Keith Herman, University of Missouri – Parental Involvement and Teacher Perception

How important is parental involvement in a child’s education?

Keith Herman, professor in the College of Education at the University of Missouri, looks at the relationship between teachers and parents and the impact it has on a student.

Dr. Herman is a Professor in the Department of Educational, School, & Counseling Psychology at the University of Missouri. Dr. Herman primarily teaches doctoral coursework in the areas of parent behavior management, developmental psychopathology, and research design. Originally trained as a counseling psychologist at the University of Florida, Dr. Herman retrained in school psychology at the University of Oregon and also completed postdoctoral fellowships at Brown University and Johns Hopkins University. Before joining the department at Mizzou, he was a faculty member in the School of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University. His research takes a prevention science approach to understanding, preventing, and treating child depression. He has developed a conceptual model describing social developmental pathways to child depression with emphasis on modifiable aspects of schooling and parenting that contribute to children’s risk. This model has informed the development of school and family interventions for children who are depressed.

Parental Involvement and Teacher Perception

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Education experts have commonly viewed parental involvement as vital to student academic success; however, the quality of research on how to measure and improve parental involvement has been lacking. It’s clear from years of research that teacher perceptions, even perceptions of which they are not aware, can greatly impact student success. We decided to study how teachers perceive parental involvement to determine if those perceptions affect student outcomes and whether those perceptions can be changed.

Teachers completed surveys about their more than 1,800 students and parents at the beginning and end of the school year, including answering questions asking about the quantity and quality of their relationships with parents and the parents’ involvement in their children’s education. We also collected ratings and observations on student behavior and academic performance.

Children whose parents were identified by teachers as more positively involved had higher levels of prosocial behaviors and more academic success. Additionally, we found that parents who had children in classrooms where teachers received the training were more likely to develop more positive behaviors, including higher involvement and bonding with the teacher.

Negative perceptions often bring out negative behaviors. Teachers are more likely to report less comfort and alignment with parents whose children have academic and social problems, and parents from low income and/or from racial or ethnic minority groups. In other words, the families and students who need the most positive attention and support to re-engage them in education are often the ones who are viewed the least favorably.

Fortunately, this study shows that we can support teachers to improve their relationships with all parents, resulting in a better education for all children while also encouraging parents to become more involved in the education process.

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