14 SES 03 A, Rural Schools and Home-school Relationships
Beginning from the first years of schooling, a real relationship between home – parents - and school - teachers and principal - is essential to meet children’s needs (Graham-Clay, 2005), and to foster the growth of schools as learning communities (Schussler, 2003). “Nothing motivates a child more than when learning is valued by schools and families/community working together in partnership. These forms of (parent) involvement do not happen by accident or even by invitation, but they happen by explicit strategic intervention” (Fullan, 1997, pp. 42-43).
Studies on rural school consider family as an essential resource (Prater, Bermudez, and Owens 1997), contributing to the enhancement of learning and teaching practices (Corbett 2013). Several studies focus on the potential of rural schools to influence the relationships established among family, community and school (Autti and Hyry-Beihamme 2014) and acknowledge the importance of building constructive relationships between families and school. Research on actions facilitating family involvement identify these kind of relationships as a valuable opportunity to promote mutual understanding and to address students' needs (Sauras 2000).
At the international level while parents’ involvement in school has received ample attention in education research (Telem and Pinto, 2006), very few studies have investigated family involvement in rural schools (Vigo Arrazola and Bozalongo, 2015). In Italy there are few studies in the literature that attempt to analyze the way in which the family and the school share and negotiate their educational duties (Nigris, 2002) and there are no studies concerning home school partnership in small school.
Trying to fill this research gap, we identified an Italian two small primary schools which are part of the same scholastic institute, with the objective of exploring how parents and teachers articulate their discourses around the home-school partnership.
This study will present the results of an on-going qualitative research based on focus groups and interviews on home-school relationships carried out in a two primary rural schools in the mountain area outside of Turin, a big city in Northern Italy. These schools are situated in two small villages, called Mattie and San Giorio, not well connected between them and with Turin and comprehend only multigrade classrooms. Research questions deal with understanding which meaning families and teachers assign to home-school partnerships, which forms of families involvement occur and which strategies teachers adopt to promote families involvement.
This qualitative small-scale study was based on one in-depth interview with the principal and two focus groups, the first one with teachers and the second with families. The main themes discussed during the interview and the focus groups were: • the meaning and aims of family-school relationships; • the perceptions of the quality of parent-school relationships and their expectations concerning them; • the role of families in the integration of local traditions, values and experiences within the school activities. All participants were recruited on the basis of voluntary participation with obvious implications. Following the grounded theory approach, the interview and the two focus groups have been transcripted and content analysis is currently underway (Glaser and Strauss, 1967).
Our expectations about this research, that is still on-going and will be finished within April, are: • understanding at what extent principal, parents and teachers recognize as important the home-school partnership and essential to educate future citizens with a key role in the development of their small communities; • evaluating the possible role that these subjects attribute to families for the incorporation of their habits and values within teaching and learning practices of small and isolated schools; • identifying elements of home-school partnership to be improved within this specific context. Furthermore, this work is aimed not only at stimulating a debate about home-school relationships in small school at European level with experts of this domain, but also at providing elements essential to better understand a topic not yet considered enough in the international scholarship.
Autti, O., Hyry-Beihamme, E. K. (2014). School Closures in Rural Finnish Communities. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 29 (1), 1–17. Corbett, M. (2013). Improvisation as a Curricular Metaphor: Imagining Education for a Rural Creative Class. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 28 (10), 1–11. Fullan, M. (1997). Broadening the concept of teacher leadership. In S. Caldwell (Ed.), Professional development in learning-centered schools (pp. 43-48). Oxford, OH: National Staff Development Council. Glaser, B., Strauss, A. (1967). The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine. Graham-Clay, S. (2005). Communicating with Parents: Strategies for Teachers. The school community journal, 16 (1), 117-129. Nigris, E. (2002). I conflitti a scuola. La mediazione pedagogico-didattica. Milano: Editore Mondadori Bruno. Prater, D. L., Bermudez, A. B., Owens, E. (1997). Examining Parental Involvement in Rural, Urban, and Suburban Schools. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 13, 72–75. Sauras, P. (2000). Escuelas rurales [Rural Schools]. Revista de Educación, 322, 29–45. Schussler, D. L. (2003). Schools as learning communities: Unpacking the concept. Journal of School Leadership, 13, 498-528. Telem, M., Pinto, S. (2006). Information technology’s impact on school-parents and parents student interrelations: a case study. Computers & Education, 47 (3), 260-279. Vigo Arrazola B., Bozalongo J. S. (2015). Family involvement in creative teaching practices for all in small rural schools, Ethnography and Education, 10 (3), 325–339.
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