What happens when parents and teachers engage in sustained conversation about learning

Rose Theresa Martin, University of Pennsylvania


Parent involvement is commonly accepted as an essential element for educational success. This assertion is accentuated in urban contexts. Though the validity of this belief is rarely questioned, the why and how of parent involvement are less clearly articulated. The belief that learning is the primary purpose of schooling and that parents and teachers together can affect the quality of the students' learning is the driving force for inviting parents and teachers to engage in sustained conversation about learning. The bi-weekly conversations span one semester and join parents and teachers from both an urban elementary and a middle school as participants in the research. Approaching the conversations from a constructivist orientation provides an analogic dynamic where the content is mirrored in the process. Individual parent and teacher interviews, as well as weekly classroom interaction, complement the research. The difficulty of connecting learning to schooling and the societal challenges to educational efficacy, reflected in both the content and context of the conversations, both hinder the project and demonstrate the necessity of the conversation. The presence of an ‘animator’ is constitutive to disrupting the dominant discourse and promoting the kind of disequilibrium that fosters learning. The topic of learning where neither group's knowledge is privileged supports a spirit of mutuality and vulnerability. Teachers' emphasis on communication and compliance is challenged by the implicit values of conversation and respect that are signaled by parents. As a sense of community begins to develop, the needs of the students become more of a focus, and practices that promote the status-quo begin to be questioned.

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Communication

Recommended Citation

Martin, Rose Theresa, "What happens when parents and teachers engage in sustained conversation about learning" (2000). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9965525.