This article is part one of a two-part series.
‘The way schools care about children is reflected in the way schools care about the children’s families. If educators view children simply as students, they are likely to see the family as separate from the school. That is, the family is expected to do its job and leave the education of children to the schools. If educators view students as children, they are likely to see both the family and the community as partners with the school in children’s education and development’ (Epstein, 2009).
Effective parent engagement is now considered a core skill for teachers by both Federal Government education policy and the AITSL standards. Our role as educators requires authentic engagement that encompasses engaging with many dimensions that impact on a child’s learning, including time the child spends outside of the classroom. Authentic engagement does not in any way diminish the role of the teacher who takes into account the whole child.
‘What teachers teach (the curriculum) and how they teach it (pedagogy) are central to the value of every lesson. But other elements of teaching matter too … A good learning environment raises student expectations, encourages them to participate, and ensures that no student can fly under the radar’ (Goss, Sonnemann & Griffiths, 2017).
This is demonstrated in:
1. the current Federal Government’s stance on education, termed a ‘students first’ approach, that outlines four key areas:
- teacher quality
- principal autonomy
- engaging parents in education
- strengthening the curriculum (Pyne, 2014).
2. the following AITSL standards:
- Standard 3 – Plan and implement effective teaching and learning. Focus area 3.7 – Engage parents/carers in the educative process, by describing a broad range of strategies for involving parents/carers in the educative process.
- Standard 7 – Engage professionally with colleagues, parents/carers and the community. Focus area 7.3 – Understand strategies for working effectively, sensitively and confidentially with parents/carers.
The concept of ‘learning’ extends outside of the classroom to include the influences of family and the wider community. However, identifying effective methods of engaging parents – and most particularly parents of vulnerable children – can be a struggle for many educators. Finding the right methods for effective engagement takes place within the context of the many other teaching initiatives which are the core domain of teachers and schools. This may be an area where social services organisations can provide significant, specialised support to schools through piloting innovative methods.
Parent engagement involves all people in the life of a child or young person working together to create a stimulating and supportive environment for their learning and development. While it is important to stay informed and involved in school activities, parental engagement focuses on what parents can do both at home and in a genuine partnership between school and home that values discussion and decision-making. This includes talking positively about learning, helping children develop strong work habits, encouraging respect for school and teachers, and providing consistent messages about how to behave at school and at home. When parents set high expectations, talk regularly about school and the value of learning, and encourage positive attitudes to school, children perform better (DEECD, 2013). It also includes educators recognising parents as equal experts in contributing to an understanding of their child.
‘It affects what children achieve, how they experience school, and assists in the transition to school and into post-secondary education. Parent engagement has also been shown to reduce the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on educational outcomes. This means that families have an important role to play in helping their children to become confident and motivated learners, regardless of their occupation, education, or income.’ https://www.aracy.org.au/the-nest-in-action/parent-engagement
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) have undertaken excellent research and evidence-based work around the topic of parent engagement. They define parent engagement as being distinct from parent involvement. The latter (involvement) is parents participating in formal and informal activities such as organising the school fete, volunteering at working bees, being a member of the P&F, and coaching sports teams – all of these are very important support roles. Parent engagement is the recognition of the importance of the role of parents and teachers in a child’s learning and development, and the facilitation of relationships. Both are beneficial, but engagement is one of a true partnership of connecting learning to school, home and community.
How could this change the structure and dynamic of parent-teacher interviews so that a parent’s understanding of their child is a core part of the meeting?
Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) What is Parent Engagement? https://www.aracy.org.au/the-nest-in-action/parent-engagement
Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) (2013). Building Family Partnerships, quoted in Uplift: An Empowerment Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools. Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service. https://www.goodshep.org.au/media/1224/uplift_report.pdf
Epstein, J. (2009). School/ family/community partnerships. Caring for the children we share.
Goss, P., Sonnemann, J. & Griffiths, K. (2017). Engaging Students. Creating Classrooms that Improve Learning. The Grattan Institute. https://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Engaging-students-creating-classrooms-that-improve-learning.pdf
Pyne, C. (2014, January 10). Media Releases: Review of National Curriculum to put Students First. Pyne Online: 52. http://www.pyneonline.com.au/media/media-releases/review-of-national-curriculum-to-putstudents-first
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of EdComm or the Anglican Diocese of Sydney. The intent is to promote thinking and discussion.