The Challenges and Opportunities Experienced by Parent Supervisors in Primary School Distance Education


  • Natalie Downes University of Canberra



distance education, parent supervisors, learning environment, relationships, isolated children


For a number of very remote students in Australia, distance education is regarded as the most effective means of providing access to primary school education. For these students isolation is experienced not only in relation to distance from a physical school, but also from a professionally trained educator and the instructional benefits this provides. In bridging the gap between the teacher and student the parent supervisor is vital. However little is known about their role and the challenges and opportunities it affords them in educating their children by this means. This paper reports on a research project that examined the role of parent supervisors in primary school distance education with the aim of understanding how they experience their role. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with volunteer parent supervisors of New South Wales primary school distance education students to gain insight into their practices and the opportunities and challenges they face in their role. Interview transcripts were analysed using a three step data coding framework to explore the themes that emerged in their experiences. This revealed that while most parent supervisors do not have formal qualifications in education, they undertake many tasks akin to those of a teacher and experience similar challenges to new teachers. In particular, supervisors have a crucial role in implementing lessons, motivating and engaging their children in learning, preparing for the lessons, assisting with problems their children encounter and monitoring their children’s progress. One of the main challenges parent supervisors experience is uncertainty, with many doubting their effectiveness in relation to technicalities in key learning areas and managing multi-age groupings. Parent supervisors report that the challenges are outweighed by the opportunities their role provides, particularly their close involvement with their children’s learning and the sense of reward they gain from this. Through this research a deeper understanding of the challenges and opportunities parent supervisors encounter will enable planning for their role to be improved. It contributes to the broader understanding of rural education by bringing the experiences of an often overlooked cohort of educators into the research literature who are essential to education in rural Australia.




How to Cite

Downes, N. (2013). The Challenges and Opportunities Experienced by Parent Supervisors in Primary School Distance Education. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 23(2), 31–41.