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Exploring parent-teacher computer -mediated communication: Applying social information processing theory to parent -teacher relationships

Blair C Thompson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

In the past decade, the use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) such as e-mail has reportedly increased the level of parental involvement in their children's education and parent-teacher communication (Jennings & Wartella, 2004; Levin-Epstein, 2004). In the present study, the researcher posed five research questions exploring the complexity of parent-teacher e-mail communication, including the characteristics, advantages and disadvantages, strategies, differences between CMC and other modes, and the changes in parent-teacher relationships. Using interpretive research methods, the researcher discovered intricate details about the parent-teacher e-mail communication process, identified parents' and teachers' rationale for mode selection and channel switching, and analyzed how pedagogical relationships developed between parents and teachers. ^ The researcher conducted 30 parent and 30 teacher interviews. The participants had predominantly middle to high socio-economic status. The interviews furnished 667 pages of text-based data for analysis in addition to 341 parent-teacher e-mail messages. The interview and e-mail transcripts were analyzed using the constant comparative method (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Social Information Process Theory (Walther, 1992) guided the analysis of parent-teacher relationships as the theory explains how relational communication develops over time via CMC and how people adapt to the medium. ^ First, the analysis revealed ten characteristics that constituted the parent-teacher e-mail communication process, which was far more complex than previously realized. Surprisingly, parents and teachers identified more disadvantages than advantages of parent-teacher e-mail though the advantages were stronger in force. Second, the researcher discovered parents and teachers selected the mode of communication based on the purpose of their communication. E-mail was primarily used for instrumental purposes while face-to-face communication was used for more emotional topics. Finally, relationships developed between parents and teachers who communicated frequently via CMC (typically two to five parents per teacher). The researcher identified specific mechanisms parents and teachers used to adapt to the medium in order to facilitate relational communication. The findings offer parents and teachers strategies for communicating via CMC as well as suggestions for when to communicate via other modes.^

Subject Area

Speech Communication|Education, Educational Psychology|Education, Secondary|Education, Technology of

Recommended Citation

Thompson, Blair C, "Exploring parent-teacher computer -mediated communication: Applying social information processing theory to parent -teacher relationships" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3251360.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3251360

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