Theoretical Framework

Report
CHINESE IMMIGRANT PARENTS’
COMMUNICATION WITH THEIR
CHILDREN’S SCHOOL TEACHERS
George Zhou, PhD
Faculty of Education
University of Windsor
BACKGROUND
Parental Involvement
Beneficial Outcomes
Communication
Shared Goals
Avoid Misunderstanding
Guiding Involvement Activities
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
What are Chinese immigrant parents’
communication experiences with school teachers?
 How do the psychological factors such as selfefficacy and perceptions of parental roles mediate
the patterns of their communication?
 How do school teachers perceive their
communication with Chinese immigrant parents?

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
Psychological Constructs of Parental Involvement
(Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995; HooverDempsey & Sandler, 1997; Walker et al., 2005)
Parents’ Motivational Beliefs.
Parents’ role construction
Parents’ self-efficacy
Parents’ perceptions of invitations from others.
Students
Teachers
Parents’ perceived life context.
Perceived time, energy,
knowledge and skills for involvement
CROSS CULTURE COMMUNICATION

Three necessary and interdependent ingredients
of communication competence: (a) knowledge, (b)
motivation, and (c) behavior.
-- Spitzberg & Cupach (1984)

Intercultural communication consists of the
cognitive, affective, and behavioral ability of
participants in the communication process
-- Spinthourakis, Karatzia-Stalioti, & Roussakis (2009)

Intercultural communication with the fourth
component-situational features
--Neuliep (2006)
METHODOLOGY
 Mix
methods design
 Survey



Covers: demographic information,
communication behavior and overall experience,
psychological factors
Distributed at a few occasions: cultural events,
Chinese schools, Chinese church
167 valid questionnaires
METHODOLOGY
 Semi-structured


interviews
21 Chinese immigrant parents
19 school teachers
12 elementary school teachers
 7 secondary school teacher

SURVEY PARTICIPANTS
Prefer not to
answer
5%
Gender
Male
25%
Female
70%
SURVEY PARTICIPANTS
Less
than 2
years
4%
Residence in Canada/US
2-5 years
19%
More than
10 years
42%
5-10 years
35%
SURVEY PARTICIPANTS
Family Income
Less than
$40k
28%
More than
$100k
22%
$40k-100k
50%
EMPLOYMENT STATUS
Participants
Spouse
Full time
54%
Full time
66%
Part time
13%
Part time
11%
Long term
55%
Long term
63%
Temporary
12%
Temporary
14%
Self employed
1%
Self employed
1%
Not employed
32%
Not employed
23%
COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCES
Parent-teacher conference Attendance
All of them
Sometimes
Never
Never(include spouse)
39%
7%
14%
7%
47%
PARENTS’ CONCERNS AT THE P-T CONFERENCE
Concerns
Percentage
Make sense of the report card
47%
To get some of my questions answered
58%
To listen to teachers’ comments on my child
71%
Other, specify please_____
6%
(“the development of child’s social skills,” “how their
children get along with other children at school, “ “in
what aspects their children need to and could be
improved,” “in what aspects they can help their
children to make improvement.” “talking about and
making sense of the curriculum, textbook, and teaching
methods used by schools.”
COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCES
Frequency of communication with
teachers per school year (excluding
Once a
parent-teacher confernces)
month or
more
14%
Never
27%
A couple of
times per
year
59%
COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCES
Percentage of Initiating Communication
65.80%
49.70%
Those who Maintain Regular
Communication
All participants
COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCE
Content
Respond Percentage
Academic-related issues
73%
Behavioral issues
60%
Children’s relationships with
other students
45%
Other, specify please_____
5%
“children’s social activities,”
“parenting responsibilities,” and
“educational plans for students
with special needs.”
COMMUNICATION EXPERIENCE
Meet teacher in person
Writing
Telephone
74.8
40.3
25.2
2.5
Communication method
Email
COMMUNICATION SATISFACTION
I was satisfied with the overall quality
of the communication with my child’s
teacher
I felt comfortable to communicate with
my child’s teacher
My child’s teacher has knowledge of
my culture
My child’s teacher understands my
concerns about my child
DA
N
A
M
SD
2
38
60
4.59 0.839
2
31
67
4.72 0.890
33
53
14
3.13 1.265
5
44
51
4.39 1.007
COMMUNICATION EXPECTATION
DA
N
A
M
SD
I hope that I can have better influence 6
on school activities through
communication with my child’s teacher
31
63
4.66 1.110
I hope that my child’s teacher has
better knowledge of my culture
2
27
71
4.88 1.047
I hope that my child’s teacher
understands my concerns better
1
23
76
5.05 0.920
PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTRUCTS
Psychological Construct
Mean Value
Role construction in communicating with
school teachers
4.79
Communication self-efficacy with school
teacher
4.30
Perceptions of teacher invitation
4.01
Perceptions of child invitation
3.64
Perceived life context
3.91
All measured psychological factors were
significantly related with parents’
communication patterns.
Parents who
communicated with
teachers several times a
semester scored
significantly higher on
all of the five scales than
the parents who had
never communicated
with teachers.
Those who had initiated a
communication with
teachers scored
significantly higher on the
scale Communication selfefficacy than those who had
not initiated a
communication.
PARENT INTERVIEW FINDINGS

Participants


Well educated and white collar job in China
Reasons for moving to Canada

Not satisfied with China’s education system for
Children
Fierce competition in china
 Excessive homework
 Too much focus on academic
 Fell behind and special need child

P-T CONFERENCE

Attendance
Most interviewees participated,
 Only two did not


Content





Academic performance
Report card
Suggestions for how to help child improve
Socialization with classmates
Teachers’ teaching and curriculum
“To learn children’s academic performance,
communication with classmates, and as well to address
my concerns with report cards. If children have difficulty
in learning, I want to know where the difficulty is and
what needs to be improved, and how we parents can help
the children. Usually my children are doing well in
academic, therefore the main purpose often is to know
how they communicate with other kid and how they
resolve conflicts, etc. because we come from a different
culture… I want to know how my children live well with
other. Usually there is no problem, that is great. But I
still take advantage of the parent-teaching conference.
This is a great opportunity to communicate with the
teacher and learn how he/she approach teaching.”
P-T CONFERENCE

Issues





Not enough time,
Not enough information
Little negative comments from teachers
Different criteria between parents and teachers
Lack of access to teachers


Report card has marks for all subjects. Where do my
child’s marks stand in the class? This is what I am
concerned with. For example, 90 [for one subject], it
does not tell me much about whether this is a good
mark. If a majority of students in the class got 95, 90
means a gap. I want to know where my child stands
in the class: at the middle, above average, or
excellent?
Teachers do not provide such information. They
always say “very good.” Some may tell you “above
average,” but they will not tell you that your child is
the number one. What they told you is very vague,
general, and not accurate. For example your child is
in top 5% or 10%, they do not tell you such
information.
CHALLENGES IN COMMUNICATION
Language
Barriers
Unfamiliarity
with Schools
Cultural
Barriers
MAIN CONCLUSION ABOUT PARENTS





Significant portion of participating Chinese parents
had frequent communication with school teachers.
In-person communication was a preferred
communication method of exchanging information with
teachers.
Chinese immigrant parents adopted more active roles
in communicating with teachers than the literature
says.
Speaking of the content of communications, Chinese
parents talked about a wider range of topics instead of
solely focusing on children’s academic progress
(particularly for elementary kids’ parents)
Secondary school students’ parents tend to focus on
marks at the communication
INTERVIEWS WITH TEACHERS
More Chinese parents come to P-T conference
 Not enough time to see all parents
 Language issues


Students vs. translators
Too much focus on academic
 Some Chinese parents can be quite aggressive
 Chinese parents control children too much


They [parents] wait patiently. We usually have
spots for about 35 parents [180 in total], that’s all
we have time for unfortunately. So it’s a five
minute interview, from 5:00 until 8:00. So each
parent is given only 5 minutes, unfortunately.
Many parents don’t feel that’s enough, so we are
usually here very late. (Teacher)

[marks] That’s the number 1 concern. Because on
their report card they have a grade, a class
median, so they want to know where the child
ranks. “Does my child rank in the top of the
class? How far? How many children are above my
child?” So they want to know what the rankings
are. I think if we post it on the board, they would
be very happy. (Teacher)


Most of the parents want to know how to improve from an
85% to a 95%. That’s what they want to know. 85% is not
enough, how do I go from a 85% to a 95%? And when they
see the test paper, if the kid does one single mistake, the
parents become so upset… If the kid is not working hard, if
the kid is not listening, if the kid is not even making an
attempt that’s when you should be concerned. When the
kids are responsible by themselves, I think that’s what you
should appreciate. So I do encourage them to do that, don’t
just take one single question making a mistake, error is
only human. (secondary science teacher)
I also want the kid to be a hard worker and to do well and
to be sincere, but for me the mark is not the end of all.
That’s where sometimes we clash, where the parents say,
85-95%, no, that’s not the goal. The goal is making sure the
kid gets all the skills of working hard, doing the right
thing, coming for extra help. Those skills, if we can instill, I
think they’d be okay. (Teacher)

two days before the report card, in my grade 11
class everybody was crying. Because some of
them said, “Having an 82 is terrible.” That’s what
they said, 82 in physics. I said , “Excuse me? 82
in physics is such an awesome mark, what are
you talking about?” And their like, “No Miss, can
you please come and tell my parents, they won’t
understand this.” So they are all terrified of their
parents saying, “You have to get that 95, you
have to go to US school, you have to go to Ivy
league, SAT you need to write.” The stress on the
kids is enormous. (Teacher)

Yes, they put a lot of pressure on their kids. And
they cry. They are terrified. I think kids here go
through a lot of stress, a lot of peer pressure.
Somebody got into MIT, I have to do that.
Somebody finished the SAT, I have to do that.
Somebody did very well in all the courses, I have
to do that. My parents want me to be like this
person. My parents want me to go to this school.
Rather than what I want, what I want to
accomplish, what I want to be. (Teacher)
DISPUTE IN THE COMMUNICATION
Parents’ high expectation on academics
 Encouragement vs. criticism


My response to that is, “Why do you need to know
that. What difference does it make where
everyone falls, we’re here to talk about your
son/daughter. The competition doesn’t mean
anything to how he’s doing. It won’t make him
any better.” But they are very interested in those
numbers and it really does come down to
numbers, and that is very frustrating because we
teach people, and we want parents to be invested
in their children. Not as just an output on a
report card. And sometimes it’s very frustrating,
they’re very dismissive of their children, “Why
didn’t you do more?” (Teacher)

And I’ve had parents actually take my computer
and insist in seeing that information, and I’ve
had to take my computer back and say, “That’s
private confidential information and you can’t
have that.” They want printouts of other student
marks, all kinds of things that they will ask. I
generally try to direct the conversation back to
the child, and focus on the child. (Teacher)
Because they have that, they are successful in
terms of test taking and things like that, but we
are trying to build a better person overall. And
sometimes that’s not our common goal between
teachers and parents. (Teacher)
 But there’s no margin for failure. In the class they
will call anything under an 80 an ‘Asian fail.’
Anything under an 80 doesn’t exist, you may as
well not have written the test at all. (Teacher)


So often, the conversation about marks at grade
12 is very much about, “My child is going to MIT,
my child is going to UPenn, my child is going to
Princeton, what can you do to make that
happen?” (Teacher)

As English teachers we see the more artistic side
of students. And students, often by grade 12,
become very frustrated because their parents
have one very clear path for them… “You’re going
to go into biochemistry, and you’re going become a
doctor.” Where they’ve spent all this time
nurturing the other side of their child in terms of
musical abilities, and then they discover perhaps
film studies, or art- they’re the most beautiful
artists, and would like to pursue that, but their
parents absolutely forbid it. (Teacher)
Initially, I have many expectation on his career…
As a parent, expectation is a must, a motivation
or direction for a child. However, the direction
should not be too rigorous. It should be
changeable based on a child’s progress. (Parent)
 Considering their cultural background, high
mark is a reasonable expectation…Such a
expectation on academic performance is not a bad
thing, but a good thing. Of course, if the
expectation is not met, parents should not thing
children did not achieve anything or punish
them. [Parents] should encourage them. (Parent)

IMPLICATIONS AND SOLUTION

I don’t ever have a problem with what their trying to convey to
me. Obviously the language barriers can be problematic, but
generally we understand because this is something we hear
again and again. I think the fundamental issue is that we
don’t share the same values, that our concern for their child is
different than their concerns. And that’s not unusual for the
parent-teacher relationships, but the values of the Canadian
educational system seem to be so much different than the
Chinese. And we respect that, and we appreciate those
differences, and we try to nurture an understanding and try to
get them to appreciate from where we are coming. That can be
very much a challenge for them to understand from where we
are coming. When you have a language barrier, to be able to
explain an educational system in five minutes is very difficult.
We’ve asked a number of times to have information meetings
for Chinese parents, particularly where enriched is concern, so
they can have a full understanding of what is expected of your
child, what is expected of the teachers, etc. (Teacher)
Support Immigrant Parents and Students
Understanding
Adequate Services
Recognition
Bidirectional Learning
DIFFERENCES
China
Canada
 Basics knowledge and skills
 Productivity
 Intellectual development
 Social ability and creativity
 Parents support teachers and schools  Parents influence schools
 Parents set up directions for children  Follow kids’ interests
 Teachers are accessible 24/7
 Lack of diligence leads to failure
 Teacher has a life
 Teachers are often blamed
 Diligence redeems stupidity
 Criticism and push
 Differentiated instruction
 Respect and encourage
 Independent learning ability
 Competition
 Group learning
 Less competition
PERSPECTIVES








OF
PARENTING
Highly value education
Intellectual achievements can bring honor, respect,
power, status and everything good in life
Parents have obligation to ensure which way their
children will take
Parents are willing to sacrifice for their children’s
welfare
Pour hope on their children
Children success will bring pride to the family
Children should bring honor to the family
Especially with the one child policy, children receive a
lot of attention as well pressure from their parents.
“BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER”
TIGER MOTHER
My daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to:
 attend a sleepover
 have a play date
 be in a school play
 complain about not being in a school play
 watch TV or play computer games
 choose their own extracurricular activities
 get any grade less than an A
 not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and
drama
 play any instrument other than the piano or violin
 not play the piano or violin.
TIGER MOTHER
Unlike typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the
Chinese mother believes that:
 (1) schoolwork always comes first;
 (2) an A-minus is a bad grade;
 (3) your children must be two years ahead of their
classmates in math;
 (4) you must never compliment your children in public;
 (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach,
you must always take the side of the teacher or coach;
 (6) the only activities your children should be
permitted to do are those in which they can eventually
win a medal; and
 (7) that medal must be gold.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
Financially funded by a CERIS grant
 Greatly supported by the community partner:
Chinese Association of Greater Windsor
 Faculty collaborator: Zuochen Zhang
 Research assistants: Fan Jiang, Lan Zhong, Ju
Huang, Stephanie Palazoolo

CONTACT INFORMATION
George Zhou
University of Windsor
[email protected]

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