Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology and Research

Major Professor

Katherine H. Greenberg

Committee Members

Elizabeth I. Johnson, Ralph Brockett, Gary Skolits


The purpose of this study was to understand pre-service teacher’s perceptions and experiences with family engagement in the education of students. The phenomenological method developed at the University of Tennessee was utilized to explore the following research questions: (1) How do pre-service teachers view the roles of parents in their interactions with teachers, administrators and other school staff to facilitate family engagement; and (2) What influences do pre-service teachers cite as helping to form their views of the role of families in the education of students the pre-service teacher’s experiences in the teacher education program as well as personal experiences with engaging families in the education of their children.

Ten participants from an Educational Psychology course required for teacher licensure were interviewed about their perceptions and experiences of family engagement. Thematic analysis of the 10 interviews was conducted, developing themes that illustrated how the pre-service teachers perceived family engagement. Based on the participants’ own words, a ground theme and three themes were identified: Ground- You’ve got to get parents on your side…you can’t be on their bad side; Theme I- You have to keep them involved…make them comfortable (roles); Theme II- We are restrained by various bounds (barriers); Theme III- They don’t see the big picture…(assumptions).

Based on these findings, implications are presented for both teacher educators and researchers. Implications include (1) the need to expose pre-service teachers to the many benefits of family engagement; (2) the need to encourage pre-service teachers to recognize and acknowledge multiple types of involvement and engagement; (3) the need for pre-service teachers develop strategies for family engagement; (4) the need for teacher education programs to provide opportunities for pre-service teachers to acknowledge and challenge their own assumptions.

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