with Parents According t o E l k i n d (1989) i n United States working parents spend an average of 9 to 10 minutes per weekday involved i n q u a l i t y communication with t h e i r c h i l d r e n . To the extent that parents i n general devote such l i m i t e d time to communication i n the home, i t becomes meaningful to consider a discus s i o n of student perceptions of communication between c h i l d and parent ' concerned with p u p i l achievement. More than one-third of student respondents expressed discomfort and f r u s t r a t i o n i n d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r report cards with t h e i r parent. Moreover, almost h a l f of the students i n d i c a t e d that they d i d not enjoy t a l k i n g with t h e i r parent about the parent-teacher conference. These f i n d i n g s are i n keeping with Anderson and Steadman's (1950) study which found that 41% of students experienced discontent with parent reactions to t h e i r achievement report. They a l s o concluded that 49% of students perceived that the r e p o r t i n g process d i d not help parents to better understand t h e i r school performance (p. 138). The present study c l e a r l y discovered, that from a student's perspective, a s u b s t a n t i a l proportion of c h i l d r e n and t h e i r parents have d i f f i c u l t y communicating about p u p i l progress. This matter warrents fur t h e r empirical i n v e s t i g a t i o n . For the purpose of the present discussion however, i t could be speculated that perhaps parents attach a great deal of s i g n i f i c a n c e to school l e t t e r grades and teacher comments without f u l l y understanding the c h i l d ' s perspective and d a i l y experiences. I t i s perhaps when parents hold l i m i t e d impressions of t h e i r c h i l d ' s school progress, based on l e t t e r grades and teacher comments, they might miss the o v e r a l l context of the c h i l d ' s school experience and important features of i t form the c h i l d ' s point of view. Adler (1957) speaks of the c h i l d being at once the p i c t u r e and the a r t i s t . He s a i d that by focussing on the whole c h i l d (and not simply l e t t e r grades and teacher comments), we "avoid the problem of t r y i n g to understand the s i g n i f i c a n c e of a few i n d i v i d u a l notes t o r n from the context of an e n t i r e melody" (p. 25). Reporting methods need to take i n t o consideration the complete or whole c h i l d . Gender Based on the earlier work of Anderson and Steadman (1950), whose study of grade eight students indicated that 20% more boys than g i r l s were dissatisfied with parent responses to letter grades, i t was anticipated that student responses to the current questionnaire items might diff e r by gender. With the exception of item four, no significant differences by gender were found. This item found that, on average, approximately 6% more boys experienced frustration i n talking with parents about their report card after their parent attended the parent-teacher conference than g i r l s . It could be surmised that Anderson and Steadman's (1950) results might be questionable due to their limited sample size (n= 76), which may not have been representative of the general student population. Because the gender ratios d i f f e r somewhat between grade levels the current study analyzed student responses to survey items by grade level and gender and found no significant interaction. Grade Level The comparison of student responses by grade level yielded significant differences on a l l items. It appears that as students get older they express higher levels of discomfort and apprehension about the reporting process. These results suggest changes to the reporting process be foremost considered at the secondary level. Summary The foregoing discussion of student results has provided a rationale for student participation in the reporting process to minimize their apprehension. Recently, several authors (Guyton & Fielstein, 1989; Hubert, 1989; L i t t l e & Allan, 1989; L i t t l e & MacDonald, 1991) have even advocated that students assume a central role in f a c i l i t a t i n g the conference. L i t t l e and MacDonald (1991) suggested that the intent of the student-led conference model is to give significance to the student's role and in particular their abilty to assume developmentally appropriate responsibility for achievement. Glasser (1969) and Dreikurs et al (1982) have also advocated increased student recognition for improvement and self-reporting. Student performance may be enhanced by developing self management, responsibility for learning and communication s k i l l s to dialogue with significant others. Although this present discussion has advocated student participation and leadership to enhance school performance, i t i s imperative that teacher and parent roles also be considered. Discussion of Parent and Teacher Findings "When parents are summoned to school on account of their children they come feeling like accused criminals." (Adler, 1930, p. 241) Before commencing a discussion of the numerous findings which pertained to parents and teachers, i t i s helpful to f i r s t consider what the results yielded in general. While on average 40% of parent respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the reporting process, a smaller proportion of teachers (30%) indicated discontent. More parents and teachers were satisfied with the reporting process then those who were not: approximately 52% of parents and teachers were satisfied. These results contradict those of Haake (1958), Homfeld (1953), and Rundberg (1979) who generally found greater proportional l e v e l s of elementary parent and teacher s a t i s f a c t i o n with parent-teacher conferences; f o r example, Haake (1958) found that almost 100% of parents surveyed were s a t i s f i e d . The current r e s u l t s generally support the more recent fi n d i n g s of Borgstrom (1986), who reported that a greater proportion of parents were d i s s a t i s f i e d with parent-teacher conferences than those who i n d i c a t e d content. Having f i r s t considered these r e s u l t s c o l l e c t i v e l y , the present d i s c u s s i o n w i l l now address s p e c i f i c d e t a i l s . Before discussing i n d i v i d u a l f i n d i n g s i t i s important to r e a l i z e that even though there was no s p e c i f i c r e f e r r a l to home-school communication per se i n the i n d i v i d u a l survey items, the o v e r a l l meaning of the questionnaire bears s i g n i f i c a n c e on the home-school partnership. Time Factor Rotter (1982) has stated that a common p i t f a l l of parent-teacher conferences i s i n s u f f i c i e n t time f o r parents and teachers to discuss student progress. Only 12% of parents and 35% of teachers were s a t i s f i e d with the amount of time presently a v a i l a b l e f o r conferences. While just over 60% of parents i n the present i n v e s t i g a t i o n reported that they d e s i r e d more time to converse with teachers, about the same proportion (57%) of teachers i n d i c a t e d that they.wanted more time. These find i n g s disagree with that of Beals (1973) whose i n v e s t i g a t i o n on t h i s matter suggested that parents wanted more time f o r conferences than d i d teachers. Given that often times rushing through the parent-teacher conference creates misunderstandings requiring additional time to follow-up and c l a r i f y concerns, i t makes sense that in some instances more time be allowed for meaningful communication in the f i r s t place (Rotter, 1982). An interesting difference between elementary and secondary teacher opinions regarding time was discovered. Approximately 70% of elementary teachers expressed interest i n more time to converse with parents while just over 40% of secondary teachers reported the same desire. This difference might be explained by the number of students each group of teachers work with. While elementary educators teach one classroom of 25 to 30 students, secondary educators work with several equally large groups of children permitting less opportunity to know individuals and possibly less information to report to parents. Unfortunately, due to the small secondary parent response rate a comparison between parents of elementary and secondary pupils could not be adequately made. However, the finding that almost 50% of parents and teachers wanted more time to discuss childrens' progress warrents f l e x i b i l i t y to increase the time allocated to confer i n the s p i r i t of enhancing communication between home and school. Discussing Concerns About Students Both parents and teachers reported similar degrees of discomfort with discussing several matters pertaining to pupil progress. Approximately one-third of parents and teachers indicated that they found i t d i f f i c u l t to discuss students behaviour and the limitations of student a b i l i t i e s . This i s i n contradiction with the work of Kleifeldt (1975), who found that parents and teachers held differing opinions about this matter. The current study did however find that parents and teachers held d i f f e r i n g views with regard to students who f e l l short i n t h e i r achievement. While approximately 40% of teachers found t h i s t o p i c d i f f i c u l t t o discuss, approximately 25% of parents expressed a s i m i l a r concern. I t could be hypothesized that perhaps teachers perceive lower student achievement as a r e f l e c t i o n of t h e i r p r o f e s s i o n a l competence, e s p e c i a l l y i n l i g h t of the recently i d e n t i f i e d s o c i e t a l pressures f o r teacher a c c o u n t a b i l i t y of students' academic achievement (Elkind, 1989). Parents a l t e r n a t i v e l y might view a c h i l d ' s school performance more h o l i s t i c a l l y and consider achievement diminutions i n l i g h t of the c h i l d ' s o v e r a l l h i s t o r y . No studies could be found which questioned parents and teachers regarding t h e i r perceptions of each others' d i f f i c u l t i e s i n d i s c u s s i n g student performance. The present study concluded that about 10% more parents were c r i t i c a l of" teacher d i f f i c u l t i e s than teachers of parents. Both groups reported perceptions that the other experienced the most d i f f i c u l t y with d i s c u s s i n g students who misbehaved and those who had l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s . Teacher s e l f - r a t i n g s on these matters a l s o i n d i c a t e d that d i s c u s s i n g student misbehaviour was the most d i f f i c u l t . A l b e r t (1989) has suggested that student misbehaviour i s the most d i f f i c u l t to discuss because both p a r t i e s can f e e l powerless to f a c i l i t a t e change, and thus they tend to blame each other f o r student misgivings. On t h i s matter the l i t e r a t u r e has c l e a r l y recommended improved teacher communication s k i l l s . Communication S k i l l s The present study surveyed parent and teacher on a v a r i e t y of matters p e r t a i n i n g to diplomacy. Given that adults t y p i c a l l y spend 60% of t h e i r d a i l y communication a c t i v i t i e s l i s t e n i n g (DeVito, 1976), an i n v e s t i g a t i o n of t h i s matter with respect t o parent-teacher i n t e r a c t i o n during the conference seemed r e l a t i v e l y important. I t was discovered that nearly twice the proportion of parents were c r i t i c a l of teachers' responses to t h e i r questions about student progress than teachers of parents. Also, four times more parents were d i s s a t i s f i e d with teachers' l i s t e n i n g a b i l i t i e s than teachers of parents' l i s t e n i n g a b i l i t i e s . These r e s u l t s agree with DeVito (1976) who also noted that i n act u a l p r a c t i c e most adults are r e l a t i v e l y poor l i s t e n e r s and that l i s t e n i n g could be improved. Witherspoon (1983) has reported that teachers who were t r a i n e d i n conference l i s t e n i n g and diplomacy s k i l l s were perceived by parents to be more e f f e c t i v e at communicating. The fi n d i n g that parents i n t h i s present study have reported d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with teacher l i s t e n i n g suggests that teachers be tr a i n e d i n l i s t e n i n g . The l i t e r a t u r e on procedural guidelines f o r conferences has recommended that teachers spend an increased amount of time l i s t e n i n g to parent concerns. Berger (1986) has suggested that teachers devote at l e a s t 50% of the conference time l i s t e n i n g to parents. I t could be speculated that t h i s would require teachers to refocus the purpose of parent-teacher conferences from imparting information about student performance to genuinely l i s t e n i n g and c o l l a b o r a t i n g with parents. Perhaps another conference concept and format, such as the student-led conference, might increase the q u a l i t y and amount of time teachers spend l i s t e n i n g to parents and c h i l d r e n discuss school l i f e and general progress. One-third of parents surveyed i n d i c a t e d that they had d i f f i c u l t y understanding what the teacher was communicating at the conference. A l b e r t (1989) reported that when parents l i s t e n t o teachers who describe student behaviour i n subjective terms they are sometimes uncertain of what i s being sa i d . Her home and school a c t i o n plans, which model e f f e c t i v e communication, advocate that teachers become more e f f e c t i v e at o b j e c t i v e l y d e s c r i b i n g student behaviour. Subjective language ( i . e . : "Your c h i l d seems laz y " or "Your c h i l d appears slow to pick up new ideas") often serves t o wedge distance and creates confusion between parents and teachers. "A comprehensive d e s c r i p t i o n includes exactly what the student does ...when the student usually does i t , and approximately how often the student does i t " (Albert, 1989, p. 21) . While approximately one f i f t h of parents reported that teachers were too c r i t i c a l of t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress, almost f i f t y percent of teachers surveyed expressed concern with the degree of parent n e g a t i v i t y about student progress. Because the student-led conference procedure fosuses on b u i l d i n g e x i s t i n g student strengths and a b i l i t i e s , parents might be persuaded to consider more p o s i t i v e aspects of t h e i r c h i l d ' s performance. This may also contribute to parents viewing teachers as l e s s c r i t i c a l and threatening. With respect to parent opinions about the c l a r i t y and concreteness of teacher comments during the conference just over one-third of parents expressed d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n . Could i t be that teachers are not e f f e c t i v e l y responding to parent concerns due to an inaccurate or incomplete understanding of what i t i s parents want to know? Rotter (1982) has i n d i c a t e d that l i s t e n e r s often focus t h e i r concentration on what they wish to say rather than genuinely hearing another's concern. In f a c t DeVito (1976) has commented that most people respond to another's communication before decoding the incoming message. An i n d i v i d u a l ' s desire to protect t h e i r psychological i n t e g r i t y i n a l l personal int e r p e r s o n a l contacts also hinders t h e i r a b i l i t y to receive what i s being s a i d (Marks et a l . , 1985). From the foregoing d i s c u s s i o n i t might be hypothesized that parent d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with teacher explanations i s associated with l i s t e n i n g problems and the teachers i n a b i l i t y to place parent concerns (not teacher concerns) i n the foreground of the conference's discussion. I t may a l s o be speculated that some teachers lack the a b i l i t y to be concrete and courageous i n t h e i r communication with parents on d e l i c a t e matters. Demographic Factors No s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s were found with teachers' opinions by gender, education l e v e l or amongst elementary schools and only two f i n d i n g s i n d i c a t e d d i f f e r e n c e s amongst teachers of greater and fewer years of teaching experience. However several impressive d i f f e r e n c e s were discovered between parents of c h i l d r e n who attended schools whose indice s of achievement on two p r o v i n c i a l assessments place tham below average and whose r e f e r r a l s to the d i s t r i c t ' s behavioural disorder program are above average and parents of c h i l d r e n who attended schools that had higher scores and fewer r e f e r r a l s . Jencks (1972) has stated that students who attend such schools might be i d e n t i f i e d as s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged or advantaged. I t i s also important to note that variations i n school climate might also contribute to a student's s o c i o - c u l t u r a l experience. Cultural Factors Parents of children i n s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged schools reported that they experienced more: (a) teacher c r i t i c i s m of t h e i r c h i l d ' s performance; (b) general discomfort at the parent-teacher conference; (c) d i f f i c u l t y understanding teacher comments at the conference; and (d) d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with time a l l o t t e d for the conference. On average 20% more parents of children i n the disadvantaged schools indicated the above concerns than d i d parents of children attending more s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y advantaged schools. According to Jencks (1972) i t i s l i k e l y that parents of s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged children also attended similar schools when they were children. These parents may have retained resentments toward the educational i n s t i t u t i o n and l a t e r as adults experience d i f f i c u l t i e s i n communicating with teachers (Black & Nicklas, 1980; Kaushal & Larsen, 1977). Kirman (1977) has stated that for such parents, conferences concerned with t h e i r own children (who often repeat t h e i r educational attainment pattern) may be an emotionally charged experience. Furthermore, he also suggested that the sense of inadequacy parents f e e l about t h e i r own children may be projected onto the teacher and that i f the teacher responds defensively the parent may view t h i s as a confirmation of the teacher's g u i l t . Limerick's (1989) discussion of "busybodies, antibodies and nobodies" has explored several avenues i n which schools may encourage increased p a r t i c i p a t i o n of s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged parents and contribute to t h e i r l i f e s t y l e and perception of self-worth. To t h i s end, Johnson (1991) has underscored the importance of parental p a r t i c i p a t i o n during the .primary years; not to complete mundane "keep-busy a c t i v i t i e s " but to become i n touch with t h e i r c h i l d ' s (and perhaps review t h e i r own) sense of wonder and joy i n learning. For working parents, an evening wherein they may explore t h e i r c h i l d ' s classroom can provide them with the opportunity t o f e e l as though they are i n touch with the pulse of t h e i r c h i l d ' s experience (Johnson, 1991). P o s i t i v e home-school partnerships e s t a b l i s h e d outside of the parent-teacher conference w i l l b e n e f i t communication during the conference. The present f i n d i n g that parents of c h i l d r e n attending s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged schools report the previously discussed opinions once again speaks to the need f o r educators to enhance t h e i r diplomacy s k i l l s and f i n d a d d i t i o n a l ways to conference with parents i n non-threatening manner. Focussing on student strengths and c a p a b i l i t i e s (as opposed to d e f i c i e n c i e s ) i n the manner that the student-led conference method advocates might be a non-threatening way to meet the needs of parents of c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged c h i l d r e n . Such an approach may a l s o begin h e a l i n g p o t e n t i a l negative childhood school experiences of these parents. This i s not however to suggest that student d e f i c i e n c i e s and shortcomings be avoided and overlooked. Such issues must be faced squarely with s e n s i t i v i t y and generosity of s p i r i t . Summary This study began with the observation that despite the apparent p o p u l a r i t y and preference f o r parent-teacher conferences amongst parents and educators, problems have e x i s t e d with the process. Parents have sometimes experienced a l i e n a t i o n from the educational system and perhaps even harbored resentment toward teachers from previous experiences (Black & Nicklas, 1980). Teachers have experienced f r u s t r a t i o n i n diplomacy regarding a myriad of student concerns and have therefore negatively a n t i c i p a t e d conferences (Barron & Colvin, 1984). F i n a l l y , students have expressed estrangement and general discomfort about the r e p o r t i n g process (Goodlad & Anderson, 1987). While l i t e r a t u r e i d e n t i f i e d concerns with communication between home and school and proposed suggestions f o r improving the communication s k i l l s of teachers i n p a r t i c u l a r , empirical studies have o f f e r e d l i t t l e i n s i g h t i n t o these matters. Furthermore, f o r the most part, student opinions have been excluded from dis c u s s i o n i n the l i t e r a t u r e and research. From the empirical i n v e s t i g a t i o n i n t h i s present study, the fo l l o w i n g conclusions are summarized. Students 1. While 40% of student respondents reported discomfort, 40% of students a l s o expressed comfort with communication as i t pertains to the rep o r t i n g process i n general. 2. Approximately 55% of students negatively a n t i c i p a t e d d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r progress with parents while about 28% p o s i t i v e a n t i c i p a t i o n . 3. Twenty percent more students who perceived that t h e i r best l e t t e r grade was a 'C i n d i c a t e d increased apprehension about d i s c u s s i n g t h e i r performance with parents i n contrast t o students whose best l e t t e r grade was perceived to be a 'B'. 4. In general, grades four and seven French Immersion students do not i n d i c a t e s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t opinions than regular grades four and seven students. 5. While about 50% of students d i s l i k e d t a l k i n g with t h e i r parents about the parent-teacher conference a f t e r i t has occured, 43% l i k e d the experience. 6. Student's gender was not a v a r i a b l e associated with s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t opinions of survey items. 7. Grade l e v e l was found to y i e l d s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t opinions on a l l items. Discomfort and d i s l i k e of the repo r t i n g process was.found to increase with grade l e v e l . Parents and Teachers 8. In general, 40% of returned parent surveys and 25% of returned teacher surveys expressed discomfort with the present r e p o r t i n g process, and approximately 52% of parents and teachers i n d i c a t e d comfort with the'reporting process. 9. Just over 60% of parents and 35% of teachers wanted more time i n which to conference about student progress. 10. About one-third of parents and teachers reported d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g students' behaviour and l i m i t a t i o n s of a b i l i t y . 11. About 25% of parents and 40% of teachers i n d i c a t e d d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g c h i l d r e n who f a l l short i n t h e i r a b i l i t y . 12. Nearly twice the proportion of parents were c r i t i c a l of teacher responses than teachers to parent responses with respect to t h e i r questions during the conference. 13. T h i r t y percent more teachers found that parents were too c r i t i c a l of student progress than parent d i s s a t i s f a c t i o n with teachers on the same matter. 14. Parents were more d i s s a t i s f i e d (four times more) with teacher l i s t e n i n g a b i l i t i e s during the conference than teachers of parent l i s t e n i n g a b i l i t i e s . Parents 15. The t o t a l number of parent respondent's school-aged c h i l d r e n was not found to be s i g n i f i c a n t l y r e l a t e d to parent opinions reported on the surveys. 16. When parents of c h i l d r e n attending s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged schools were compared to those of advantaged schools, approximately 20% more parents of disadvantaged students experienced increased: (a) general discomfort during the conference; (b) teacher c r i t i c i s m of t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress; (c) * d i f f i c u l t y understanding teacher comments about t h e i r c h i l d ' s progress; and (d) desire of increased time f o r conferencing with teachers. Teachers 17. T h i r t y percent more elementary teachers than secondary teachers wanted increased time f o r conferences with parents. 18. Teacher gender or educational l e v e l were not v a r i a b l e s associated with s i g n i f i c a n t l y d i f f e r e n t opinions on the surveys. 19. Years of teaching experience y i e l d e d only two s i g n f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e s on survey items p e r t a i n i n g to discussing students who f a l l short in their achievement or student limitations. Limitations of the Study The significance and generalizability of these conclusions are limited by the following factors: 1. As no attempt was made to follow-up why some parents and teachers did not complete surveys the representativeness of the parent and teacher sample may be drawn into question. 2 . The sample was one of convenience and not random (as i s usual nowadays given the necessity of having volunteer respondents). 3. Because surveys were delivered to homes by students i t i s possible that some surveys never arrived home and some parents did not have the opportunity to complete or to not complete the survey. 4. The secondary parent response rate was low compared to other respondent groups. 5. Student, parent and teacher expressed opinions about parent- teacher conferences were limited to survey items. 6. Although responses were voluntary and anonymous, some respondents may have s t i l l responded in a socially desirable manner. 7 . The opinions expressed by respondents reflect their views of parent-teacher conferences just after report cards were distributed and before conferences were held. 8. Student degree of socio-cultural advantage and disadvantage was defined by school indices on two grades four and seven p r o v i n c i a l assessments and number of school r e f e r r a l s t o the d i s t r i c t ' s behavioural disorder program. A more r e f i n e d d e f i n i t i o n i s des i r a b l e . 9. V a l i d i t y and r e l i a b i l i t y assessments of survey items were not conducted. 10. Despite t r a i n i n g two secondary teachers to administer the student survey they may have administered the surveys i n subtly d i f f e r e n t manners a f f e c t i n g student responses. Recommendations The f i n d i n g s discussed i n t h i s chapter have suggested the f o l l o w i n g recommendations: 1. That teachers receive conference i n s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g with emphasis on the following matters: (a) l i s t e n i n g s k i l l s ; (b) s e n s i t i v i t y i n d iscussing student misbehaviour, l i m i t a t i o n s of student c a p a b i l i t i e s and underachievement; and (c) encouraging parents of s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y disadvantaged c h i l d r e n . 2. That school counsellors work with teachers to develop e f f e c t i v e communication s k i l l s . 3. That a l t e r n a t e reporting methods focus on i d e n t i f y i n g student strengths and c a p a b i l i t i e s . 4. That a l t e r n a t e r e p o r t i n g methods (such as the student-led conference model) be considered to involve students as a c t i v e and respected members of the home-school partnership. Results i n d i c a t e that t h i s recommendation might e s p e c i a l l y b e n e f i t lower achieving students. 5. That consideration to developing a l t e r n a t e r e p o r t i n g methods fo r the secondary population be given p r i o r i t y . 6. That i n some instances the amount of time a l l o c a t e d f o r conferencing be lengthened. 7. That parents become more cognizant of t h e i r c h i l d ' s d a i l y school experiences and receive support from educators to further develop communication s k i l l s so that they might be more e f f e c t i v e at d i s c u s s i n g student progress with t h e i r c h i l d . Directions for Future Research The current research provided the formulation of several questions which should inform future work: 1. Consider u t i l i z i n g a pre and post-survey design to b e t t e r assess changes i n opinion as a r e s u l t of conference experiences. 2. Consider the matter of communication between parent and c h i l d f u r t h e r to more f u l l y understand family communication dynamics. 3. Follow-up on non-respondents. 4. U t i l i z e the postal system f o r parent respondents, e s p e c i a l l y at the secondary l e v e l . 5. Include i n the instruments a s o c i a l d e s i r a b i l i t y or l i e scale. 6. Further in v e s t i g a t e the responses of s o c i o - c u l t u r a l l y advantaged and disadvantaged students u t i l i z i n g family economic l e v e l . 7. Assess v a l i d i t y and r e l i a b i l i t y of instruments. In conclusion, the current study has contributed some i n s i g h t i n t o b e t t e r understanding student, parent and teacher opinions of the r e p o r t i n g process and i n p a r t i c u l a r , parent-teacher conferences. 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Human encounters that change behaviour for b e t t e r or worse. American Journal of Psychotherapy. 2H, 499-520. Toronto Board of Education. (1982). Parent-teacher interview: A guide for teachers. Toronto, Ont: Toronto Board of Education. United Federation of Teachers. (1989). Please come to open school week and Bienvenidos a "Escuela Abierta. New York: American Federation of Teachers. (ED316596) Vaughn, H.L. (1966). Part one of p a r a l l e l studies on parent-teacher conferences: An anal y s i s of the r e l a t i o n s h i p between the teacher's perception of the s o c i a l c l a s s of parents and the context and manner i n which information i s r e l a t e d to parents. D i s s e r t a t i o n Abstracts I n t e r n a t i o n a l , 21, 1564A. (University Microfilms No. 66-12, 809) Welch, F.C., & Tisda l e , P.C. (1986). Between parent and teacher. S p r i n g f i e l d , I I : Charles C. Thomas. Witherspoon, R.L. (1983). A study of a parent/teacher conference i n - s e r v i c e t r a i n i n g curriculum to improve the e f f e c t i v e n e s s of cummunication for teachers. D i s s e r t a t i o n Abstracts Inte r n a t i o n a l , 44/04. 1062A. (University Microfilms No. ADG 83-17455) Wyatt, M., & Wyatt, B.L. (1985). Parent-teacher-student conference networks i n secondary programs: A model. Paper presented at the National Vocational Home Economics Education Conference. (ED258963) 1 0 6 Appendix A: P i l o t Studies Student Survey During September of 1990, classes of grades four and seven from West Langley Elementary were asked to volunteer anonymous accounts of what they liked and disliked about parent-teacher conferences. This school was selected for convenience as the researcher's counselling role at the elementary school enabled him to communicate with students, parents and teachers. From the opinions expressed by responding students (n=90) common themes could be identified. Approximately half of the students' statements about parent-teacher conferences were concerned with the following themes: (a) appreciation for parent and teacher meeting to discuss student performance; (b) positive value of follow-up discussions with parents; and (c) appreciation of feedback about their performance through the report card. The remainder of pupil opinions expressed discouragement and less than positive feelings about the reporting process and conferences; indicated a sense of discomfort with reporting and conferencing ac t i v i t i e s ; and expressed frustration concerning communication with parents after the conference. With respect to discomfort about reporting and conferences, students indicated that they: (a) worried about what grades and comments teachers would record on their report cards; .(b) feared what teachers and parents would discuss about them when they were not present; and (c) were anxious about how their parents would respond toward them after the conference. Student frustrations regarding talking with parents after the conference were apparent in comments about negative parent feedback and respondes to parent questions about their performance. It i s interesting to note that opinions expressed by these students closely resemble student opinions as reported by Richardson (1955) over 35 years ago. Parent Survey The Parent Survey was developed i n a manner similar to that of the Student Survey. During the week of September 17, 1990 the researcher interviewed 25 parents at West Langley Elementary. Parents were informed of the researcher's intent to develop a survey and were requested to volunteer views of parent-teacher conferences. During the following week the writer delivered a talk on parent involvement in public schools to a group of parents ,(n=32) in Surrey, B.C. (a neighbouring municipality), and afterward requested input to the development of the survey. Identified .dislikes of parent-teacher conferences were: (a) discussions not detailed enough; (b) not enough focus on student strengths; (c) discomfort when talking with teachers; (d) lack of time; (e) ineffective communication; and (6) d i f f i c u l t y discussing specific matters pertaining to students. From these concerns a pool of twenty items were developed and l a t e r p i l o t e d with parents 107 at West Langley Elementary and at two l o c a l parent workshops i n October 1990. Twelve items were se l e c t e d and the same format p r e f e r r e d by students was decided upon. Teacher Survey During September and October of 1990 the w r i t e r addressed several teacher groups on the t o p i c of classroom management and requested input to develop the Teacher Survey. With the exception of disocmfort when t a l k i n g with parents, the same issues presented by parents were i d e n t i f i e d by teachers. The w r i t e r decided to reword most of the items on the Parent Survey to address teachers. The Teacher Survey, c o n s i s t i n g of ten items, was then p i l o t e d with teachers attending workshops presented by the researcher i n November 1990. 108 Appendix B Student Survey A. C. E. 109 STUDENT OPINIONS ABOUT PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES Date Today: (year) (month) (day) B. Gender: boy girl School Name: D. City I am in grade (circle one) 7 10 Circle one response which best t e l l s your opinion. I sometimes feel uncomfortable in talking to my parent/guardian about my report card. Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Neutral Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree I feel relaxed around report card time. Neutral Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree I could work harder in school Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Neutral Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree I feel frustrated when I talk with my parent/guardian about my report card after the Parent-Teacher Conference. Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Neutral Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree I enjoy it when my parent/guardian talks to me about the conference Neutral Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree I worry about what will be said about me at the Parent-Teacher Conference. Strong!y Agree Agree Somewhat Neutral Disagree Somewhat Strong!y Disagree I work hard at school. Strongly Agree Agree Somewhat Neutral Disagree Somewhat Strongly Disagree turn page over. 110 8 . I am w o r r i e d about what my t e a c h e r w i l l w r i t e about me on my r e p o r t c a r d . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 9 . I l i k e e x p l a i n i n g my r e p o r t c a r d t o my p a r e n t / g u a r d i a n . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 10 . My p a r e n t / g u a r d i a n knows how I work a t s c h o o l . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 1 1 . I l ook f o r w a r d t o my p a r e n t / g u a r d i a n t a l k i n g t o my t e a c h e r about my r e p o r t c a r d . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 12 . A f t e r the P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e I w o r r y abou t what I ' l l say t o my p a r e n t / g u a r d i a n . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 13 . T a l k i n g abou t t he P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e w i t h my p a r e n t / g u a r d i a n i s e n j o y a b l e . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 14 . My BEST SUBJECT i s ; and I u s u a l l y ge t the f o l l o w i n g l e t t e r g r a d e i n i t ( c i r c l e t he g r a d e ) : D C B A . 15 . My WORST SUBJECT i s ; and I u s u a l l y ge t the f o l l o w i n g l e t t e r g r a d e i n i t ( c i r c l e t he g r a d e ) : D C B A . Thank you f o r you r o p i n i o n s abou t t h e s e s t a t e m e n t s . P l e a s e f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e t o make any f u r t h e r comments about P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . I l l Appendix C Parent Survey PARENT/GUARDIAN OPINIONS ABOUT PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES 112 j u n i o r s e c o n d a r y (8 - 10) , s e n i o r s e c o n d a r y (11 - 12) D. T o t a l number o f s c h o o l - a g e d c h i l d r e n i n f a m i l y ( P l e a s e c i r c l e n u m b e r ) : 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 o r more Circle one response which best indicates your opinion: 1. I s o m e t i m e s f e e l u n c o m f o r t a b l e when d i s c u s s i n g my c h i l d ' s r e p o r t c a r d a t the P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 2 . A l ook a t my c h i l d ' s s c h o o l work d u r i n g the c o n f e r e n c e h e l p s me u n d e r s t a n d h i s / h e r p r o g r e s s . S t r o n g l y A g r e e A g r e e Somewhat N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e Somewhat S t r o n g l y D i s a g r e e T e a c h e r s can be t o o p o s i t i v e about my c h i l d ' s p r o g r e s s a t s c h o o l S t r o n g l y A g r e e A g r e e Somewhat N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e Somewhat S t r o n g l y D i s a g r e e 4 . I w o u l d l i k e t o have more t i m e f o r d i s c u s s i o n d u r i n g t he c o n f e r e n c e . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 5 . T e a c h e r s can be o v e r l y c r i t i c a l when d i s c u s s i n g my c h i l d ' s p r o g r e s s . S t r o n g l y Ag ree N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 6 . I t i s d i f f i c u l t t o u n d e r s t a n d what t he t e a c h e r i s t r y i n g t o s a y about my c h i I d ' ' s p r o g r e s s . S t r o n g l y Ag ree N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e t u r n page o v e r . 113 My c h i l d ' s b e h a v i o u r a t s c h o o l can be d i f f i c u l t to d i s c u s s w i t h teachers a t t he P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e The l i m i t a t i o n s o f my c h i l d ' s a b i l i t i e s can be d i f f i c u l t t o d i s c u s s w i t h t e a c h e r s a t the P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e . S t r o n g l y Agree N e u t r a l Disagree Strongly Agree Somewhat Somewhat Disagree I f my c h i l d f a l l s s h o r t i n h i s / h e r a c h i e v e m e n t I f i n d i t d i f f i c u l t t o d i s c u s s a t t he c o n f e r e n c e . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e T e a c h e r s r e a l l y answer the q u e s t i o n s I have abou t my c h i l d . S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 11. A t P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s I have n o t i c e d t h a t t e a c h e r s have d i f f i c u l t y d i s c u s s i n g c h i l d r e n who ( c h e c k one o r m o r e ) : have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s a c h i e v e above a v e r a g e m i s b e h a v e a r e a v e r a g e a c h i e v e be low a v e r a g e 12. T e a c h e r s r e a l l y l i s t e n t o what I have t o say abou t my c h i l d . S t r o n g l y Ag ree N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e Thank you f o r you r o p i n i o n s about t h e s e s t a t e m e n t s . P l e a s e f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e t o make any f u r t h e r comments abou t P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . Appendix T) TEACHER OPINIONS ABOUT PARENT-TEACHER CONFERENCES 115 A . Da te T o d a y : 1991 Month Day B . G e n d e r : f e m a l e ma le C . Number of y e a r s t e a c h i n g : 1, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10 , i i - 15 , 16 + D. D e g r e e ( s ) h e l d : 3 y e a r c e r t i f i c a t e B . E d . B . A . 8, c e r t i f i c a t e D i p l o m a in M . E d , i n M.A. i n C i r c l e one r e s p o n s e w h i c h b e s t i n d i c a t e s you r o p i n i o n . 1 2 3 4 5 S t r o n g l y A g r e e N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e S t r o n g l y A g r e e Somewhat Somewhat D i s a g r e e 1. A s t u d e n t ' s b e h a v i o u r i s d i f f i c u l t t o d i s c u s s w i t h p a r e n t s d u r i n g P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . 1 2 3 4 5 2 . I t c a n be d i f f i c u l t t o d i s c u s s s t u d e n t s who f a l l s h o r t i n t h e i r a c h i e v e m e n t . 1 2 3 4 5 3 . A t P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s I have n o t i c e d t h a t PARENTS HAVE DIFF ICULTY d i s c u s s i n g c h i l d r e n who ( r a n k o r d e r 1 - 5 ; where 1 = most d i f f i c u l t y and 5 = l e a s t d i f f i c u l t y ) : have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s a r e above a v e r a g e a c h i e v e r s m i s b e h a v e a r e a v e r a g e a r e b e l o w a v e r a g e a c h i e v e r s 4. At P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s I have n o t i c e d t h a t I HAVE DIFF ICULTY d i s c u s s i n g s t u d e n t s who ( r a n k o r d e r 1 - 5 : where 1 = most d i f f i c u l t y ana 5 = l e a s t d i f f i c u l t y ) : have l i m i t e d c a p a b i l i t i e s a r e above a v e r a g e a c h i e v e r s m i s b e h a v e a r e a v e r a g e a r e b e l o w a v e r a g e a c h i e v e r s t u r n page o v e r . 116 1 S t r o n g l y A g r e e 2 Ag ree Somewhat 3 N e u t r a l D i s a g r e e Somewhat 5 S t r o n g l y D i s a g r e e 5 . T h e r e Is enough t i m e t o d i s c u s s s t u d e n t p r o g r e s s d u r i n g P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . i ' 2 3 - 4 5 6 . The l i m i t a t i o n s o f a s t u d e n t ' s c a p a b i l i t y a r e d i f f i c u l t t o d i s c u s s w i t h p a r e n t s d u r i n g P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . 1 2 3 4 5 7. P a r e n t s can be o v e r l y c r i t i c a l o f t h e i r c h i l d ' s p r o g r e s s . 1 2 3 4 5 I have n o t i c e d t h a t t h i s has- ( c h e c k o n e ) : I n c r e a s e d Remained t he same D e c r e a s e d 8 . I doubt w h e t h e r p a r e n t s r e a l l y u n d e r s t a n d my comments abou t t h e i r c h i l d d u r i n g t h e s e c o n f e r e n c e s . 1 2 3 4 5 9 . P a r e n t s r e a l l y l i s t e n to . what I have t o say about t h e i r c h i l d . 1 2 3 4 5 1 0 . P a r e n t s r e a l l y answer q u e s t i o n s I have abou t t h e i r c h i l d . i 2 3 4 5 Thank you f o r you r o p i n i o n s abou t t h e s e s t a t e m e n t s . P l e a s e f e e l c o m f o r t a b l e t o make any f u r t h e r comments about P a r e n t - T e a c h e r C o n f e r e n c e s . Appendix E: L e t t e r Granting D i s t r i c t Permission Appendix F: L e t t e r of Introduction to Parents Appendix G: L e t t e r of Transmittal to Teachers The U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia Faculty of Education Department of Counselling Psychology 5780 Toronto Road Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1L2 Dear Colleague: The attached survey form i s designed to gain a better understanding of teacher opinions about parent-teacher conferences. Similar forms are being completed by students and parents. I a n t i c i p a t e that the r e s u l t s from t h i s study w i l l help a l l p a r t i e s improve communications between home and school; and help us t o b e t t e r understand our service to c h i l d r e n and t h e i r parents. I am p a r t i c u l a r i l y desirous of obtaining your responses to the teacher survey because your experience as a classroom teacher w i l l contribute s i g n i f i c a n t l y toward s o l v i n g some of the challenges we face i n t h i s important area of education. The average time required f o r teachers t r y i n g out the survey instrument was 5 to 10 minutes. I t would be appreciated i f you would complete the enclosed form p r i o r to and return i t i n the sealed envelope to the box marked "Conference Survey" i n your staffroom. No name i s required and your responses w i l l be held i n s t r i c t e s t confidence. A summary of the survey r e s u l t s w i l l be made a v a i l a b l e to you at your school i n September 1991. Thank you f o r your cooperation. Sincerely, Barry MacDonald D i s t r i c t Elementary Counsellor - enclosure Appendix H: Instructions f o r Administering Student Survey 1. D i s t r i b u t e surveys. Make sure that everyone has a pen or p e n c i l . 2. Instruct students to complete the student information section (items A through E). 3. Write the following information on the board: Strongly Agree Neutral Disagree Strongly Agree Somewhat Somewhat Disagree Say "Today you w i l l be asked some questions about Parent- teacher Conferences. This i s not a t e s t . Your teacher and parents or guardian w i l l not be reading your answers. I w i l l be reading your answers and w i l l write a report on opinions about Parent-teacher Conferences. 4. "These questions are d i f f e r e n t from most questions teachers ask. I am i n t e r e s t e d i n what you think and f e e l about Parent- teacher Conferences. There are no r i g h t or wrong answers because everyone has d i f f e r e n t opinions." 5. Stand next to the blackboard and say: (Grade 4 students) "I w i l l read a statement l i k e , 'I l i k e hockey cards.' You w i l l get a chance to answer whether or not t h i s statement i s true f o r you. (Grades 7 and 10 students) "You w i l l read a statement l i k e , *I l i k e rock videos.' You w i l l get a chance to answer whether or not t h i s statement i s true f o r you. ( A l l grades) " I f you r e a l l y l i k e hockey cards/rock videos, you would c i r c l e the spot on your answer marked Strongly Agree. (Point to the spot on the blackboard.) I f you l i k e hockey cards/rock videos p r e t t y much, but you're not r e a l l y w i l d about them, you would c i r c l e Agree Somewhat. (Point to the spot on the blackboard.) I f you are not sure about whether you do or don't, you would c i r c l e Neutral. (Point to the spot on the blackboard.) I f you disagree with the statement 'I l i k e hockey cards/rock videos' you would c i r c l e Disagree Somewhat. (Point to the spot on the blackboard.) Protocol f o r Administering Student Survey Con't 123 I f you strongly disagree with the statement you would c i r c l e Strongly Disagree. (Point to the spot on the blackboard.) 6. "Are there any questions?" (Answer student questions u n t i l everyone understands the d i r e c t i o n s . ) 7. Before students begin the survey say "Do not write your name on t h i s survey. Your teacher and parents w i l l not be reading your answers. I am going to read your opinions and write a report on student opinions about Parent-teacher Conferences. I would appeciate reading about your personal opinions. Please s i t q u i e t l y a f t e r you have completed a l l the questions. I w i l l c o l l e c t the papers a f t e r everyone i s f i n i s h e d . Thank you." 8. Be prepared to answer further questions once students begin responding. (Grade 4) Read each statement out loud and provide time f o r students to c i r c l e t h e i r opinion. 9. A f t e r c o l l e c t i n g surveys thank the students f o r t h e i r p a r t i c i p a t i o n and ask i f they have any questions which they would l i k e t o discuss.

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