Parent-Teacher Collaboration in Special Education

Abstract

According to research literature, innovative technologies have a large potential in enhancing teacher-parent collaboration in special education. Still, there exist barriers for both parents and special education professionals in using these technologies. The current paper is a proposal for a quantitative study that is taking place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The study will investigate the perceptions of parents of young children with special needs on parent-teacher collaboration, the potential of innovative technologies to serve as a tool for such collaboration, and the self-efficacy of parents related to their skills of using innovative technologies or learning to use them on their own. After the provision of a review of literature, the methods for the proposed study are discussed in detail, and various nuances of it (such as ethical issues and limitations) are considered.

Introduction

Parent-teacher collaboration is pivotal in special education, for it permits for greatly enhancing child outcomes. Nowadays, innovative technologies can considerably facilitate such collaboration, but there exist barriers to the implementation of such technologies. The current paper is a quantitative research proposal which offers to investigate the opinions of parents of young children on parent-teacher collaboration in special education, and the possibility to use innovative technologies for such collaboration. After a review of recent research literature (with a special focus on the situation in Saudi Arabia), the methods for the proposed study will be discussed in detail.

Review of Literature

Background

Generally, the authors of studies related to the topic of special education tend to agree that the parents of kids with disabilities experience considerable stress related to the process of bringing up their children (Benson, Karlof, & Siperstein, 2008). A large percentage of this stress pertains to the disability of their child, for disabilities put an additional strain on parents, necessitate considerable additional effort aimed at raising the child, and upset parents due to the generally lower expected successfulness of such children in the future and the possible social stigma related to their disability (Czapanskiy, 2013).

It should also be pointed out that most parents have no educational background, let alone a background in special education; therefore, even parents of children without disabilities may experience difficulties while raising their kids, whereas parents of disabled kids are subjected to additional complications. These complications may even lead to situations when parents begin devoting less time to educate and care for their children, which also adversely affects the development of these kids (Benson et al., 2008).

The outlined issues make the collaboration between special education professionals and parents of children with disabilities vital for the optimal development of the child, as well as for the overall wellness of the family of the child (Trivette, Dunst, & Hamby, 2010).

Such collaboration allows for attaining a wide range of positive effects for both the child and the family (Dempsey & Keen, 2008; Karst & Van Hecke, 2012); in particular, it alleviates the burden on the parents’ thanks to the capability of special education professionals to instruct parents about how to better deal with their child while the latter is not at school, thus not only improving the outcomes for the child but the general wellness of the family (Dempsey & Keen, 2008). Also, a collaboration between parents and special education teachers permits for increasing the effectiveness of special education provided for the children of these parents (Dempsey & Keen, 2008).

It should also be stressed that special education interventions ought to be provided for kids with disabilities from their early childhood to mitigate the effects of their disabilities on their development, and to allow for better future outcomes (Parette, Blum, & Boeckmann, 2009). The same pertains to parent-teacher collaboration in families where there are children with special needs; when the collaboration occurs while the child is still in their early years, the teacher can guide parents when it comes to the issue of how to bring up the kid better to minimize the adverse effects of that child’s disability (Parette et al., 2009).

Problems in Teacher-Parent Collaboration, and the Use of Innovative Technologies to Address These Problems

On the whole, a collaboration between parents of children with special needs and special education providers may be hindered by several factors. For instance, in some cases, parents might not be aware of the benefits of such collaboration, therefore not responding to the attempts of special educators to work together to improve the parenting practices in the family (Hornby & Lafaele, 2011). Also, parents might not have sufficient time needed to work effectively with special education professionals, visit the special education institution, and so on. In other cases, the temporal resources of special education teachers may also be limited.

It should also be pointed out that in some settings, there is a lack of encouragement for collaboration between parents and teachers. For instance, such a problem exists in Saudi Arabia. According to Alquraini (2011), a collaboration between parents and special educators is hard in that country; this is a result of several reasons, such as the limited knowledge of parents about the benefits of extending the application of special education methods over the time when the child is at home, the absence of training for these parents supplied by care providers, the difficulties that special educators experience when attempting to access parents, etc. (Pollet & Lombreglia, 2008; Starr & Foy, 2012). That is, in many cases, parents simply take their children from school and leave, not devoting time to communicate with teachers.

Whereas it might be problematic to effectually address the problem of the lack of awareness of the benefits of parent-teacher collaboration among parents using innovative technologies, these technologies can be of great use to increase the amount of collaboration between parents and teachers who have limited temporal resources (Dos Santos, Schlünzen, & Schlünzen, 2016; Plantin & Daneback, 2009). For example, communication over the Internet and various apps for mobile phones can easily be used to overcome the distance between parents of children with disabilities and special education teachers.

Problems of Implementing Innovative Technologies for Teacher-Parent Collaboration in Special Education

There exist several problems related to the implementation of innovative technologies for teacher-parent collaboration in special education. These may include the low awareness of the potential of the use of such technologies to better work with parents; the lack of specific skills and training needed to appropriately use these technologies on the part of special education teachers; the lack of such skills among parents; and sometimes – limited access to technologies themselves (Dos Santos et al. , 2016).

Apart from the availability of technologies, the lack of skills among educators is a rather serious problem (Nam, Bahn, & Lee, 2013), for in cases when educators have these skills and knowledge, they can teach parents which applications to use and how to use them, whereas if teachers do not know which technologies to use and how, there might exist a need in external factors to stimulate the utilization of such technologies (Fernández-López, Rodríguez-Fórtiz, Rodríguez-Almendros, & Martínez-Segura, 2013; Meadan, Meyer, Snodgrass, & Halle, 2013).

When discussing the problems of the implementation of innovative technologies in Saudi Arabia, it should be noted that, despite the efforts to introduce such technologies in many spheres of life in that country, the availability of these technologies might be limited (Al-Maliki, 2013).

Also, it is known that parents are rarely open to working with teachers in Saudi Arabia (Alquraini, 2011). Nevertheless, the review of literature has shown that the currently existing knowledge base related to the perceptions of parents of children with special needs on parent-teacher collaboration is strictly limited. Therefore, it is paramount to investigate further the perceptions of parents on this issue to be able to create interventions aimed at promoting the use of innovative technologies for parent-teacher collaboration among parents of children with special needs, as well as to know better which populations of parents need to be targeted specifically.

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the proposed study is to investigate the perceptions of parents of young children with special needs on the implementation of innovative technologies for parent-teacher collaboration in special education. As has been stressed, this may permit to create interventions aimed at promoting the use of such technologies and target them at the specific population of such parents.

Research Questions

The following research questions may be offered for the proposed study:

  1. Do different (with respect to age, level of education, and gender) populations of parents of young children with special needs view collaboration with special education teachers as useful for their child and their family?
  2. Do different (with respect to age, level of education, and gender) populations of parents of young children with special needs view innovative Internet technologies as a useful tool for teacher-parent collaboration?
  3. Do different (with respect to age, level of education, and gender) populations of parents of young children with special needs view themselves as able to use (or teach themselves how to use) innovative Internet technologies for teacher-parent collaboration?

Research Design and Methods

Research Design

The proposed study will be qualitative. More specifically, the study will utilize the correlational design to find out how the perceptions and opinions of parents of young children with special needs correlate with the demographic characteristic of these parents, such as their age group, gender, and level of formal education.

Research Method

The research method for the proposed study will be a survey. The participants will be asked to complete the survey, and the gathered data will be transferred into statistical software and analyzed. Such software as IBM SPSS Statistics will be used for data analysis.

The survey that will be employed for data collection can be found in Appendix 1.

Variables and Their Levels of Measurement

The study will have six variables on the whole. Three of these variables will be demographic variables and will be employed as independent variables in the analysis. These variables are 1) gender (dichotomous), 2) age group (ordinal), and 3) education (nominal).

The other three variables will reflect the opinions of parents about the issues of parent-teacher collaboration and the use of innovative technologies for such collaboration. They correspond to the questions 4-6 from the survey provided in Appendix 1. These variables will be: 4) attitude towards collaboration; 5) attitude towards innovative technologies; and 6) self-efficacy in the use of technologies. (The numbers here reflect the number of a respective question in Appendix 1). All these variables will be used as dependent variables. All of them will be measured using a 5-point Likert scale; consequently, it can be considered for practical purposes that the level of measurement for these variables in interval/ratio (Warner, 2013).

The Procedure, Setting, and Participants

The research will be conducted on participants from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. To find the participants, local special education institutions will be contacted via e-mail; it will be asked that these institutions forward a message with an invitation to take part in the study to the parents of kids in their early childhood who currently receive special education services in those institutions. The participants who respond to the letter will be asked to complete an online questionnaire, which can be found in Appendix 1 of this paper. The data from the completed surveys will be transferred into statistical software. It is expected to recruit at least 77 participants, which is needed to be able to find an effect that has a medium effect size (f2 =.15) at α =.05 and power =.80 (see below).

Data Collection and Analysis

As has been previously noted, the data will be collected by administering the surveys to the participants via electronic means and analyzed using the IBM SPSS Statistics software. Three multiple linear regressions will be run to find out whether the dependent variables can be predicted from the independent variables (Warner, 2013). In each of the regressions, all the three demographic variables (gender, age group, and education) will be used as the independent variables, and one of the variables describing the opinions of the participants (attitude towards collaboration; attitude towards innovative technologies; self-efficacy in the use of technologies) will be employed as the dependent variable.

Also, it will be possible to calculate descriptive statistics for all the dependent variables in the study to gain a general picture of the opinions of individuals on the investigated problems (Field, 2013).

As has been previously noted, the study will have to use at least 77 participants to be able to detect a medium effect (f2 =.15) using α =.05 and power =.80. The alpha and power levels have been chosen according to the default, “good practice” recommendations for selecting the respective levels for studies in cases when no additional rationale is provided for setting these levels (Field, 2013; Warner, 2013). The analysis has been run using the G*Power software. See the results of the analysis in Figure 1 below.

The results of the G*Power analysis to determine the minimum needed sample size.
Figure 1. The results of the G*Power analysis to determine the minimum needed sample size.

Expected Findings and Planned Discussion

Since very limited information is available about the views of the population of Saudi Arabian residents who have children with special needs on the use of innovative technology in special education, in most cases, it is difficult to say what results can be expected to be obtained. Nevertheless, it might be possible to assume that representatives of older age groups will have lower self-efficacy about their ability to use/learn how to use innovative technologies because yonder people are generally expected to know computer/Internet technologies better.

It might also be hypothesized that mothers (i.e., females) will generally have greater scores on the attitude towards collaboration variable; and that people with better education will generally have greater scores on all the three dependent variables. Nevertheless, these expectations are based on the common sense of the author of this paper only.

It is difficult to anticipate future discussions when it is unknown what findings to expect. However, in any case, it is planned to discuss the findings and to consider how the independent variables predict the levels of the dependent variables. This will allow for better preparing interventions targeted at different groups of parents and aimed at increasing their awareness of the importance of teacher-parent collaboration, as well as to enhance their attitudes towards the use of innovative technologies, and teach them to utilize the latter for collaboration with special educators.

Limitations and Weaknesses

The proposed study has several limitations and weaknesses. First, the sampling method will be convenience sampling, which limits the external validity of the study (although even if the sampling was random, the results probably should not have been generalized beyond Saudi Arabia or even Jeddah). There are also several threats to internal validity; for instance, there might be confounding variables that were not considered in the study (Cozby & Bates, 2015).

Also, because the research on this topic is very limited, the survey was created from scratch, which means that it has not been previously tested. Hence, its validity and reliability are unknown. Reliability of the measurement will not be checked in the current study, for all the three non-demographic questions pertain to different categories, so it is pointless to calculate e.g., Cronbach’s alpha; it is only possible to check test-retest reliability, but the participants will only be tested once in this study (Cozby & Bates, 2015). As for the validity of the measurement, the questions were formulated to be unambiguous, but it is also impossible to formally check the validity of measurement in the proposed study.

Also, a major weakness of the proposed study is related to the fact that surveying will be done remotely, via e-mail. This means that the parents who complete the survey will already have some experience of using innovative technologies, which might affect the scores on the attitude towards innovative technologies and self-efficacy in the use of technology variables. However, the researcher will be conducting the study remotely and will be unable to have a personal meeting to survey the respondents.

Ethical Issues

It should also be noted that the participants will be asked to provide their informed consent before completing the survey. In particular, it is possible to include the form for gaining informed consent at the beginning of the survey. Also, it should be stressed that the anonymity of participants will be preserved.

Apart from that, it is noteworthy that the proposed study does not appear to pose the levels of risk, which are greater than minimal. The data that will be collected from the participants will only reflect the personal opinions of respondents on the service of special education, and will also be quantitative, so it would be difficult or nearly impossible to misuse it. The potential hazard comes from the fact that the respondents will have young children who require special education; but, since the information about the participants will be known only to the researcher (and a very limited amount of information, probably only people’s e-mails) and to the members of the special school staff (who possess this information anyway).

Since this information will not be published or revealed anywhere so that the participants’ anonymity will be preserved, it is not expected that the proposed study features any notable threat when it comes to ethical issues.

References

Al-Maliki, S. Q. A.-K. (2013). Information and communication technology (ICT) investment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Assessing strengths and weaknesses. Journal of Organizational Knowledge Management, 2013, 1-15. Web.

Alquraini, T. (2011). Special education in Saudi Arabia: Challenges, perspectives, future possibilities. International Journal of Special Education, 26(2), 149-159. Web.

Benson, P., Karlof, K. L., & Siperstein, G. N. (2008). Maternal involvement in the education of young children with autism spectrum disorders. Autism, 12(1), 47-63. Web.

Cozby, P. C., & Bates, S. C. (2015). Methods in behavioral research (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education. Web.

Czapanskiy, K. S. (2013). Special kids, special parents, special education. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, 47, 733-790. Web.

Dempsey, I., & Keen, D. (2008). A review of processes and outcomes in family-centered services for children with a disability. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 28(1), 42-52. Web.

Dos Santos, D. A. N., Schlünzen, E. T. M., & Schlünzen, K. Jr. (2016). Teachers training for the use of digital technologies. Universal Journal of Educational Research, 4(6), 1288-1297. Web.

Fernández-López, Á., Rodríguez-Fórtiz, M. J., Rodríguez-Almendros, M. L., & Martínez-Segura, M. J. (2013). Mobile learning technology based on iOS devices to support students with special education needs. Computers & Education, 61, 77-90. Web.

Field, A. (2013). Discovering statistics using IBM SPSS Statistics (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Web.

Hornby, G., & Lafaele, R. (2011). Barriers to parental involvement in education: An explanatory model. Educational Review, 63(1), 37-52. Web.

Karst, J. S., & Van Hecke, A. V. (2012). Parent and family impact of autism spectrum disorders: A review and proposed model for intervention evaluation. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 15(3), 247-277. Web.

Meadan, H., Meyer, L. E., Snodgrass, M. R., & Halle, J. W. (2013). Coaching parents of young children with autism in rural areas using internet-based technologies: A pilot program. Rural Special Education Quarterly, 32(3), 3-10. Web.

Nam, C. S., Bahn, S., & Lee, R. (2013). Acceptance of assistive technology by special education teachers: A structural equation model approach. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 29(5), 365-377. Web.

Parette, H. P., Blum, C., & Boeckmann, N. M. (2009). Evaluating assistive technology in early childhood education: The use of a concurrent time series probe approach. Early Childhood Education Journal, 37(5), 5-12. Web.

Plantin, L., & Daneback, K. (2009). Parenthood, information and support on the internet: A literature review of research on parents and professionals online. BMC Family Practice, 10(1), 34. Web.

Pollet, S. L., & Lombreglia, M. (2008). A nationwide survey of mandatory parent education. Family Court Review, 46(2), 375-394. Web.

Starr, E. M., & Foy, J. B. (2012). In parents’ voices: The education of children with autism spectrum disorders. Remedial and Special Education, 33(4), 207-216. Web.

Trivette, C. M., Dunst, C. J., & Hamby, D. W. (2010). Influences of family-systems intervention practices on parent-child interactions and child development. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 30(1), 3-19. Web.

Warner, R. M. (2013). Applied statistics: From bivariate through multivariate techniques (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications. Web.

Appendix 1

Questionnaire

Please give some information about yourself

  • Please indicate your gender:
    • Male
    • Female
  • Please indicate your age group:
    • ≤35 years old
    • 36-50 years old
    • ≥51 years old
  • Please indicate your level of education:
    • Did not finish high school
    • Finished high school
    • Some college
    • College or university degree
    • Ph.D. degree

Please indicate whether you agree or disagree with the following statements

  • I believe that my and my family’s collaboration with my child’s special education teacher is (or would be) very useful for my child and my family.
    • Completely disagree
    • Disagree
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Agree
    • Completely agree
  • I believe that innovative Internet technologies can be a very useful tool for enhancing my family’s collaboration with my child’s special education teacher.
    • Completely disagree
    • Disagree
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Agree
    • Completely agree
  • I am confident that I would know how to use (or that I could teach myself to use) Internet technologies to collaborate with my child’s special education teacher.
    • Completely disagree
    • Disagree
    • Neither agree nor disagree
    • Agree
    • Completely agree