Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Education

Faculty

Education and Arts

First Advisor

Associate Professor Graeme Lock

Second Advisor

Dr Geoffrey Lummis

Third Advisor

Associate Professor Carmel Maloney

Abstract

The focus of this study was to explore the nature of parent-teacher interactions and to find evidence of social influence strategies used within their interactions. The literature showed that schools, internationally, nationally, and locally, have implemented parental involvement programs advocated by their respective governments. These programs are designed to encourage parents to interact more with the school and the teachers, forming parent-teacher partnerships to enhance student achievement levels. However, in practice, previous research has also signalled that there are underlying tensions in these parent-teacher partnerships that impact on parent-teacher interactions. This study sought to identify factors that parents and teachers describe as impacting on their interactions. Four low fee, independent, Protestant, metropolitan Perth primary schools participated in the study. Sixty-seven parents and teachers shared their lived experiences of positive and less than satisfactory parent-teacher interactions. Data were collected through the use of individual in-depth semi-structured interviews and focus group sessions. Reading and interpreting these transcripts aided in uncovering patterns of meaning, given by parents and teachers, into the nature of their interactions and their use of social influence strategies. The key finding from this study revealed that the nature of parent-teacher interactions was either collaborative or non-collaborative. The research concluded that parents and teachers held similar views on what practices made their interactions collaborative; however, they had different perspectives on what constituted non-collaborative practices. Secondly, six social influence strategies: authorities/experts, discussion, evidence, passive resistance, pressure, and relational were identified as being used by both parents and teachers during these interactions. These social influence strategies were used to persuade, manipulate, coerce, and/or negate the other person into sharing, adopting, obtaining or ignoring a person’s perspective. The outcomes of parents and teachers using social influence strategies were to obtain a course of action, level of care, and/or support for the student. Finally, these social influence strategies were utilised during various contexts and purposes for parent-teacher interactions. The findings revealed that parents and teachers had a preference for using the discussion, evidence, and relational strategies during their interactions, irrespective of the context or purpose. Overall, this research identified that five social influence strategies resulted in satisfactory experiences of parent-teacher interactions affording positive outcomes for students. Conversely, one social influence strategy, passive resistance, resulted in less than satisfactory experiences of parent-teacher interactions deriving less than satisfactory outcomes for students. Based on the findings from this research, a number of recommendations are suggested that include professional learning opportunities for teachers (and members of the school’s leadership team) on: the collaborative and non-collaborative practices of parents and teachers; the use and occasions for social influence strategies being implemented during particular parent-teacher interactions; and, customer service and public relations skills (in particular for early career teachers). These recommendations are viewed, in light of the findings identified in this present study, as enhancing parent-teacher communication, parent-teacher relationships and parental involvement in schools. In addition, these recommendations support the Australian Institute for Teacher and School Leadership’s National Professional Standards for Teachers which aims to improve teacher quality and positively enhance student achievement levels in our Australian schools.

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