Parental Educational Decision Making: The Information They Seek and What They Want From Data Systems
by Ellen B. Mandinach, Ryan C. Miskell & Edith S. Gummer - 2020
Background/Context: Parents are important consumers of educational information, especially with stipulations in ESSA. Yet, research on parental information needs is limited. It is important to understand how the information is displayed for parents in accessible and understandable ways. This study uses a theoretical perspective of parental engagement and social networking to ground the research.
Purpose/Objective/Research Questions: Education is awash with information. This study sought to understand the nature of the information parents seek to make decisions about their child’s education. It also sought to understand the characteristics of data displays that would make information accessible and understandable. What information do parents seek to make decisions about their children’s education? Where do parents go to obtain educational information? What sources do parents access to obtain the needed information? What design characteristics do parents prefer to help them navigate websites and understand the presented information?
Setting: The study took place in focus groups held across Missouri.
Population/Participants: Twenty-one focus groups were convened with 118 parents from urban, suburban, and rural areas of Missouri.
Intervention/Program/Practice: Focus groups addressed the need to involve parents in educational decisions and their need for data. They were asked a series of questions to elicit responses about the information they seek to make decisions about their child’s education. Parents were also asked about the design, ease of access, and understandability of data displays.
Research Design: The study used small focus groups and a standardized interview protocol. To elicit more detailed and deeper focused responses, alternative prompts were used to ensure that participants understood what was being asked.
Data Collection and Analysis: Parents responded to structured questions and visual displays. Responses were recorded through comprehensive note taking. The responses were analyzed using ATLAS.ti to identify underlying themes.
Findings/Results: Parents seek qualitative data sources that supply descriptions of schools and districts. They want not only test scores and school grades but also information that helps them understand the schools. They want details about the teachers, leaders, and programs offered and information about safety and processes. Parents want the information presented in accessible and understandable formats that include better graphics and more easily understood details.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Education agencies need to consider how to present diverse information that will meet stakeholders’ needs. This is relevant because not all parents are familiar with data displays. Parents seek descriptive data that are locally relevant and represented on school or district websites and data systems.
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