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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Stewart Ehly
College of Education
The University of Iowa


Parent-Teacher Communication is a three semester-hour course that provides the student with information on a broad array of issues relating to parents' involvement in their children's education. The course meets Department of Education requirements for content on parent-teacher relationships and is required for several degree plans within the College of Education at the University of Iowa.

Class sessions introduce the student to communication techniques that are essential to parent-teacher collaboration. After essential skills are defined, the course reviews important options for parent-teacher involvement available within schools. The strategies for involvement are considered within the context of selected issues affecting public education. Finally, the content considers legal/ethical and professional issues surrounding involvement with parents.

A quick note: While the course refers to “parents” in its title, consideration within the course is not limited to biological and adoptive parents who have custody of children. Discussion can be considered to apply to all forms of adult custodial care of children and the methods adults can use in their encounters with educators. As might be expected, many of the techniques considered are not limited to encounters between educators and adult caretakers, but have universal application.

Course Schedule

August 27 – Overview of the course, group activity

August 29 – Rationale for parent involvement
History of family life, introduction
Read Berger, chapters 1, 2

September 3 – Skills in communication
Read Berger, chapter 5

September 5 – Skills, continued

September 10 – Skills, continued

September 12 – Assertiveness skills
Read instructor handouts

September 17 – Assertiveness, continued

September 19 – Negotiation skills

September 24 – Negotiation skills

September 26 – Exam One

October 1 – Parent conferences
Read Berger, chapters 4, 5

October 3 – Parent conferences, continued

October 8 – Parent interview activity (no class session)

October 10 – Work in triads

October 15 – Parent education
Read Berger, chapters 6, 8

October 17 – Parent education, continued

October 22 – Counseling and referral
Read review Web notes

October 24 – Consulting skills
Read review Web notes

October 29 – Diversity issues in working with families

October 31 – Families with children who have disabilities
Read Berger, chapter 9

November 5 – New concepts in services to families with a disabled member – guest speaker

November 7 – Exam Two

November 12 – Families with gifted children

November 14 – Emotions and values in communication
The hostile parent

November 19 – Working with other professionals
Team approaches/Guest speaker

November 21 – Working with distressed families
Read Berger, chapter 3, 10

November 26 – Parent interview activity (no class session)

December 3 – Legal issues in parent services
Read Berger, chapter 11

December 5 – The ethics of service, advocacy

December 10 – Change at the system level
Read Berger, chapter 7

December 12 – Exam Three (option 1)

December 17 – Exam Three (option 2, 12pm)

All readings above are from E. H. Berger. (2000). Parents as partners in education: Families and schools working together (5th ed.) New York: Merrill. Copies available at Iowa Book and Supply. Students are responsible for reading the Berger text, notes based on lectures and PowerPoint presentations posted on WebCT at, as well any handouts provided by the instructor.

The teaching methodology employed in this course seminar is a hybrid distributed learning approach. The hybrid approach combines both face-to-face classroom experiences (reading, lectures, scholarly discussions, group exercises, writing, and role-play) and technological learning experiences (synchronous and asynchronous) through the use of WebCT tools and the Internet.

Learning Format

Didactic – In class – Face-to-face lecture, dialogue, and discussion

Technology/WebCT (synchronous & asynchronous)
1. At the top of the page click “My WebCT.”
2. Enter your WebCT ID and password.

Experimental (synchronous & asynchronous)
Group activities, bulletin board postings

Assignments and Grading

Students are responsible for regular attendance and participation, submission of a report based a parent interview, and completion of three exams. Please contact me if you need special arrangements for exams.

Students have the option of (1) completing the third exam on December 12 or (2) completing the third exam during exam week. The University has completed scheduling for exam week; the published exam slot for the course is Thursday, December 17 at 12pm.

Each exam is structured to require three essay-length responses. On almost every exam, there will be three clusters of questions containing two choices that the student can select. The instructor looks for the following elements within a response:

  • Every section of the question is answered. While obvious, on occasion a student will forget to answer every part of the question.
  • The answer reflects content from the readings, class lectures and discussion, and personal experience (if appropriate).
  • The answer demonstrates the student's understanding of the issues raised within the question.
  • The student successfully synthesizes content from relevant sources and clearly states his or her argument.
  • The answer contains discussion that offers support for the student's arguments. The student provides a rationale or defense for the response given.
  • Answers that contain analysis of issues within a question, offer an assessment of cited research and applications, and evaluate the readings are preferred over responses that are limited to summarization of points made by others.

I am interested in finding out how you make sense of the content of this course. The exams and class participation are my best means of determining how well you have grasped issues relating to parent-teacher communication.

Parent Interview Activity

Conduct a brief interview with a parent of a school-age (K–12) child. Collect information on the following items and post a summary on course's WebCT bulletin board of your impressions.

Interview Questions

1. What kind of experiences have you had with your child's teachers and the school? Are you satisfied with the current relationship? Describe experiences that have been positive. Describe experiences that were frustrating.

2. Have there been any changes in your involvement with the school over time? What reasons might explain these changes? Do you believe that it is important for the child to have teachers and parents agree about school matters?

3. In what ways do you share/exchange information with teachers (or school) about:

  • Activities in the classroom
  • What the child should know or be able to do
  • How the child is progressing, what his/her strengths are
  • Problems that the child may be having

4. What would be necessary for parents and teachers to work together more effectively?


Grades for the course are assigned on a traditional scale, with + or - grades given. Points for the class activities are as follows:

Exams – 100 points each
Activities – 50 points (includes interview posting, WebCT and class participation)
Total – 350 points possible

Points for activities are divided as follows:
20 maximum for interview posting
10 maximum for additional WebCT contributions
20 maximum for class participation (attendance)

Grades are calculated as follows:

A+ = 343–350 points
A = 323–342
A- = 315–322

B+ = 308–314
B = 287–307
B- = 280–286

C+ = 273–279
C = 252–272
C- = 245–251

D+ = 238–244
D = 217–237
D- = 210–216
F = below 210

University Policies

Several University policies relate to this and other University courses.

An important starting point for University policies concerning student rights and responsibilities:

Students with disabilities are encouraged to review information posted at:

The College of Education's policy on student complaints and dispute resolution:

The College of Education's policy on student academic misconduct (plagiarism and cheating):

Free. Available online only.

© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project