ERG SES E 11, Sociologies of Education
Parental involvement has been widely acknowledged as paramount in children’s education, academic achievement and social outcomes, as well as in school effectiveness (i.e.: Wilder, 2014; Epstein, 2018; Hornby, 2011; Coleman&McNeese, 2009). This is significant considering that “fifteen-year-old students’ performance […] is the result of a combination and accumulation of multiple factors and experiences […] mainly by characteristics of students and their families, by the learning environment in schools, and by the policies and institutional characteristics of school systems” (OECD, 2018, p. 66). Moreover, schools, along with society, have become increasingly more diverse in Europe (OECD. 2017): different languages, backgrounds, identities, and culture are vibrant aspects in constant evolution (Bugno, 2018). Formal education is required to increase its sensitivity on cultural diversity and collaboration with parents, so to promote equity and increase school effectiveness and achievement (Larocque, Kleiman& Darling, 2011).
Many definitions of parent involvement have been coined and among the several behaviours associated with this term we find providing support for homework, attending school-parents conferences, being engaged in school’s plan, or offering extensions to school activities (i.e.: Feuerstein, 2000; Nye et al., 2006; Harris&Goodall, 2008; Holloway et al., 2008). According to Epstein’s systematization (2018), six types of parent involvement, referred to different practices, exist and they are split in relation to challenges and results. They include (1) parenting, (2) communicating, (3) volunteering, (4) learning at home, (5) decision making, (6) collaborating with the community (Epstein et al., 2009). The standpoint assumed here is based on the ecological perspective, and it highlights distributed responsibilities in sharing educational goals among school, parents, and the community as overlapping spheres of influence (Epstein, 2018). In order to empathize the multidimensional nature of this concept, the term school-parents partnership is preferred to involvement (Epstein, 2018).
The focus of the research is school-parents partnership in light of contemporary multicultural society composition, considering in particular culturally diverse school contexts in an intercultural perspective (Agostinetto, 2016). The final goal is to define a questionnaire in order to investigate actual parental conceptions about the partnership with schools. The research questions are:
a) What are parents’ conceptions about their involvement in schools?
b) What measures can improve teachers’ intercultural actions in order to create a more inclusive school environment?
The research design is mixed method and it consists of three phases:
- Semi structured interviews to parents (audio and video recorded);
- Focus groups with teachers and parents to share and discuss the interview’s results;
- Questionnaires for parents to determine strategies and tools to promote an inclusive school environment for diverse families.
The study is at its beginning and, after a theoretical investigation on parental involvement, the semi-structured interviews is going to be piloted. Next September, during the ERG conference, the interview’s results will be presented and the following steps discussed.
Research examined and documented the significance of parent involvement (e.g. Baquedano-López, Alexander, Hernandez, 2013), as it allows to foster pupils’ positive educational outcomes and academic success. According to Lopez, “in addition to its effects on student learning and achievement, parent involvement also strengthens school accountability and gives historically marginalized communities a voice in school decision making” (2004, p. 134). In order to expand knowledge about migrant parents’ engagement in children’s education, this study aims to explore equity issues in parent-school partnership in three different Italian cities. Furthermore, what teachers and educators need to know in order to define effective initiatives for involving migrant and refugee families. Qualitative evidence in the format of video and narrative commentary will be captured through parents’ semi-structured interviews in order to find out barriers to active parent involvement. Three schools in three different Italian cities are involved: they share the characteristic of the school’s neighbourhood reflecting the contemporary features of a dynamic and ever-increasing multicultural oriented society (Agostinetto, 2016). In fact, the number of students with migration background attending those schools rose during last decades, making equity and inclusion issues even more challenging and compelling. After the pilot phase (running at the time of submission of this paper), 45 parents both native and migrant will be involved in a semi-structured interview, considering ethical and privacy requirements. Interviews’ questions are headed to understand what are parents’ attitudes are toward school, what they expect for their children's educational future, and which skills and competences they suppose teachers are able to provide. Audio and video-recording data collection will be used in two different and complementary ways: - a qualitative analysis supported by a specific Q.D.A. software tool (Atlas.ti); - the production of two videos, available for research/formative purposes (teachers), dissemination and sensibilization of the mainstream audience, in order to promote and strengthen family-school partnership. The interviews examination will be conducted both top down and bottom up: in particular, the six types of parental involvement (Epstein, 2018) will be taken into account in defining the structure of analysis.
This study is in its first stage and the challenge is to robustly investigate the parent-teacher partnership in multicultural school contexts. The first step will be the focus of this dissertation in September: the interviews analysis and results will be discussed during the ERG conference in Hamburg. Also, the following steps regarding focus groups and survey’s questions hypothesis will be shared and debated with the audience. We believe this investigation could indeed be the first step to define a questionnaire to propose in large scale to parents, in order to investigate their understanding and desiderata about a partnership with school. These achievements are the essential steps to create and provide strategies, tools and a welcoming educational environments for contemporary diverse families.
Agostinetto L. (2016). Oltre il velo: l’intercultura che fa scuola. Studium Educationis, vol. 1, 71-86.
Baquedano-López, P., Alexander, R. A., & Hernandez, S. J. (2013). Equity issues in parental and community involvement in schools: What teacher educators need to know. Review of Research in Education, 37(1), 149–182. doi:10.3102/0091732X12459718.
Bugno, L. (2018). Clues to the wind’s direction: sailing on teachers’ beliefs about cultural diversity. Results from semi-structured interviews in the Italian context. Studia Paedagogica vol. 23, n. 4, 2018, 129-144.
Coleman, B., McNeese, M.N. (2009). From home to school: The relationship among parental involvement, student motivation, and academic achievement. The International Journal of Learning, 16(7): 459-470.
Epstein, J. L. (2018). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. New York, NY: Routledge.
Epstein, J. L., Sanders, M. G., Sheldon, S., Simon, B. S. Salinas, K.C., et al. (2009). School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA:Corwin Press.
Feuerstein, A. (2000). School Characteristics and Parent Involvement: Influences on Participation in Children's Schools, The Journal of Educational Research, 94:1, 29-40.
Harris, A., Goodall, J (2008). Do parents know they matter? Engaging all parents in learning, Educational Research, 50:3, 277-289.
Holloway, S.,Yamamoto, Y., Suzuki, S. and Mindnich, J.D. (2008). Determinants of Parental Involvement in Early Schooling: Evidence from Japan. Early Childhood Research and Practice, 10(1), 1-19.
Hornby, G. 2011. Parental Involvement in Childhood Education: Building Effective School-Family Partnerships. New York: Springer.
Larocque, M., Kleiman, I. & Darling, S. (2011). Parental Involvement: The Missing Link in School Achievement. Preventing School Failure, 55 (3), 115-122.
Lopez, G. R. (2004). Bringing the mountain to Mohammed: Parent involvement in migrant impacted schools. In C. Salinas & M. Fránquiz (Eds.), Scholars in the field: The challenges of migrant education (pp. 135 – 146). Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
Nye C, Turner H, Schwartz J. Approaches to parent involvement for improving the academic performance of elementary school age children. Campbell Systematic Reviews 2006:4.
OECD (2017) Trends shaping Education spotlight 11. People on the Move. OECD Publishing. Retrieved online
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