Communication between parents and teachers regarding school bullying: A complex adaptive systems (CAS) perspective

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Partnerships between parents and teachers are widely advocated, in the interest of children's education and wellbeing. In practice, effective collaborative relationships are not easy to achieve, especially when sensitive topics such as bullying must be discussed. It is suggested here that communication in the parent-teacher meeting can usefully be seen from the perspective of Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) theory, which has recently been applied to the field of communication and is beginning to be applied to school bullying. In this chapter, evidence from studies of parent-teacher meetings is used to illustrate how parentteacher encounters, including those on the subject of bullying, can be seen as demonstrating the characteristics of CAS. Compared with the ecological systems approach as commonly applied to understanding schools, CAS is explicitly dynamic. It promotes a view of the parentteacher meeting as a self-organising system of dynamically-interacting entities (e.g., words, nonverbal behaviours) that are the units of communicative exchange. These also interact with systems at other ecological levels, including the individual psychology of the participants and broader school and cultural systems. In contrast to the standard scientific approach to research that relies on predictability, unpredictability of outcomes is a significant feature of CAS, and this offers a way of understanding both smooth communication and communicative breakdown and repair. The application of CAS theory and methods to research, practice and teacher education in this area may bolster the development of teacher communication skills. These are crucial for promoting stronger collaborative relationships between parents and teachers, which are essential for addressing sensitive subjects such as school bullying.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationParents and Teachers
Subtitle of host publicationPerspectives, Interactions and Relationships
EditorsFrancesco Arcidiacono
Place of PublicationNew York, USA
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781685074180
ISBN (Print)9781685073589
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Bullying
  • Collaboration
  • Communication
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Parent-teacher meetings
  • Parent-teacher partnerships


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