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The principal as an effective communicator: Increasing parental and community engagement through the use of digital communications and social media Brian Fox Northwest Nazarene University

FoundationResearch provides clear evidence for the relationship between student achievement and the engagement of parents and community members with their local schools through meaningful involvement of parents, families, and members of the community (Curtis, 2013; Epstein, Galindo, & Sheldon, 2011; French, 2014; Hill & Taylor, 2004; Grujanac, 2011; Hoover-Dempsey, Walker, & Sandler, 2005; Jeynes, 2012; ODonnell & Kirkner, 2014; Sonnenschein, Stapleton, & Metzger, 2014; Topor, Keane, Shelton, & Calkins, 2010).

Research QuestionsIn what ways do building administrators use digital communications and social media tools to communicate with and engage parents, and community members?Is there a significant relationship between communication efforts of the building administrator and the level of parental and community engagement in individual schools?Is there a significant relationship between the strategic communications and marketing strategies of a building administrator and the resulting image and reputation of the school?

Theoretical FrameworksEpstein (2011) Overlapping Spheres of Influence

Engestrm (2015) Structure of Human Activity

Note. Used with permission from Engestrm (2015). Learning by Expanding. Second edition. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. Note. Adapted with permission from Epstein, J. L. (2011). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. Second edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

To answer the question, Why?

Note. Adapted with permission from Epstein, J. L. (2011). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. Second edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

Significance of the studyFew studies have been done with a focus on educators and their use of advanced technology such as digital communication and social media

Little research, if any, exists which measures the parental and community response to the communication efforts of principals using technology

Focus Group InterviewsTwo groups of sixOne hour in lengthFive open-ended questionsRedundant recordings and live transcriberChallenging to be quiet

Conversation Analysis

Rapley (2001) maintains the data produced during an interview is done collaboratively due to the interactional nature of conversation.

ParticipantsTwo school districts12 building administratorsEight female and four maleSeven elementary, three junior high, two high school810 parents or community members

I have learned a lot from you today. I think now I am going to work harder.I personally have learned a lot about what is going on in your own buildings by following you.

Data AnalysisOrganizedCodedThemed

Data AnalysisOrganizedCodedThemed

Data AnalysisOrganizedCodedThemed221773+


AwarenessChanging demographicsRealizing growing useConsidered purpose of tools differentiationProfessional development generational preferences


Strategic useIntentionally guiding parents and studentsThe power of picturesCreate transparency and accuracyControl over reputation-building


AnalyticsResults drive new strategiesConcrete data for measuring effectivenessPerformance data


Increased involvementPrincipals perceive increased participationPartnerships within the communityNon-traditional engagementNew perspective

Parent and Community Survey Results

ParticipantsCommunication preferencesLevels of engagementPerception of local school

Parent and Community Survey Results

Participants841 began, 823 provided consent, 810 understood work83% rank local school as very good or excellentAmericans form their opinion about their local schools through their own contact with the schools and what their children are saying. What they experience more personally, they tend to have more favorable views about.

Bushaw & Calderson, 2015, p. 23

Parent and Community Survey Results

When looking for information:Website (40%)Newsletters (21%)Social media (18%)

Parent and Community Survey Results

Involvement at school:Classroom volunteer every week (12%)Classroom volunteer every month (10%)Special event once each month (37%)Special event once a year (65%)

Hopes and Limitations

It was believed that by gathering examples of the many creative ways principals facilitate communication with stakeholders, and celebrate the resulting collaboration and convergence of the spheres of influence, one might advance the study of principals as effective communicators.

Hopes and Limitations

Participation target: several school districtsActual: two school districts (10/12 from one district)Without diversity, results are heavily skewedReplication of results less likelyIntentional work of one district measured

Further research

As technology advances tools will changeCommunication preferences of stakeholdersApprehension by some building administratorsExpansive learning(Engestrm, 2015) Human dynamics during change

Administrators Meeting May 11, 2016

Communications GoalConsistently and effectively provide stakeholders in the Puyallup community with current and relevant information about the work of students and staff in the Puyallup School District.

Reputation GoalConsistently and effectively promote the Puyallup School District as the best education choice for students and parents, an asset within the community, and a responsible steward of taxpayers money.

Engagement GoalConsistently and effectively engage members of the community in support of students and staff in the Puyallup School District.

Communications current and relevantReputation best choice, asset, responsibleEngagement - involvement

How can online tools be used to communicate, promote reputation, and engage?

Digital CitizenshipDigital life is publicDigital life brands (you and the district)Public Records Requests are filed nearly every week

Brian FoxChief Communications and Arts OfficerPuyallup School Districtfoxbd@Puyallup.k12.wa.us253-841-8703