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Educational Studies
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Parental involvement in secondary education schools: the views of parents


in Greece
Katerina Antonopouloua; Konstantina Koutroubaa; Thomas Babalisb
a
Department of Home Economics and Ecology, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece b Department of
Primary Education, University of Athens, Athens, Greece

First published on: 14 September 2010

To cite this Article Antonopoulou, Katerina , Koutrouba, Konstantina and Babalis, Thomas(2011) 'Parental involvement in
secondary education schools: the views of parents in Greece', Educational Studies, 37: 3, 333 344, First published on: 14
September 2010 (iFirst)
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/03055698.2010.506332
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Educational Studies
Vol. 37, No. 3, July 2011, 333344

Parental involvement in secondary education schools: the views of


parents in Greece
Katerina Antonopouloua*, Konstantina Koutroubaa and Thomas Babalisb
a
Department of Home Economics and Ecology, Harokopio University, Athens, Greece;
bDepartment
of Primary Education, University of Athens, Athens, Greece
Educational
10.1080/03055698.2010.506332
CEDS_A_506332.sgm
0305-5698
Original
Taylor
02010
00
kantonop@hua.gr
KaterinaAntonopoulou
000002010
&
and
Article
Francis
(print)/1465-3400
Francis
Studies (online)

The present study explores Greek parents views on parental educational


involvement and its impact on adolescent scholastic and social development.
Specifically, aspects of parental involvement such as the achieved objectives of
current parentschool communication, the psychological climate dominating
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teacherparent interactions and parents suggestions for improvement of current


policies and practices are examined. Four hundred and seventy-five parents
participated in the study. Findings showed that familyschool communication is
believed to be insufficient in Greece, despite the fact that parents tend to: (1)
regard their cooperation with teachers as determinative of adolescent academic
and psychosocial development; (2) consider teachers to be friendly and caring; and
(3) believe that secondary school provides some opportunities for constructive
parental involvement. These paradoxes are discussed and explained as a result of
radical changes in current social and educational values, principles and objectives.
Keywords: familyschool communication; parental involvement; parents views;
secondary education; adolesence

Introduction
Epsteins (1995, 701) apposite remark that the way schools care about children is
reflected in the way schools care about childrens families seems to be quite thought-
provoking nowadays, when schools and families strive to foster the academic,
emotional and social growth of adolescents who are expected to satisfactorily survive
in exhaustively competitive social settings.
Extensive research over the last years has clearly confirmed that the bilateral commu-
nication between teenagers parents and junior high or high school teachers has an
observably constructive impact on adolescent students in terms of homework manage-
ment and educational expectations (Bouffard and Stephen 2007; Catsambis 2001; Hill
and Taylor 2004; Jeynes 2005; McCarron and Inkelas 2006; Trusty 1999; Zhan 2006).
More specifically, Kreider et al. (2007) showed that students aged 1117 years, whose
families are actively in close contact with school, achieve higher grades in tests scores,
have higher self-esteem, social competence and aspirations for enrolment in college
and, finally, are less prone to substance abuse. It is also noteworthy that the parents of
the aforementioned students, due to meaningful and productive schoolparent commu-
nication, gradually tended to experiment with alternative and more flexible methods
fostering their childrens academic performance and socio-emotional skills.

*Corresponding author. Email: kantonop@hua.gr

ISSN 0305-5698 print/ISSN 1465-3400 online


2011 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/03055698.2010.506332
http://www.informaworld.com
334 K. Antonopoulou et al.

In addition, fruitful parental involvement in teenagers education has been


reported to facilitate the development of values, positive attitudes and behaviour as far
as students are concerned, while their emotional balance and maturity have also been
reported to be supported and boosted (Lerner and Steinberg 2009; Roeser, Eccles, and
Sameroff 2000; Zarrett and Eccles 2006).
Despite, however, parental involvements substantiated benefits, the frequency and
the quality of parentteacher communication seem to be declined from the first to the
last grades of high school, since parents relax rules about chores and leisure time and
fail to check their childrens homework (Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development
1989; Catsambis and Garland 1997; Eccles and Harold 1996; Elias, Patrikakou, and
Weissberg 2007; Epstein 2005; George 1995; Hill and Tyson 2009; Sacker, Schoon,
and Bartley 2002; Simon 2004; Spera 2005).
Adolescent tendency to independence, the complexity of demanding school subject
Curricula, parents lack of time due to professional obligations, personal unpleasant
school experiences, low socio-economic status, difficulties in using the language are
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reported to be the main reasons for the declining of parentteacher communication as


students get older (George 1995; Georgiou and Christou 2000; Lopez, Scribner, and
Mahitivanichcha 2001; Patrikakou 2004; Shumow 2009; Smith 2009).
Moreover, parentteacher communication in high school seems to be hindered by
teachers themselves, who, despite the fact that, in theory at least, they regard school
parent communication as very important, in practice display unwillingness to cooperate
with their students parents, due to professional burnout and lack of self-confidence,
knowledge, skills and training on communication (Tozer, Senese, and Violas 2006;
Weiss et al. 2010). On the other hand, in many cases, parental involvements declining
during adolescence is mistakenly considered by teachers and school administration to
be parents unwillingness to support their children in such critical age (Hiatt-Michaels
2004; Koutrouba et al. 2009; Simon 2004).
In Greece, research data concerning parental involvement are little and focus mainly
on primary education. In a very recent research, Poulou and Matsagouras (2007)
showed that Greek parents attribute completely different or separate roles to themselves
and to their childs teacher; a teacher, being a public official is regarded as an indis-
putable authority as far as knowledge-transmission, classroom management and admin-
istration, and academic and behavioural performance assessment are concerned, is
expected to establish rules of parentteacher and teacherstudent communication and
provide reliable and incontrovertible information to parents and knowledge to students
(Case 2000), while parents are self-entrusted exclusively with their childrens out-of-
school socio-emotional development and assistance provision during homework, again
following teachers advice and instruction. Apparently, such a distinction between the
role of school and the role of family further strengthens the already powerful authority
of school and the dominant role of teacher, in the frame of a highly school-centred
educational system (Matsagouras 2008, 44), where parents do not meaningfully inter-
vene in their childrens in-school academic development, while any teacherparent
collaboration is strongly determined, scheduled and carried out according to objectives,
rules and procedures established by the school (International Bureau of Education
2008; Kassotakis 2000; Koulaidis et al. 2006).
Moreover, this dichotomy of roles could probably explain why, in Greece, parents
experience is not adequately utilised by the school and, also, why parental involve-
ment is so noticeably low-levelled and limited exclusively to parents rare scheduled
visits to school (Morgan et al. 1992; Mylonakou-Keke 2006). It could also explain
Educational Studies 335

why the Greek parents of primary education students believe that only the provision
of help to their children during homework can be advantageous and useful, as regards
academic performance, while any parental participation in school life and academic or
social activities are to produce insignificant outcomes (Pnevmatikos, Papakanakis,
and Gaki 2008).
As already mentioned, these data refer to primary education; given, thus, the fact
that insufficient evidence has been provided about the attitudes of the parents of high
school (Secondary Education) students towards parentschool communication, the
present study aims at examining:

The views of Greek parents on parental involvement in relation to its impact on


childrens academic and psychosocial profile.
The nature of parental involvement practice initiated by adolescents schools.
The achieved objectives of current parentschool communication as reported by
parents.
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Parents descriptions of the psychological climate that dominates teacherparent


interactions during school visits.
Parents suggestions for improvement of parentschool communication and
cooperation.

Method
Participants
Four hundred and seventy-five parents (29.9% fathers and 70.1% mothers) completed
the questionnaire of the present study. Parents age ranged between 36 and 55 years
(94.8%). Of all the parents, 90.7% of the parents were married and 88.2% had up to
three children in their family. Approximately 50% obtained a university first degree
(41.9%) and postgraduate diplomas (3.8%). Almost half of the participating mothers
(45.9%) worked as civil servants and another 20.7% were housewives. Among
fathers, 43.7% worked in the public sector while 36% worked as private employees.

Materials
The structured questionnaire designed for parents included demographic information
(gender, age, education level, occupation, number of children in the family and marital
status) and 78 items measuring parents perceptions of the following facets of family
school partnership: the aims and the role of parental involvement in school matters,
attitudes to parentschool communication and collaboration, parental involvement
practices (level of satisfaction, impact on adolescents academic and emotional
profile) and suggestions for improvement of current policies and practices. The
questionnaire items were scored on five-point Likert-type scales.

Procedure
Parents were allocated through contact with seven secondary schools of the broader
area of Athens. The head teachers of the schools informed the parents of all students
who attended the first and the second year of secondary school (n = 568), on the
purpose of this study and invited them to participate in it by completing an agreement
336 K. Antonopoulou et al.

form. Four hundred and ninety-two parents (86.6%) returned the completed form and
the questionnaires were sent with their children. Only 17 parents did not return the
questionnaire in a ready-to-use form.

Results
Table 1 presents parents responses to the questionnaire items addressing parental
views on the role of parental involvement in academic and psychosocial aspects of
adolescent development. Parents tend to believe in the positive role of familyschool
collaboration to adolescents academic, social and psychological development.
Table 2 presents parents accounts on the nature of parental involvement practice
initiated by the secondary school at which their children are registered. Parents, on the
whole, report that the contact between the school and the family is occasional or rare,
not consistent and clearly structured, with parental involvement being restricted to the
minimal.
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Table 3 provides information about the content and the goals of parental visits to
school as described by the responding parents. It is obvious that when parents are
invited to school in order to be informed about their childrens progress, the focus of
the communication with the teachers is primarily placed on the adolescents perfor-
mance in school subjects and, secondarily, on issues like learning difficulties, social
skills and self-confidence.
Table 4 presents parents descriptions of the psychological climate dominating
parentteacher interaction during school visits. Although teachers are described as
friendly and caring, parents tend to feel that their opinion is not as valued as it should
be by the teachers and teachers are not that eager to get to know them. Additionally,
parents, although being content to talk about their childrens needs at school, very
rarely demonstrate willingness to volunteer in school support matters.

Table 1. Parents responses (in percentages) to the questions examining views on the role of
parental involvement in secondary school (n = 475).
Disagree
Strongly

Strongly
disagree
Neutral
Agree
agree

Improvement of adolescent scholastic achievement 51.4 20.7 17.5 2.3 8.1


Development of adolescent positive attitude to school 62.5 10.1 18.1 3.8 5.5
Improvement of adolescent behaviour, communication 51.75 13.1 13.1 13.5 8.55
and social skills
Adolescents self-esteem boosting 51.4 18.3 12.1 8.5 9.7
Development of adolescents homework skills 47.8 38.6 4.5 2.5 6.6
Increase of adolescent motivation 33.5 20.1 5.2 19.7 21.5
Contribution to parental better understanding of 70.1 9.4 15.2 3 2.3
adolescent scholastic needs
Contribution to parental better understanding of 70.1 9.4 15.2 3 2.3
adolescent psychosocial needs
Improvement of parentadolescent communication 50.3 28.5 4.3 6.2 10.7
Development of parent positive attitude to school 57.9 20.4 9.3 4.2 8.2
Enhancement of parent supportive behaviour at home 65.5 15.1 9.8 5.2 4.4
Educational Studies 337

Table 2. Parents responses (in percentages) to the questions about the nature of parental
involvement practice of the secondary school at which their children are registered (n = 475).

Sometimes

Rarely

Never
Often
often
Very
Parent initiate contact with the teacher 1.7 5.5 44.6 38.5 9.7
Teacher contacts parent 1.1 2.7 20.4 27.8 48
Parent visits school 1.7 6.3 49.7 38.5 3.8
School invites parents to special occasions 0 1.3 9.9 62.3 26.5
Parent visits school on special occasions 0.6 0.2 8.2 62.9 28
School invites parents to pre-arranged meetings 1.1 0.4 20.8 68.6 9.1
Parent takes part in schools informative meetings 0.2 1.3 21.1 61.9 15.6
School seeks parental support in the organisation of 0.2 0.6 4.8 42.3 52
school social events
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Parent participates in schools social events 0.4 0.6 3.4 33.5 62.1

Table 3. Parents responses (in percentages) to the questions about the content and goals of
parental informative visits to school (n = 475).

Sometimes

Rarely

Never
Often
often
Very

Adolescents general academic progress 80.4 10.5 3.7 3.3 2.1


Adolescents emotional and behavioural profile 56 13.6 20.8 6.4 3.2
Adolescents learning difficulties 25.4 7.6 22.4 34.5 10.1
Adolescents special skills 11.2 8.9 16.6 44.4 18.9
Adolescents social skills and self-confidence 9.3 12.5 20.1 40.6 17.5

Table 4. Parents responses (in percentages) to the questions about the psychological climate
of parentteacher contacts (n = 475).
Sometimes

Rarely

Never
Often
often
Very

Teacher is friendly every time parents visit school 21.7 42.5 28.4 5.9 1.5
Parents enjoy discussing with the teacher 17.5 33.5 33.7 11.8 3.6
Teachers care about their students 16 33.1 38.3 9.9 2.7
Teachers want to meet and get to know parents 9.1 27.6 31.6 20.8 10.9
Parent feels great to talk to teachers about child progress 25.5 38.1 23.2 10.1 3.2
Teachers take seriously parental opinion 11.2 20.9 34.1 24.9 8.8
Parents voluntarily offer their support to the school 4.4 4.4 13.7 20.4 57.1
338 K. Antonopoulou et al.

Table 5. Parents suggestions (in percentages) for improvement of parentschool


collaboration (n = 475).

Neither important
nor unimportant

Not important
Important
important

important
Not that
Very

at all
Parental centres/units in the school 34.3 30.5 15.4 10.6 9.2
Social activities in the school initiated by parents 17.5 46.7 9.3 22.3 4.2
School provides counselling to parents 50.1 34 8.4 5.9 1.6
Pre-arranged school visits 8 25.9 7.2 38.4 20.5
Everyday contact through parentschool book 26.1 37.8 6 27.8 2.3
Psychologist and social worker in the school 72.2 18.1 4.3 3.6 1.8
Frequent pre-arranged school visits aiming at 47.8 33.6 5.2 10.3 3.1
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informing parents
Regular collaboration between the head teacher, 80.8 14.9 1.5 2.8 0
teachers and family
Specific legislation by the Ministry of Education 28.4 50.5 3.2 16.3 1.6

Finally, parents suggestions for improvement of schoolfamily communication


are presented in Table 5.
Parents tend to be in favour of regular, consistent and supportive measures of
homeschool collaboration such as in-school support provided to parents, by school
psychologist and social workers and regular, constructive and meaningful collabora-
tion among the head teacher, teachers and parents. Parents seem to value more
measures taken by the school aiming at the encouragement of parental educational
involvement than efforts initiated by the family.

Correlational analyses
In order to reveal associations between parents perceptions of the role of parental
educational involvement and parents experiences of parental involvement, Spearmans
rho correlations were performed with ranked scores (Peers 1996). The results are
presented in Table 6. The analysis showed significant positive associations between
most of the variables measuring parents views of the role of teacherparent commu-
nication and variables indicating parents experiences and current practice with regard
to parental involvement.

Regression analyses
In an attempt to assess whether parents positive experiences with schools current
practice regarding parental involvement may be good predictors of parents positive
attitudes to the role of parental educational involvement, regression analysis was
conducted on parents views of the role of parental involvement to several aspects of
adolescent development as the outcome measure, with the explanatory variables
assessing parental experiences and current school practice concerning parental educa-
tional involvement. The results have shown that high levels of reported parental satis-
faction stemming from constructive discussions with teachers contribute significantly
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Table 6. Spearman correlations (rho) between variables looking at parental views on the role of parental involvement in secondary education and
variables about parents current experiences from familyschool collaboration.

Adolescent scholastic
achievement
Adolescent
self-esteem
Adolescent behaviour,
communication and
social skills
Adolescent homework
skills
Adolescent motivation
Adolescent positive
attitude to school
Parent understanding
of adolescent
scholastic needs
Parent understanding
of adolescent
psychosocial needs
Parent supportive
behaviour at home
Parentadolescent
communication
Parent positive
attitude to school

Parents initiate contact with the teacher .219** .163** .175** .206** .219** .109* .130* .183** .133* .137* .211**
Parents take part in school informative 154** .121* .238** .129* .182** .158** .118* .159** .108* .074 .155**
meetings
Teachers are friendly every time parents .224** .229** .252** .224** .158** .193** .122* .188** .250** .264** .296**
visit school
Parents enjoy discussing with teachers .233** .228** .265** .233** .123* .207** .226** .232** .247** .234** .321**
Teachers care about their students .215** .232** .162** .215** .193** .124* .159** .235** .180** .235** .240**
Teachers want to meet and get to know .229** .206** .208** .209** .181** .152** .135* .198** .237** .255** .231**
parents
Parents feel great to talk to teachers about .157** .209** .128* .196** .102* .133* .108* .135* .156** .198** .196**
child progress
Teachers take seriously parental opinion .160** .109* .167** .185** .125* .106* .116* .167** .204** .160** .176**
Parents voluntarily offer their support to .108* .137* .151** .155** .102* .078 .009 .115* .088 .149** .155**
the school
*p < .05, **p < .001.
Educational Studies
339
340 K. Antonopoulou et al.

to the prediction of positive parental views regarding the importance of parental


involvement on adolescents social skills (B = 1.736, = .242, R2 = 0.056, p < .0001)
and parents positive attitude to school matters (B = 1.776, = .328, R2 = 0.106, p <
.0001), explaining a moderate 5.6% and 10.6% of the overall variance respectively.
Additionally, high levels of friendly teacher behaviour during parents school visits
was, although not that strong, a significant factor in predicting positive parental views
regarding the importance of parental involvement on (1) adolescents scholastic
achievement (B = 2.141, = .182, R2 = 0.031, p < .0001), (2) adolescents social skills
(B = 1.779, = .182, R2 = 0.031, p < .0001), (3) parental supportive behaviour at home
(B = 2.012, = .251, R2 = 0.061, p < .0001), (4) parentadolescent communication (B
= 1.724, = .239, R2 = 0.055, p < .0001), and (5) parents positive attitude to school
matters (B = 1.689, = .301, R2 = 0.089, p < .0001) in this sample.

Discussion
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The present study was carried out to describe Greek parents views on parental
involvement in secondary schools and concurrently explore the role of certain aspects
of parental involvement such as positive experiences and positive perceptions, in
adolescents aspects of scholastic and social development. The results of the survey
reveal the following paradoxes.

Paradox 1
Despite the fact that Greek parents strongly believe that familyschool collaboration
is determinative of their childrens academic and psychosocial development, they
rarely establish an active cooperation with the school, even in cases where the
school provides considerable opportunities for a fruitful contact (compare Tables 1
and 2).

Paradox 2
Although parents regard familyschool collaboration as highly decisive for their better
understanding of adolescents psychosocial needs and development, they rarely to
never ask their childrens teacher about these issues (compare Tables 1 and 3).

Paradox 3
Despite the fact that teachers are considered to be friendly and caring, and parents
enjoy the contact with them, none of both parts seem to take full advantage of this
favourable climate in order to establish a sincere, solid and meaningful relationship
necessary for the accomplishment of parents, students and teachers mutual goals
(see Table 4).
Parental perceptions on the distinctive roles of family and school in child develop-
ment in primary education as presented in the Introduction cannot convincingly
explain these paradoxes in secondary education, since parents of adolescent students
report that they very strongly believe in the impact of familyschool collaboration not
only on academic but also on psychological and social aspect of child development.
Moreover, it is not easily understood why parents reported need for better under-
standing of their childrens scholastic and psychosocial needs in secondary school
Educational Studies 341

does not urge them to utilise or establish a counterbalanced and supportive collabora-
tion with the school, and, on the other hand, why they described as friendly and
caring teachers do not sufficiently utilise parents experience to make their own
demanding professional practice easier and more satisfactory. Finally, if one considers
the suggestions made by Greek parents (in Table 5) who obviously imply that there is
lack of relevant supportive services and procedures, then why are the same or similar
symptoms reported from countries where serious steps have been made towards the
development of meaningful familyschool collaboration? (Shumow 2009; Smith
2009; Tozer, Senese, and Violas 2006; Weiss et al. 2010).
To explain the aforementioned paradoxes, as far as the Greek educational system
is concerned, one must take into account the development of social expectations from
education and teachers in the course of time in a developing country such as Greece.
A few decades ago and until early 1980s, a teacher in Greece was expected to be an
effective mediator between the society of adults and the developing children, having
as a core objective the conveyance and development of moral values and principles in
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young people. Knowledge, restricted to basics, was a means exclusively for creating
characters with a steady and solid moral background, which was considered to be vital
equipment for children who would have to fight against poverty and other adverse
social and political circumstances. These roles and experiences are still deeply
engraved in the memory and conscience of almost all Greek teachers and parents, even
the younger ones. Greeces admission in the European Union in 1980 brought Greeks
in contact with countries already developed technically, institutionally and fiscally.
The social expectations from education and teachers rapidly changed; teachers were
entrusted with the task of expanding their students knowledge horizons, so that they
could become effective helpers in the effort of economic and technical growth of the
country, which was expected to be abreast of the other European countries. Greek
educational system dynamically supported this turn to technocratic goals, which were
supposed to lead to material affluence. Affective and wider social objectives in educa-
tion (primary, secondary and higher) were overshadowed by restricted cognitive/
academic goals imposed on teachers and students through the inflexible Curricula
described in the Introduction. Consequently, Greek teachers today seem to experience
an inner conflict of roles; as professionals, they are expected to focus on their
students academic development and on their countrys technocratic growth, while as
persons who were given a moral upbringing, they feel unsupported by pre-service
training, Curricula and services. Obviously, such a conflict is experienced by parents
as well; although they greatly care about their childrens social and emotional devel-
opment, they inwardly know that what Greek society demands from their children is
only wide technocratic knowledge. Even in cases where social skills and emotional
balance appear in school objectives, their meaning is rather restricted to socially (i.e.
professionally) profitable skills and rationalized utilization (i.e. exploitation) of
emotions (Cairns, Lawton, and Gardner 2001, 17, 24).
All these inconsistencies probably explain why parents and teachers, despite their
good will and intentions, fail to establish sincere and truthful communication even in
cases where circumstances are favourable in Greece or other countries. Of course,
parents suggestions, as presented in Table 5, must undoubtedly be taken into
consideration by education policy-planners. The regression analyses confirm that
parental satisfaction deriving from meaningful communication with school has a
very positive impact on many aspects of further collaboration, while the friendly
teacher behaviour is also the main factor that facilitates the development of sound
342 K. Antonopoulou et al.

and fruitful relationships among parents, students and school. Consequently, encour-
aging the teacher to develop real human relationships with parents and students in a
school setting where technocratic knowledge is provided on the basis and in the
service of humanistic ideals and moral principles seems to be a deeper holistic solu-
tion to the problem examined here. In fact, the present study confirms the need for a
principled professionalism as described by Goodson and Hargreaves (1996) and
brought out by Hargreaves and Lo:

Teachers can no longer rely solely on the academics to develop and clarify for them a
knowledge base for teaching. The new professionalism in teaching should be devel-
oped from clearly agreed moral and ethical principles, with caring concerns at its core,
and exemplification of the collaborative cultures for which teachers should strive.
(2000, 176)

Notes on contributors
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Katerina Antonopoulou is a lecturer in the Department of Home Economics and Ecology at


Harokopio University, Athens, Greece. She completed her postgraduate studies in educational
psychology at the University of Manchester and then received her PhD degree at the University
of Sheffield. She has teaching experience in the education of children with special educational
needs. Her research focuses on the development of referential communication in children,
language and learning difficulties in children, and adolescents and parental educational
involvement with particular attention to inclusive education.

Konstantina Koutrouba is an assistant professor in the Department of Home Economics and


Ecology at Harokopio University, Athens, Greece. She completed her postgraduate studies
and received her PhD degree at the University of Athens in Greece at the Department of
Pedagogy. Her research interests focus on the investigation and implementation of alternative
teaching strategies during the learning process, on involvement of teachers personality and
professionalism into the teaching practice and his/her communication with students and
parents.

Thomas Babalis is an assistant professor in the Department of Primary Education at the Univer-
sity of Athens, Greece. He received his PhD degree at the School of Humanities, University of
the Aegean. His research interests focus on issues related to school pedagogy and the commu-
nicationcooperation between family and school.

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