Introduction for the Chapter


A successful school-parent partnership primarily seeks to create opportunities for the teachers and parents to engage in progressive, collaborative efforts, which focus on addressing the challenges as well as the general progress of the students both at school and home. Accordingly, constant teacher-parent communication becomes an essential prerequisite in the establishment and sustenance of successful partnership between parents and schools, especially for children with autism spectrum disorders, who may often require specialized attention. Azad et al. (2016) emphasized that the success of a school-family partnership, especially where students with ASD are involved, depends significantly on the quality of communication between teachers and parents, which has demonstrated to have a substantive impact on the students’ general success within and outside school. Under these circumstances, communication was widely regarded as both an agent of collaboration and source of conflict in the parent-teacher partnership (Mautone, Marcelle, Tresco, & Power, 2015). Although both the parents and teachers value timely and regular communication, it is challenging to create a reliable, consistent, two-way system of connection between them.

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The primary purpose of the study was to determine how teachers in Saudi Arabia perceived the use of e-mail as a channel for communication with parents of the children with ASD, in their concerted efforts to enhance parental participation on the children’s education and general wellbeing. This study examined dependent variables that included the perceptions of the special education teachers towards the use of e-mail addresses in their communication with parents. The independent variables under investigation were the teachers’ gender, teachers’ experience, age, the frequency of the e-mail communication, subjects and grade levels that the teachers taught, as well as the use of e-mail for communication between the administrator and parents. Accordingly, the researcher adopted a descriptive design to summarize the views presented by the teachers on their understanding and approval of e-mail usage. Therefore, the special education teachers for the students with ASD became the target population for the study.

This chapter explains the results obtained from the study, including the context of the study in terms of the place where the research was conducted, the participants’ demographics, research methodology, as well as the statistical approaches used in the manipulation of the collected data. In addition, this chapter provides a comprehensive and detailed interpretation of the results as they relate to the three research questions which guided the study. Next, the recommendations section of this chapter proposes some possible interventions, policies, and strategies that may enhance the quality and effectiveness of parent-teacher communication for the betterment of the ASD students’ education and general wellbeing. There is a section on the study’s limitations, and this discusses some of the elements of the study that could undermine the reliability, believability, and validity of the research findings obtained in this study. Other key sections of this chapter are the research implications that cover the applicability and significance of the research findings, and the recommendations for future research, which highlight valuable procedural and material inputs that would enhance the quality of the research findings. In the end, there is a chapter summary that provides a general overview of the chapter, together with the researcher’s opinions on the research study as a whole.


Context of the Study

The target population of the study was elementary special education educations school teachers in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern region, which is the country’s largest province. Therefore, for inclusion in the research study, the target respondents had to be special education teachers who dealt with children with ASD and came from the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia. In the end, the sample consisted of 83 teachers, 57 of who were male and 25 who were female. The most popular age group for the sampled population was between 24 and 39 years of age, while the least popular was those teachers above the age of 59 years. Given the nature of data required based on the research questions, a mixed research approach was favored for this research, and it included a descriptive survey using a Likert scale and semi-structured interviews with the participating teachers.

The examination of the research questions began in the first phase, where the quantitative data were gathered from the participants using the 26 questions listed in the survey. After the research data were downloaded into an Excel file from Qualtrics, it was subsequently cleaned by excluding participants who failed to provide their consent. The statistical package for social science (SPSS) was the preferred format for the coding of the participants’ responses (Azad & Mandell, 2016). Accordingly, the coded answers formed the core of the analysis phase, where they were used to respond to the research questions. In this case, the data collected were analyzed to explore the perspectives that the individual special education school teachers had towards the identified variables, namely the use of e-mail messaging as a tool of communication between the teachers and parents. In particular, the surveys were fed into the SPSS for eventual analysis using the descriptive statistics, variance test analysis, as well as the t-test, which ultimately revealed how the teachers perceived the variables under investigation.

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After the successful execution of the survey process and the analysis of the data collected, the researcher conducted a series of eight qualitative interviews, where respondents provided their views, opinions, and approval or disapproval of the e-mail communication platform as part of the parent-teacher collaboration. In the end, the findings of the interviews were organized in correspondence with the respective research questions, and this provided the ease of readability and contextual interpretation of the responses provided by the participants.

For this research, three questions were formulated, and used to obtain the views and opinions of the teachers in a more comprehensive, open, and clear way. The questions were:

Question 1: What are teacher perceptions of e-mail as a method of communication with parents?

While asking this question, the researcher believed that the teachers who participated in the research were sufficiently knowledgeable about how the e-mail communication worked, and any responses were expected to reflect the teachers’ in-depth knowledge of the e-mail technology. Accordingly, the researcher expected that the perceptions of the teachers regarding the use of e-mail in their communication would be influenced by how they rated the ease of using the technology and their belief about the suitability of the e-mails communication from the parents’ perspective (Pillet-Shore, 2015). In addition, this question about the perception of the teachers regarding e-mail communication was also aimed at understanding how suitable the platform is in relaying the students’ work to the parents, as well as whether the teachers believed the e-mail communication method enhanced their professional image.

There was a general agreement by an overwhelming majority of the teachers, 94%, that they possessed the necessary skills for communicating using e-mail. This confirmed the assumption that the participants were knowledgeable and skilled in e-mail use in their regular communication with the parents. From the responses given by the teachers, 88% of the respondents approved the use of e-mail communication as an ideal way of informing parents about their children’s commendable work in school. In addition, the majority of the participants agreed that the use of the e-mail as a communication method would help in having effective process of communication with parents, an indication that the teachers had a positive opinion about its use in promoting parent-teacher partnership.

The positive perception of the teachers towards the use of e-mail in communicating was also demonstrated by the considerably low percentage of respondents, 24.1%, who hesitated using e-mail because of any legal concerns. In addition, 66.3% of the teachers did not think that using e-mail would lead to the overuse of the medium by the parents. Nevertheless, there does not seem to be a consensus among the teachers on whether e-mail messages are prone to misinterpretation by the parents, which raises an important concern about the parents’ skills in using the e-mail communication platform. Ultimately, whereas the teachers generally believed in the suitability of e-mail messages in facilitating communication between the school and parents, they had split opinions about its suitability in communicating adverse students’ behaviors, with 51.8 percent of the respondents disapproving its use under such circumstances.

Question 2: What are the relationships among gender, age, teaching experience, frequency of e-mail use, administrator’s e-mail use, classroom e-mail access, grade level/subject taught, school socioeconomic level and teacher perceptions of e-mail as a method of communication with parents?

For this question, the researcher focused on identifying differences in teachers’ perceptions of e-mail use in communication with parents based on demographic and other personal characteristics. For instance, the researcher sought to understand whether being a female teacher made one more or less likely to approve the use of e-mail communication with parents of students with ASD. In addition, the researcher wanted to understand if being in the teaching professional for a longer time, which translated to a greater teacher-parent interaction experience, had any bearing on the teachers’ approval or disapproval of e-mail technology as an ideal method of communication between teachers and parents (Sheridan et al., 2013). In addition, the question puts into consideration a range of other variables that could have a significant influence on the use of e-mail communication. For instance, the researcher also investigated the impact of age on the teachers’ preference of e-mail method of communication because of the belief that younger teachers were more likely to favor internet-based forms of communication than older teachers.

An important variable in the responses given by the participants was the significant disparities based on their gender. For instance, male and female teachers demonstrated significant differences in their ratings, including a considerably higher mean rank for men, who disagreed with the statement that “The message of the e-mail is easily misinterpreted,” compared to their female counterparts at p=.025. Given the gender-aligned differences in the participants’ perception of the ease of misinterpreting e-mails, it was unsurprising that female teachers had a relatively lower agreement level on whether e-mail was a suitable method for communicating with parents. A similar trend was reflected in the lower level agreement among female respondents on the statement that “E-mail is suitable way of relaying commendable learners work to parents.” Based on this, it is evident that male teachers had a comparatively higher opinion of the use of e-mail in communicating with parents compared to their female counterparts.

Younger teachers tended to have more positive perceptions towards email use, which was not very surprising given the shift towards digital communication in the more recent years. However, there were only significant pairwise differences for two of the items on the scale, suggesting that age did not impact perceptions as much as one might anticipate before seeing the data. In addition, there were two statements on the survey that indicated those with more teaching experience viewed email more negatively than teachers with fewer years of teaching experience. This isn’t very surprising because years of teaching experience and age are theoretically directly related. However, what was surprising was that the two items with significant differences for teaching experience were different from the two items with significant differences for age. This suggests that future research should be conducted focusing on age and years of teaching experience related to perceptions of email as a form of communication in the classroom.

In addition, not surprisingly, teachers who used email more frequently had more positive perceptions related to email use in the classroom. This suggests that the more the teachers utilize email, the more benefits they receive. Another possibility is that teachers with preconceived notions about email use in the classroom choose not to use email. Further research should be conducted to determine the direction of this relationship. Furthermore, when assessing the relationship between administration approval and perceptions of email use, the results were also as expected. Teachers who reported that their administration approved to email use in the classroom tended to have more positive perceptions of email use than those who reported that their administration did not approve of email use in the classroom.

Regarding the relationship between access to email and perceptions of email as a method of communication in the classroom, the results were once again, as expected. Those with access to email in the classroom tended to have more positive perceptions of email. However, similar to the relationship involving frequency of email use, further research should be conducted to determine if the administration approval has a causal role in the positive perceptions. Finally, the lack of significant differences in the last to analyses was surprising, as this related to teachers’ education level and grade taught. It seems intuitive that those with a higher level of education would have been taught more about email use in the classroom and therefore tend to have more positive views, but this was not the case. In addition, it would be expected for grade level taught to impact the use of email as different aged students require different forms of communication, but this was also not the case in this sample. Overall, there were a range of significant results that need to be studied further on their own to determine the nature of the relationships.

Question 3: What are the benefits and barriers to using e-mail to communicate with parents?

This question was answered through responses given by the participants to the qualitative semi-structured interviews. By investigating the potential barriers and benefits to the use of e-mail in the frequent teacher and parent communication, the researcher was interested in establishing how conversant and comfortable the teachers were with the technology, as well as what they believed was the parents’ abilities to use the e-mail. Among the aspects that the researcher sought to understand was the level of training that the teachers had in the use of e-mail technology and whether there were any further training courses required to enhance their competencies in e-mail communication. At the same time, the question sought to understand any notable benefits that the teachers associated with the use of e-mail communication, and this could include convenience, speed, and low costs compared to other conventional modes of communication.

By seeking the teachers’ responses on the barriers and benefits of the e-mail communication method, the question is interested in fostering an understanding of how the teachers made decisions regarding their preferred communication channels. In this case, the responses given by the participants were expected to reveal the factors that the teachers considered to be influential in their decision-making process regarding the suitability of e-mail communication for maintaining constant contact between the parents and teachers. The question was also meant to elicit the teachers’ responses regarding their perceived negative effects or barriers to the use of e-mails, amongst which could be fear of insecurity for their data. The question was also instrumental in acquiring valuable information on how supportive the school administration had been in promoting the teachers’ cause for e-mail-based communication in school.

The outcomes of the qualitative analysis provided insight into the range of perceptions that different teachers had towards the use of e-mails for parent-teacher communication. One important observation was the strong connection between the level of training in the use of e-mails and the approval of this platform for the teachers’ communication with parents. For those who approved the use of the e-mail communication, convenience, reliability, speed, and low costs were the core factors that informed their decisions. This implied that the respondents believed in the effectiveness of e-mail communication as an ideal method for communication between teachers and parents. However, they were concerned that the suitability of this channel depended on the infiltration of internet connections within the region, affordability of the internet services, and the ease of acquiring and operating and internet-enabled electronic devices, which may not be guaranteed for many parents. Hence, the responses made by the teachers were based on their own convenience as well as the convenience of the parents with whom they had interacted, in acquiring, accessing, affording, and using the internet technology and devices. Nonetheless, it was understandable that as teachers’ age increased, they trended to not believe e-mail communication was as reliable as other forms of communication such as the phone and in-person conversations. Ultimately, there was a consensus among the vast majority of the respondents that e-mail method was indeed the most suitable in sending out messages that included a bulk of attachments or explanations, in addition to being quicker and cost-effective in relaying such messages.

The qualitative approach to this question was instrumental in obtaining detailed accounts of the teachers concerning the factors that they believed influenced the effectiveness and suitability of e-mail communication in the teacher-parent partnership. In this case, the responses were insightful because of the multiple perspective evaluation of the issues, which included trying to consider the appropriateness of the e-mail method from the parents’ perspective. Having interacted with the parents for a long time, the teachers acknowledged that some parents would struggle to access e-mail supported platforms, which inevitably undermined the effectiveness of this method in relaying critical and urgent messages from teachers to parents. However, there was a unanimous approval that e-mail use was ideal for communicating school-wide announcements, amongst which are school projects and newsletters. Teachers were also cautious that the effectiveness of the e-mail communication could be affected by the spam filter problems and the suspicions of fake e-mails by the recipients.

Recommendations for Action

The findings of the research emphasize the significance of communication as a tool that increases the quality of the partnership between parents and teachers, thus improving the academic performances, developmental challenges, and the general wellbeing of the children with ASD. According to Mautone et al. (2015), the absence of meaningful and solid communication between parents and teachers resulted in the isolation of parents from important processes of their children’s academic lives, which is detrimental to the children’s growth and development. In this case, children with ASD undoubtedly require additional care and have face a range of challenges that would not be as severe in students without this condition. Accordingly, continuous and reliable communication between teachers and parents is instrumental for prompt and quality interventions both in school and at home whenever any health or academic-related issues arise.

One of the important recommendations arising from the research findings is the need for increased awareness regarding parent-school partnership and its significance in the proper management of the children with ASD. Accordingly, Azad et al. (2016) emphasized that the success of a school-family partnership, especially where students with ASD are involved, depends significantly on the communication quality between teachers and parents, which have demonstrated to have a substantive impact on the students’ general success within and outside school. Under these circumstances, communication is widely regarded as both an agent of collaboration and source of conflict in the parent-teacher partnership. In the end, the decision on an effective and prompt form of communication that facilitates a two-way exchange of information would be critical in promoting problem solving and improve the quality of education and learning environment for the target students.

Although alternative methods of communication such as phone calls, text messaging, and in-person meetings might be the most popular for parent-teacher partnership, the findings from the research study revealed the huge potential that e-mail communication might have if sufficiently exploited and utilized. As a result, there is a need for the school to facilitate a gradual adoption of this mode of communication with the aim of promoting its popularity and effective use by parents and teachers for both present and future benefits. The observations made by Azad and Mandell (2016) indicated that electronic communication provides a more positive and rewarding experience to the user because of the ease of sending and receiving messages, as well as the ability to handle bulky communication files and accommodate multiple communication lines simultaneously. Therefore, the school has the duty of creating awareness about the use of e-mail communication, as well as provide the necessary training and resources for the teachers and parents. For instance, acquisition of computers or installation of a functional computer library with sufficient internet connectivity would enhance the use of e-mail communication by the teachers because of the resource availability, convenience, and low cost of communication. Ultimately, e-mail communication fosters greater parent involvement in their children’s school progress because of the increased awareness of all important events, activities, and issues in school.

Because the findings of this study demonstrated the wide range of perceptions among the teachers in regard to the use of e-mail communication between the school and teachers, there is a need for the stakeholders in the education sector to try and harmonize the teachers’ collective perception before the full implementation of the practice. Despite the negative perceptions about e-mail communication only constituting a small percentage of the respondents, most of whom are older teachers who might soon retire from their teaching career, it would be improper to overrule or ignore the significance of these minorities’ interests if the implementation of the e-mail communication practice must succeed. Instead, the school management and teachers need to address the individual concerns raised by the dissenting voices, and this can be achieved through dialoguing with the respective teachers to understand and improve their areas of weakness, doubt, or any reservations that they might have concerning the communication method.


Among the notable limitations of the study is the size and regional distribution of the sample selected to participate in the research. In this case, the researcher focused on the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, which is a relatively small area, with the expectations that the outcomes of the research would be reflective of the whole country. In the end, the geographical differences in the country are likely to have unique social and cultural beliefs, as well as varying infrastructural installation, which inevitably affects the participants’ perception towards the use of e-mail communication. On the other hand, the quality and accuracy of the research findings might also be affected by the complexity of the mixed research design, given that only one researcher conducted the research. Admittedly, it may become challenging and confusing for the researcher to handle both the qualitative and quantitative research studies, especially in handling of the resultant data and resolving any discrepancies that arise from the data collected. In the end, the outcomes of the research could be prone to bias, especially after the researcher has already collected data using one method before proceeding to the other. One last limitation to the current study is the data analysis technique. When recoding the Likert-scale items into an “agree” and “disagree” category, there is potential for neutral responses to get recategorized. Therefore, the researcher will rerun the analyses in the future with a third category coded as “neutral” to determine if the results are consistent.


The findings of the research have an important influence on the future of school-parent collaboration, which is becoming increasingly popular because of the student-centered approach embraced by most learning institutions today. Considering the special attention that children with ASD require for their continued development and learning process, the revelations about the teachers’ perception of e-mail communication and the general use of internet communication could be instrumental in informing legislation of policies at school and national levels as a way of improving the level of education for these children in Saudi Arabia. Apart from influencing the national policymaking on important educational practices, such as the incorporation of information technology lessons in the teachers’ training, the findings would also impact decisions on revenue allocation and infrastructural development in Saudi Arabia because the government would prioritize installation of internet connection services for improved internet access and effective e-mail communication.

Recommendations for Further Study

In the future, researchers could improve the generalizability and quality of the research findings by increasing the sample size and incorporating a wider geographical area to ensure geographical, cultural, and socioeconomic representation of the teachers in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, it would be helpful if the services of data analysis experts or additional qualified researchers were sought, especially considering the bulky and complex quantitative data to avoid possible confusion and bias that may arise when a single researcher handles both qualitative and quantitative studies. The future study could also be improved by incorporating parents as respondents in the research to ensure that their perspectives and opinions about the viability of e-mail communication method are captured, given their primary role as partners in the school-parents relationship.

Chapter Summary

In general, this chapter provided a detailed insight into the research study, including the purpose of the study and the range of variables that the research sought to evaluate in relation to their impact on the teachers’ perception of e-mail communication method as a suitable tool for parent-teacher collaboration. Other areas addressed in this chapter were the context of the study, which in this case are the geographical, cultural, and social context of the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia, together with the demographics of the target population for the study. In addition, the section covered the research method used for the study, which in this case included both qualitative and quantitative methods conducted through semi-structured interview and surveys respectively. There was also a detailed account of the three main questions investigated by the researcher, two of which formed part of the quantitative survey while the third was answered through a qualitative technique. Next, the recommendations section of this chapter proposed some possible interventions, policies, and strategies that may enhance the quality and effectiveness of parent-teacher communication for the betterment of the ASD students’ education and general wellbeing. Amongst these was the increase in infrastructural and training support for parents and teachers. The section on the study’s limitations discussed how the validity, believability, and reliability of the research could be undermined, particularly the smaller sample size and the complexity of the mixed research method. Other key sections of this chapter were the research implications that covered the applicability and significance of the research findings, and the recommendations for future research.

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