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I. STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM AND REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM Sooner or later in this quantitative ageevery instructor pauses and looks about him for an instrument with which to measure the results of his efforts. If he has been teaching factual subjects he need not look far, since we have fairly satisfactory techniques for measuring the acquisition of knowledge and skills. In subjects dealing with matters of opinion, however, the problem is much more complicated, because in such subjects few, if any, basic facts can be labeled right and taken as the standard of perfection. It is possible, of course, to assemble the opinionsof experts in a specific field and to use these opinions as a standard of reference, with the assumption that they are based on all the evidence available to date. But there is always the probability that new knowledge will change expert opinion, so that this standard is at best a fluctuating one. This problem of a standard complicates every attempt to evaluate most adult education and allparent education. The primary purpose of such education is to influence the attitudes, behavior, and practices of adults in the direction believed most desirable by the best contemporary opinion. Yet, since the subject matter presented deals with matters of opinion, and the effects of teaching are intangible, one may well ask if attempts to measure the success of a parent education program can possibly be worth the effort. It is true, of course, that certain known facts concerning child development and behavior can be presented to child study classes. We know, for instance, that boys weigh more at birth than girls, that in many respects girls develop faster than boys, that young children in a group situation tend to subdivide on the basis of age and sex, and that children of 5 use longer sentences than children of 3. The retention of such facts can be measured by examinations, if mothers are willing to cooperate. But parent education goes much deeper than this, and we cannot call the program a success unless actual practices in the home are influenced for the better through the interchange of ideas and experi3 4 PARENT EDUCATION ences in the child study class and through the reading done by the mothers. Several attempts have been made to measure the effect of parental instruction by direct observation in the home or by obtaining the mother's statement as to the benefit she has received and the extent to which she believes it has modified her practices in regard to her children. A more indirect but in some ways more feasible approach to such measurement is to obtain the mother's opinion of certain aspects of child behavior before and after she has received systematic instruction. Although action may lag far behind knowledge, and the halo effect or the Sunday School answer may render many mothers' statements unreliable, the author believes that the opinions of women varying widely in age, experience, and socio-economic and educational backgrounds are valuable in indicating the efficacy of a parent education program. ATTEMPTS TO EVALUATE SIMILAR PROGRAMS The parent educator may take heart by recalling how very recent are the first attempts to measure successful family life in general (50, 54, 56, 64). This has been done for the most part by comparing reports on their home life obtained from well adjusted and from poorly adjusted persons. Although there seem to be some common elements in the family relationships of the former group, and unsatisfactory home conditions may almost be said to be the rule among children referred to clinic and court, we are as yet far from being able to predict on the basis of home life how any child will turn out. In a pioneer study of the attitudes and practices of parents, Laws (23) used four separate techniques. Her objectives were to develop means of rating the attitudes and practices of parents , to compare a mother's own idea of her attitudes and practices with the ideas of three other competent observers, and to study the relationship between attitudes and practices of parents and responses of children. Although her conclusions were tentative, she believed that her methods could be used as a means for measuring changes in parental attitudes brought about through organized study. Parents who had taken the tests were inclined to analyze and question procedures and attitudes with which they had previously been well satisfied. THE PROBLEM AND THE LITERATURE 5 Another...


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