University of Missouri - Saint Louis

The Graduate School


An oral examination in defense of the dissertation for the degree

Doctorate in Education

Karen Cheung Leong
M.Ed., Arizona State University, 1998
B.S., Education, University of Missouri, 1989

Building an effective one-on-one working relationship between middle school teachers and parents: What are the steps of learning? Examining the path of knowledge of middle school teachers who are highly effective



The topic of parental involvement has been widely studied; within the topic, however, the area of training teachers to work with parents has not. Professional development for teachers and preparation for student teachers to work with parents are scarce and at times, non- existent. The purpose of this study was to examine effective middle school teachers about the steps in their path of learning to work effectively with parents. The study also included middle school student teachers who shared their needs in learning how to work with parents.
This qualitative study focused on interviewing highly successful middle school teachers. The first part of the study involved 18 semi-structured interviews with teachers who were recommended by their building administrators. The second part of the study involved focus group interviews with middle school student teachers.
Results included eight categories that impacted the steps of learning for middle school teachers to work with parents: amount of training, methods of learning, personal experiences, communication tools, approaches to communication, teachers’ beliefs, and support for teachers and suggestions for future training. The steps on the path of learning for teachers to work with parents were clearly established. Almost all teachers start with little to no training in the university. Often, teachers begin their first teaching position unprepared to work with parents. Therefore, they are left with a few methods of learning by being mentored, being observant and trial and error as well. Moreover, teachers draw from their personal experiences from being parents to doing other types of jobs. On the other hand, teachers learn to utilize the variety of communication tools that are widely available at most schools, but the effectiveness of teachers comes from the wisdom of using communication tools for specific purposes. These steps of learning are supported by teacher’s own beliefs and these beliefs expand from positive communication to professional responsibilities. Finally, regardless of a teacher’s specific path of learning, he/she requires support and resources from the school including administrators, counselors, teachers, other support staff and the need for planning time. Finally, the participants gave suggestions for training of future teachers.


Date: July 15, 2013

Time: 1:00- 2:30 p.m.

Place: Technology Learning Center, Conference Room 1, Marillac Hall


Defense of Dissertation Committee


Kathleen Sullivan Brown, Ph.D., Chair

Wolfgang Althof, Ph.D.


Carole Heitman Murphy, Ed.D.

Kenneth Owen, Ed.D.