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Michelle Ellis

PhD candidate

Parent-teacher interactions

I was coming to the end of my time as a Primary School Principal and was looking forward to a change. During my time in the school, I encountered several experiences leading to questions like "Why was it that some parent-teacher meetings would go well, and at other times, they did not?" (All things considered). I became curious about parent-teacher communication and relationships. At this time, I saw an advertisement in the West Australian newspaper seeking applications for students to undertake research at ECU and thought this might be a way to find some answers. I went through an application process and was later accepted to enter as a PhD candidate.

At the onset of the research program, I was interested in understanding my school experiences of parent-teacher interactions. However, after some discussions with my supervisors, I was also interested understanding what happens when parents and teachers had differing views on educational matters. I wanted to explore the techniques that parents and teachers used to achieve a compromise (or not). I knew that for some children that the old-fashioned method of stamping your feet and shouting worked! Could this be the case in the adult world?

My research began by reading the literature that surrounded parents, teachers, relationships, communication, partnerships, interrelationships, persuasion, conflict, schools, organisations, and many others. This was a difficult task in trying to identify relevant topics from the sidetracking and interesting topics and journal articles. Towards the end, I started to build my knowledge and made sense of the literature, my topics, and the research. This enabled me to identify the void in research and select the fields for my study. My research began to emerge beginning my research journey.

Now that I had a sense of what I was looking for and identified my research questions, the real fun began: recruiting some volunteers, listening to their stories and then trying to make meaning from it all. After examining all my interviews, I found some major themes that made me sit back with a sense of awe. My study had found answers to the research questions, as well as answers to my own personal questions regarding the way parents and teachers interacted. The data became significant.  In my experience, undertaking a PhD is an exacting process, but the skills and knowledge that I have gained over this time is unsurpassable.

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