The researcher/interviewer was a 23-year-old European American female with normal hearing pursuing a Master's Degree in Education of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired. She had been in the residential school for the deaf for six months and was a sixth year intern. The researcher had access to the setting through her intern placement during the fall semester of 1998.
Limitations of the Study
There were several limitations with the study. The most severelimitation was time. The researcher was not in the setting long enough to conduct several in depth interviews with her participants. This meant that the researcher could not completely meet one criterion for qualitative research, the use of multiple cycles for data collection. The study also did not include large numbers of participants, either teachers or parents. In addition, parents were not equally represented in the study. The researcher intended to include interviews with a single parent and a set of parents. Scheduling conflicts resulted in the cancellation of the single parent interview. Therefore, only one set of parents was interviewed.
The study was conducted at a state supported residential school for the deaf in the southeastern region. The school served grades nursery through twelfth grade. There were approximately 186 students being served at the school; sixty-one of these were considered day students and 125 were considered residential students. There were forty full time (classroom) teachers and three full time principals, one in each department (elementary, middle and high school). Approximately 138 of the students served were European American, forty-five were African American and three were classified as Other.
The study focused on parental involvement in the elementary department of the school. Interviews were conducted with parents and teachers of children in this department. The study centered on the parents and teachers of children in the elementary department because research has shown that most parental participation occurs during the critical elementary years. One principal and twelve full-time teachers composed this department. The elementary department was serving nursery through fifth grade at the time of the interviews. There were approximately sixty students enrolled in the elementary department at the time of the study with approximately thirty of these day students, while the remaining were residential students.
Public Law 94-142 requires parents to attend their child's Individualized Education Planning (IEP) meeting, which occurred in the spring of each year at this school. Last year (1997-1998), approximately eighty percent of the parents attended.
The study participants included one upper elementary and one lower elementary school teacher. The researcher used the grade level taught and years of teaching experience as the criteria for selection. A dual parent family was also interviewed. The family was chosen through recommendations from the building principal.
The upper elementary school teacher was a European American female in her early fifties with normal hearing. She had a total of twenty-eight years of teaching experience. All of these years were spent teaching at the residential school. Twelve years were spent teaching in the upper elementary school. She was teaching fifth grade at the time of the interview.
The lower elementary school teacher was a European American female in her forties with normal hearing. She had a total of fifteen years teaching experience, twelve of these spent at the residential school for the deaf. Ten years were spent teaching in the lower elementary school. She was teaching preschool at the time of the interview.
The dual parent family had one child who was three years old. Both the father and the mother were profoundly deaf. Their child had been enrolled in the residential school for the deaf for one and a half years. The parents had been married for five years. Both mother and father were working full time at the time of the interviews.
Two sets of questions were used in this study to guide the interviews (see appendix A and B). The teachers' interview consisted of eleven questions while the parent's consisted of ten questions. The questions were adapted from two other studies (Dolan & Gentile, 1996; Jacobson, 1991) of parental involvement in addition to questions suggested by University of Tennessee professors. The survey by Dolan and Gentile (1996) focused on the "perceptions of parental involvement, from the perspective of educators and parents" (p.l). The survey by Jacobson (1991) identified the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed by teachers and other school staff to encourage high levels of parental involvement.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with both parents and teachers. The interviews were "semi-structured" in that set, open-ended questions were asked of each of the participants. The interviews were used to seek information about teachers' and parents' definitions of parental involvement in the residential school for the deaf. Information was gathered on the teachers' definitions of parental involvement and then compared with the definitions given by parents.
The individual interviews were approximately thirty minutes in length. They were audio taped for later transcription and analysis. Both parents and teachers chose the time and place where the interviews occurred. All interviewees were given the opportunity to read and verify the typed transcripts of their interviews. There was only one interview completed with each of the five interviewees. The interviews were conducted during the spring semester of 1999.
Each interview transcript was analyzed using an inductive process. The goal was to create categories based on similar responses among both teachers and parents. To identify similarities and differences among and between parents and teachers, a thematic analysis was conducted. Each transcript was analyzed by the researcher for common answers to the question of parental involvement. After finding these answers, the researcher developed categories. Through creating these categories, the researcher was able to identify which answers were similar and different among parents and teachers. The researcher also employed the following criteria for evaluating qualitative research data: (a) credibility (peer debriefing), (b) authenticity, (c) triangulation and (d) member checks.