Year of Publication

2015

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Communication and Information

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Dr. Brandi N. Frisby

Second Advisor

Dr. Deanna D. Sellnow

Abstract

Hoy and Miskel (2008) and Weick (1976) conceptualize schools as organizational systems of which parents comprise part of the organization. Specifically, parent involvement includes such behaviors as assisting students with homework, participating in policy decisions, and providing feedback (Barge & Loges, 2003). Parent involvement is largely championed in K12 education and particularly in middle schools (e.g., Coalition of Essential Schools, 1993; Texas Education Agency, 1991). In fact, both parents and teachers value building positive parent-teacher relationships (Kalin & Steh, 2010) and may communicate regarding a variety of topics including student academic performance, classroom behavior, preparation, hostile peer interactions, and health (Thompson & Mazer, 2012). However, while parents and teachers report valuing positive parent-teacher interactions, Lasky (2000) found that “teachers and parents sometimes felt confused, powerless, and misunderstood as a result of their interactions” (p. 857). One specific type of parent-teacher communication that may lead to dissatisfying interactions is parent expressed educational dissent (PED). Similar to organizations and workplaces that do not value dissent as a feedback process increasing democratic discourse in the system, schools may actively attempt to avoid potentially negative or conflict-inducing communication such as dissent (Ehman, 1995). Scholars (e.g., Davies, 1987; Fine, 1993; Sarason, 1995) note the importance of dissent and parent involvement in education systems, and case studies espouse positive changes within education systems as a result of parental dissent (e.g., Ehman, 1997). In order to better understand PED, this dissertation project seeks to (a) examine why parents express dissent in educational systems, (b) identify how parents express dissent in educational systems, and (c) measure how PED affects members of the educational system. To accomplish these goals, the author conducted a series of focus groups with teachers and parents, developed a measure of PED, and disseminated a survey to both parents and teachers assessing the antecedents and possible outcomes affected by PED. The findings of this research aim to improve organizational communication within middle school education systems such that schools may develop prosocial strategies for (re)framing and addressing PED.

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