Theses Doctoral

Family-School Communication Notebooks: An Effective Tool for Promoting Learning in Young Children with Special Needs?

Fiorvanti, Christina Mary Lee

Research has demonstrated a consistent link between reports of parent-teacher relationship quality and various student outcomes within the general education, early childhood population. However, there remains a need to more fully understand the factors that contribute to parent-teacher partnerships and the mechanism through which they impact student progress. Consistent, frequent, honest, bi-directional communication is considered to be a key aspect of parent-teacher collaborative efforts, but limited research has objectively explored the content and quality of ongoing, day-to-day parent-teacher exchanges and how communication contributes to parent-teacher partnerships and student outcomes. Furthermore, while many parents of children with special needs, particularly ASD, are not fully satisfied with their current level of communication and family-school partnering, there is little published research in this area for this population.
Communication notebooks are a commonly used communication tool in special education classrooms around the country, especially for students who have difficulty communicating, such as those with ASD. Despite their widespread use and the time commitment they require of teachers and parents, minimal empirical research has explored how they are typically used and how they may be utilized to their maximum potential. The current study sought to systematically examine the content of family-school communication notebooks at two ABA preschools for young children with special needs. The Notebook Communication System (NCS), a reliable and valid coding tool developed specifically for this project, was used to analyze 60 communication notebooks. In addition, parents completed a survey on their partnership and communication with teachers, and teachers provided data on student progress on learning goals. This research investigated the association between notebook content over six months of the school year, the quality of parent-teacher partnerships from the parents' perspective, parent report of familiarity with and reinforcement of educational goals at home, and student learning outcomes.
While parent-teacher communication was not directly related to parent-teacher partnerships or student outcomes, other interesting relationships and findings about communication notebook use emerged. Results demonstrated that students' verbal skills, teacher quality, and family income predicted student outcomes. In addition, the strength of parent-teacher partnership predicted the frequency of parent practice at home. The data revealed that parent and teacher use of the communication notebook was significantly related with regards to frequency as well as content. Within this sample, communication notebooks were useful for and desired by most families, especially those whose children were bussed to school and did not have opportunities for regular in-person meetings. Family demographic variables and student language level were found to have a significant impact on parent and teacher communication and collaboration. Clinical implications regarding parent-teacher partnerships and the use of communication notebooks for preschoolers with special needs are discussed along with directions for future research.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
School Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Brassard, Marla R.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
February 3, 2015