Parent engagement

Parents and teachers are stronger together: one of the great teachings from COVID-19

Regardless of your enjoyment of the recent period of ‘home learning’, most parents emerged from it with a renewed respect for the skill of classroom teachers.

Many schools have also publicly shared their gratitude to parents for their herculean efforts in juggling online lessons with family life.

Those stories of mutual solidarity and respect between home and school – and of parents feeling like they were properly included in what their children were learning – support what more than 50 years of academic research has proven: that parents and teachers can be powerful partners in the education of children.

‘Parent Engagement’

The research into this field (known as “parent engagement” in education) goes further and shows that when parents and teachers work together well and respect each other’s unique contributions to a child’s education – the child’s well being and academic achievement soars.

So how do we harness the general level of goodwill between parents and teachers that exists a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, and fold it into school life going forward?

Bringing parents closer to their child’s learning

Many of Queensland’s independent schools are already using and championing “parent engagement” strategies in their communities.

Two of Australia’s leading researchers on parent-engagement-in-schools, Dr Linda Willis and Professor Beryl Exley from Griffith University, were the key-note speakers at a joint Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network/Independent Schools Queensland workshop in Brisbane in February this year and confirmed it was a “powerful tool”.

“What we know from the research over the last 50 odd years, is that when parents are engaged in their children’s learning, children do better, they have better well-being, better learning outcomes, and better achievement. And the schools are more successful too,’’ Dr Willis told workshop participants.

The audience was told more specific benefits to students included:

  • an elevated sense of self-efficacy
  • strengthened belief in the importance of education
  • heightened aspirations for learning at school and beyond
  • improved academic, social and emotional skills.

A deeper and stronger connection

Dr Willis said traditionally schools had focused on parent “involvement” or “participation” – such as asking parents to work in the tuckshop, helping stack books in the library or sitting on school councils    whereas parent engagement was about “deepening and strengthening relationships between parents and schools/teachers in ways that bring parents closer to their children’s learning”.

“Engagement is what we consider the gold star,” Dr Willis said.

The workshop heard successful parent engagement strategies already being used in schools included using an inquiry approach to teach the curriculum so parent, community and teacher knowledges could be tapped to enhance children’s learning.

Other examples included weekly emails from teachers to parents to let them know what the specific focus of learning was that week and then again at the end of the week to let them know what the children learnt.

These approaches allow learning conversations in the classroom to continue at home.

“With engagement, we’re talking about always thinking ‘how might we shift parents closer to students’ learning?’,’’ Dr Willis said.

“It’s about taking advantage of those opportunities [for parents to value add to their child’s education] opportunities that parents might not know about if we [as teachers] didn’t help them to see them,’’ Dr Willis said.

She said interest in parent engagement by governments at the federal and state level had been growing and that focus had reached a “crescendo’’.

“It’s clearly a great need being felt across education at the moment and by governments that are prioritising it in standards, benchmarks and frameworks,’’ she said.

Dr Linda Willis (2nd from right) pictured with L-R QISPN Board Chair Shari Armistead, Professor Beryl Exley, and QISPN Executive Officer Justine Cirocco

Find out more about the research into parent engagement

Read more about parent engagement in our most recent story here.

Download our one-page factsheet on parent engagement here.

Read about the partnership between Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network and Independent Schools Queensland to develop an overarching Parent and Community Engagement Strategy for member schools here.

Read in detail about parent engagement and how schools can implement effective strategies in the recently released report The Parent Engagement Implementation Guide by Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) here.

There is a rich well of information and research about parent engagement, which we have compiled on our website. | LEARN MORE

There are also many wonderful websites with tips and advice for parents who want to connect school learning with life at home, which we have compiled for you here. | READ MORE