It is logical to assume that a healthy dose of parent involvement is good for children and the school as an institution. The article Parental Involvement is Overrated by Robinson and Harris starts off indicating that most people believe that parent involvement leads to increased student success. I was one of the people in the "most people" category. Now I am questioning, what does lead to student success by way of parent-school-child relationship? The article is a result of a twenty year study and looked at parental engagement in 63 forms. The list of what works is short:
1) parents engaging with their child's learning; and
2) expecting their children to go to college.
These two points result in higher academic success rates. PTA involvement, friendship discussions, homework help, and others all have no correlation to student achievement and in some cases actually have negative effects.
As a classroom teacher, I always encouraged the parents to use prompts that I sent home to talk to their child. This seemed to make sense at the gut level and I am glad to read that it is backed by research. Now, as a school leader, I will be using this same strategy on a grander scale. At the start of every Unit of Inquiry, I will coordinate sending home a newsletter with information about learning activities that will occur over the next 6 weeks in their child's classroom with ideas for parent questions to engage in with their children. As the article by Robinson and Harris says, an indicator of student success is engaging with their parent in discussions about learning activities.
Another tool that my school is implementing is SeeSaw- an online learning portfolio and communication tool. This tool will allow parents to see photos and videos of the students work and/or activities in real time. After reading this article, I am thinking of having a workshop for parents on how to use SeeSaw as a tool to promote discussions about learning with their children. I will share the research findings regarding what is not helpful so parents know where to focus their energy. I will be able to evaluate if this is working, if parents log in to the SeeSaw accounts and I we hear children sharing what they spoke about with their parents at home. The population that I work with is very affluent and everyone has a smart device in their pocket and children have tablets in their backpacks. SeeSaw is one strategy that we can try based on our knowledge of our parent community. I would reconsider this idea if I was working with a different socioeconomic or racial background. I would consider a different method of sharing learning activities with the families.
The goal is for the parents to engage with the child to discuss learning and future academic. Janet Goodall's work created a continuum from parent involvement with the school to parent involvement with their child's learning. I found an image below of this continuum that shows the progression from volunteering on trips, to helping with homework to modeling/guiding/discussing learning with children. We need to keep in mind that education in school is just one place that children learn. We can help parents to see that learning is a much larger topic than just schooling and they can make a positive impact when focused on their child’s learning, especially if time is limited. Helping parents to know where to invest their energy to get desired results will most likely be a cultural shift away from mere parental involvement as we move to understanding true engagement.
Source: University of Bath, Janet Goodall presentation based on the book Do Parents Know They Matter? Raising Achievement Through Parental Engagement by Goodall, Harris and Alma, 2009. Here is a link to the presentation.