Crisis brings focus on home-school communication

With the extensive use of distance learning in 2020, patterns of communication and cooperation between the home and school have changed, a study led by University of Tartu researchers reveals. The importance of informal communication has grown. Schoolchildren and their families need more advice and information to adapt to the new routines and new learning environments.

According to the headmasters, teachers, researchers and education policy-makers participating in the youth digital skills project “Youth Skills”, the fact that teaching and learning moved online due to the changed circumstances has also had a positive effect: communication between parents and teachers has improved. As a result, both parties have gained a better understanding what efforts are necessary to teach children and create a suitable learning environment.

Nevertheless, the 20 interviewed education experts from Estonia, Finland, Portugal, Italy, Germany and Poland found that home-school communication, including communication related to children’s digital skills, has generally been insufficient. Although the schools made a lot of efforts before the coronavirus crisis, and continue to make efforts in the future to inform parents and involve them in the activities, the outcomes are not always as expected. Very often, the parents encounter barriers preventing them from being involved in and contributing to school life – such as workload and lack of time, low interest, low level of education, or socioeconomic background. 

According to authors of the research, the parents’ digital skills need improving. In the report, the authors led by Mai Beilmann, Research Fellow in Sociology at the University of Tartu, give recommendations how to better ensure the digital literacy and wellbeing of children through supporting the parents.

Firstly, the communication and training opportunities should be extended outside the school environment, creating opportunities for parents to acquire digital literacy and discuss topical issues. Besides parent-teacher conferences, also workshops, seminars and training sessions, where parents could learn from each another, would be suitable for that purpose.

Secondly, the researchers point out that communication skills are of key importance in teacher education and professional development of educators. In the area of digital skills, teachers and headmasters need better preparation to be able to communicate more efficiently about digital skills with different target groups.

Thirdly, the authors emphasise the need for clear agreements about learning environments –  this would be beneficial, above all, for younger pupils whose learning is best supported by familiar and stable digital environments.

The results of the expert interviews are available in the report published in English on the project website and in the shorter blog post.

The Youth Skills is a comprehensive international research project seeking through studying the knowledge and skills of children and adolescents to better understand how to purposefully use information and communication technology towards greater wellbeing, and cope with its negative impacts. 

Further information: Mai Beilmann, Research Fellow in Sociology, Institute of Social Sciences, University of Tartu, +372 737 6156, mai.beilmann@ut.ee

Sandra Sommer Press Advisor +372 737 5681
+372 5307 7820 sandra.sommer@ut.ee
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