School personnel's perceptions of family-school communication: a qualitative study Anne F. Farrell and Melissa A. Collier- University of Connecticut, USA

Nature of the study:

Communication between school personnel and parents

Idea behind Family-School Communication (FSC)

Realignment of traditional relationships due to military context

research questions

  1. What is the current state of FSC from the perspective of school personnel?
  2. How do ecological factors affect it?
  3. What are the uniques contributions made by school personnel?

Ethnographic Research

This study evaluated a specific social group (military families) and asked questions about the experiences of educators in terms of how they communicate with this group that consists of unique dynamics.

Role of the researcher and Data Collection:

Researchers conducted interviews that consisted of the same 13 open ended questions as their primary method of gathering data.

10 teachers, 5 school personnel

14 females, 1 male

Methods of analysis:

Interviews converted into verbatim transcripts

Analyzed with NVivio 7.0 (qualitative research software)

Patterns found in responses were categorized into 6 themes


theme 1:

Participants indicated:

  • Effective FSC required experience of its benefits and a 'shared vision' with parents.
  • Effective FSC should build communication and trust (quickly).
  • Effective FSC happens when personnel schedules in availability specifically to relay messages to families.

theme 2:


  • Progress updates
  • Logistics/schedules
  • Problems/concerns


  • Twice a year, at 15 minutes each


  • Conference (face-to-face)
  • Email
  • Newsletter
  • Phone

theme 3:

Participants indicated:

  • Personnel unanimously acknowledged the importance of a knowledgable and supportive administration for successful FSC.
  • Conversely, non-teaching personnel emphasized the importance of supporting teachers, as they are the primary liaison to families.
  • Good climate consists of an important working relationship between teacher and parent.

theme 4:

Participants indicated:

  • Participants unanimously stated they lacked formal education, training, and support for FSC.
  • Communication must be expanded beyond traditional methods.
  • Most experience with parent-teacher communication was gained through their own parenthood and/or coming from a military family as well.

theme 5:

Participants indicated:

  • Personnel must harness the ability to address the diverse communication needs of military families.
  • The relationship between educators and families should constitute a mutual partnership.
  • All personnel should be able to approach families with sensitivity and make knowing them a priority.

theme 6:

Participants indicated:

  • Parents are young.
  • Common stressors that they must be accustomed to recognizing was mostly deployment, transfer, and many children living in temporary one-parent households.
  • Personnel lack the validation of their teaching strategies because student turnover is so quick that results are hard to calculate.
  • Personnel must make fleeting time with students of some value to their lives and education.
Limitations outlined by researchers:
  • The study was small and only interviewed 15 participants.
  • The study includes only the perspectives of seasoned professionals.
  • The study was located in a small school district.
  • The teachers and families are not necessarily representative of the general population.

Merits of the study:

  • The study identified a need for specific communications training for educators entering the field.
  • The study identified a need for continuing education and training for those already in the field.
  • The study suggested that new staff in this context be trained about military policies and culture in order to better communicate with families.
  • The study suggested that personnel screen new children for trouble making learning adjustments as a result of multiple school transfers.
  • The study suggested that schools as a whole provide welcome and farewell procedures for families arriving and departing.
  • The study identified a need for personnel to regularly invite families to share information about what might be going on in the home, so that they can plan the best route for success in the classroom.


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