Steve Constantino sent out a tweet about a very interesting study titled The effects of parental involvement on students’ academic self-efficacy, engagement and intrinsic motivation.
Basically, it find that making calls home to parents when there are problems with the child at school generally leads to negative parent/child interactions. These, in turn, typically result in reduced student intrinsic motivation to learn and decreased academic engagement.
In some ways, these kinds of calls can have the same consequence that using extrinsic motivation causes. As Daniel Pink has found, using carrots and sticks can be effective in promoting mechanical work and obedience, but not higher order thinking development.
Of course, just as most of us, including me, sometimes have to resort to carrots and sticks because of certain circumstances, sometimes we have to make phone calls home because of a severe problem. Perhaps, though, this study might give some of us pause. In fact, I’ve found it much more effective to tell students who are having challenges in class that I am going to call their parents in a week, and that I only want to say positive things, and I’m confident they’ll give me plenty of reasons to say those good things in the coming days.
And when we do have to make those calls home, or have those parent meetings, in addition to asking the advice from parents on how we can best deal with the problem (which is how I always lead), maybe we might want to alert them to what this research has found and discuss positive ways they can help their child deal with the issue, too.
I’m going to add this post to The Best Sources Of Parent Engagement Advice For Teachers.
Here’s an excerpt from the study:
…the consequential reactions and behaviours of parents after conversing with teachers are likely to be associated with adolescents’ academic self-efficacy in maths and English, engagement and intrinsic motivation in maths and English. Parent–school communications concerning students’ school problems can easily lead to certain discouraging conversations, criticisms or punishments from parents, which decrease students’ confidence, interest and engagement in learning. On the contrary, parent–school communications regarding other school issues,such as academic programming and future educational plans, can assist parents by providing resourceful and useful information (Domina, 2005) that help their children to succeed. Parents are more likely to communicate with and provide guidance to their children in a positive manner following these informational contacts with teachers and, as a result, benefit students’ perceived competence, engagement and intrinsic motivation. These results, therefore, emphasise the importance of how parents communicate and intervene with their children, especially when their children are struggling at school.