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Searching for common understanding : parent and teacher beliefs about the role of parents in young children's literacy development Porter, Patricia

Abstract

This study explored the beliefs and expectations of parents and teachers in an inner city, multicultural elementary school about the role of parents in helping their children's literacy development. A qualitative, case study methodology was used to gather data from 25 parents and 13 teachers in the school. Five support staff members were also interviewed. The research questions addressed by the study were: (1) What beliefs and expectations do parents and teachers hold about parents' roles in children's early literacy development? (2) What, if any, are the common areas of understanding between parents and teachers that may be used to promote the development of effective parent/teacher partnerships? (3) How can the family literacy programs in the school be adapted to increase the communication alignment between parents and teachers? The responses from participants in the study indicated differences in how parents and teachers perceived the role of the parents in helping their children learn and that these differences had implications for home/school communication and the development of parent/teacher relationships. Teachers' and parents' perceptions of the parents' role in helping children's literacy development are categorized into four groups: Parent as Carer; Parent as Supporter; Parent as Developer; and Parent as Nurturer. The communication difficulties that existed between the teachers and the parents from each category are discussed. A framework of analysis was created to consider how the family literacy programs offered in the school afforded opportunities for building common understanding. The study identified some of the difficulties faced by teachers and parents as they work together to support young children's literacy development and suggests ways for bridging and accommodating these differences.

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