Educational challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need to establish effective parent-teacher relationships to maximise learning. Effective communication between parents and teachers can mitigate learning losses resulting from school closures. Of specific concern is the need to build communication systems for under-resourced schools. Contextual solutions must also be developed for under-resourced schools. This requires appropriate resources, administrative systems, and building a new culture of engagement.
Parents are expressing an interest in building stronger relationships to ensure that children are not left behind. Even though those in poorer socio-economic environments often lack computers, most have mobile phones and ways to make optimum use of this are being explored.
The Teachers and Parents Communication and Support Systems Action Research Project is intended to test ideas for improving communication between parents and teachers and maximise support for learning. The research is conducted by the Nelson Mandela Institute for Education and Rural Development (NMI) at the University of Fort Hare from July 2020 to June 2021. The NMI has in-depth understanding of rural communities and is best able to explore solutions suited to the context.
Twenty-four Foundation Phase teachers from six primary schools in Mbizana and Mqanduli in the rural Eastern Cape are involved. The researchers will undertake instrument design, content development, hold virtual workshops, and report on the findings.
The researchers seek to answer the following main research question: How can no-fee rural schools establish a reliable and effective approach to open communication channels with parents in support of Foundation Phase home-based learning?
Action research follows a process of implementation, reflection, review, and re-design in iterative cycles of action and inquiry. This method is advantageous in developing novel ideas in situations where there is little existing research and rapid progress is necessary. This approach is inclusive and ensures teachers provide useful feedback and form part of the research team. Teachers can thus build skills and researchers gain valuable insights at the same time.
The main goal of the research project is to build an effective communication system and relationships in support of early grade literacy and numeracy. The project is also aimed at:
- Developing solutions effective in rural settings taking into account resources, time capacities and cultures and focusing on exploring existing capacities that can be leveraged.
- Experimenting with the use of mobile phones where possible.
The Teachers and Parents Communication and Support Systems Research Project has the following outcomes:
- Learning brief 1: Summary of early lessons, insights, and recommendations for teachers interested in establishing communication systems.
- Learning brief 2: Revised summary for the Department of Education.
- Final research report.
- Dissemination drive held with the Department of Education and other relevant stakeholders.
Solutions developed during this research project may effectively mitigate learning deficits resulting from the pandemic. It is hoped that these solutions will be sustainable and scalable in the long term.
The project is in line with Zenex’s strategy to promote at-home learning through evidence-based research. This research has the potential to strengthen the teacher-parent nexus and reclaim and strengthen parents’ roles in their children’s learning which has been undermined by apartheid and poverty.