The eighteenth session at the 2015 annual conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education related to K-12 online learning that I am blogging is:
Teacher Perceptions of Parental Engagement at a Cyber School<Presentation: Paper #44671>
Conga A Thursday, Mar 05 2015 10:15AM-11:15AM
Yu-Li Chen: Conga A, 2015-03-05 10:15:00-2015-03-05 11:15:00
A growing number of adolescent students are taking all or most of their courses online and choosing to learn from home rather than in a traditional brick-and-mortar setting. This places a greater responsibility on the student’s parents to support and facilitate their student’s learning. This research used teacher surveys and interviews to better understand how teachers perceived and supported parents’ attempts to support their online students. Results showed that parents supported their students by (1) organizing and managing students’ schedules, (2) facilitating interactions, and (3) instructing students when necessary. However, teachers perceived parental efforts in organizing and facilitating activities as more valuable than parents’ instructing activities.
Jered set the stage by discussing some of the literature that has found that cyber charter schools (i.e., full-time K-12 online learning programs) perform quite poorly compared to brick-and-mortar schools. He then transitioned to the role of the parent – and specifically parental engagement in their child’s education – in the full-time online environment. When we consider what the school can control, in terms of parental engagement, school policies are the only ones – and most K-12 online learning program policies focus on quantity of interactions or engagement, not the quality.
The study Jered was reporting focused on teacher perceptions of parent engagement. The particular cyber school that Jered was working with had a parent organization, they required them to register in person and conducted an in-person orientation with parents at that time, basically the school valued and tried to provide a specific structure to ensure parent engagement.
Jered surveyed 15 of the 21 teachers, and then conducted a follow-up interview with 11 of those teachers. The data teacher surveys included:
- Top response – organizing and managing student schedule (13/15)
- Bottom responses – nurturing and mentoring students / instructing students (5/15)
According to the online teachers, those parents that had previously homeschooled their children really needed to take a step back from their child’s education (as they were no longer the teacher), whereas those parents that did not homeschool needed to take a step forward and get more involved. Apparently the homeschooled parents’ role did cause some friction for the teachers.
There was a great deal of teacher-parent communication. Often, if the parent recognized the student was struggling first they would contact the teacher, and if the teacher recognized it first they would contact the parent. Although Jered did note that in some instances, the parents served as a buffer between the teacher and the student (i.e., protecting a struggling student) or being unresponsive (i.e., student not doing well and has gone missing, and the parent is roughly the same – but this was a minority of instances).
Teachers also felt that one of the main roles for the parents were as a cheerleader for the student, but also providing a carrot/stick approach to motivating the students. This latter item required a great deal of collaboration between the teacher and parent. Teachers also indicated that parental volunteering in academically valuable activities or modeling those activities was a strong source of motivation.
Finally, teachers did not expect parents to be instructors – and students often complained that parental teaching could make matters worse. This was moreso in science and mathematics, as social studies and English teachers generally appreciated things like proof reading and foreign language teachers appreciated the extra practice that parents could provide the students.
Cyber schooling allows parents more opportunities to facilitate and frustrate student learning. The key is teacher-parent communications and ensuring that specific expectations and guidelines are established.
Jered finished by describing his ACE framework and suggested that this could be a model that could be used in future research into parental involvement.