Literature Review

In the studies on partial participaton in special education, little research has been conducted that centers on the definitions of parental involvement. Further, much of the research on parental involvement has focused on special education in its entirety, rather than a specific disability such as deafness. Nor have many studies of involvement in residential schools for the deaf been conducted.

Moreover, despite the fact that parental participation is a desire of both teachers and parents, actual parental participation has decreased. One reason discussed in the literature is the changing structure of the family, which has resulted in greater time constraints. These varied family structures, as well as employment difficulties, have lessened the time parents have to become involved (Lin & McBride, 1996). Further, some parents have felt that interacting in their child's classroom might cause a disruption, distracting children from learning (Lin & McBride, 1996) Also, research has shown that some parents are scared to go back into a school. This is often due to negative experiences that the parent had with their own schooling. Often, this severely limits parents desire to become involved in a school. School is a negative environment filled with many bad memories for these parents (Lin & McBride, 1996). In the case of parents of deaf children, research suggests there is often lack of a comfortable interaction between child and parent, because of communication constraints. This can lead to more observation in a child's classroom, but fewer interactions with the class (Powers, 1997). Time constraints are also a factor with teachers, especially special education teachers. Many special education teachers do not have the extra time it takes to implement parental participation. In other research studies, teachers complained that parental participation did not occur because they did not know how to do it (Becker & Epstein, 1982; Lin & McBride, 1996) Teachers have also felt threatened by parents, and have not invited parents in because of this fear of confrontation (Lin & McBride, 1996).

Despite the barriers to involvement cited in the literature, the need to involve parents in the education of their child and the benefits of that involvement are recognized. Researchers have found that parental involvement in a school lets children know that school is a good place; it reinforces the importance of education (Lin & McBride, 1996). Parental involvement also encourages interaction between parent and child and between parent and teacher.

Because of these and other benefits, researchers have attempted to examine parental involvement. As a result of these studies, many definitions have been offered. For example, despite the requirements of Public Law 94-142, parents have often defined their role in the education of their child as passive observers in regards to the development of the IEP and in classroom involvement. In his study on parental involvement, Epstein (1984) found that parents tended to help more at school when approached first by the teacher. He found that "when teachers actually involved parents, parents were more likely to believe that they should help" (p. 71). But rarely did these parents approach the teachers first. Dolan and Gentile (1996) found that the parents involved in their study viewed involvement as one-sided communication with the teacher, where the teacher is the one doing to talking. These parents also felt that most schools really did not want parents involved. Their attempts at parental involvement were not accepted.

The lack of invitation from teachers for parental involvement could stem from the teachers' lack of confidence when inviting the parents in. Many teachers are not trained how to implement involvement, nor do many teachers agree about what parental involvement really includes. To illustrate, teachers interviewed for Epstein's study on school policy and parent involvement (1984) questioned whether their previous attempts at involvement (i.e. notes, phone calls, conferences) really constituted involvement. Teachers asked whether these few tries at communication were enough, or whether it was necessary to create an "organized program of frequent home learning activities" (p. 70). In another study, by Storer (1995), teachers defined parental involvement as "parents being involved in education through home learning, in addition to input in decision making" (p. 16).

In summary, as the studies cited illustrate, several definitions of parental participation exist, however few answer the question: What is parental involvement? Moreover, for parents of special needs the children the definitions are even less clear. For the parents and teachers of hearing impaired children, little research in this area has been conducted. This study examined parent and teacher definitions of parental involvement. Specifically, it examined the definitions of parents and teachers of hearing impaired children in a residential school for the deaf.


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