The ‘how to’ of engaging parents in their child’s learning and wellbeing – a concept known as parent engagement – is a step closer thanks to world-leading findings from a research project in Queensland independent schools.
Engaging Parents in Curriculum (EPIC) – an established collaboration between Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network (QIS Parents Network), Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and Griffith University – is innovative research which sees parent engagement experts Dr Linda Willis and Professor Beryl Exley (below) working alongside independent school teachers and leaders as they hone their parent engagement practices.
Real results delivered for schools and families
EPIC’s latest findings from 2022 are contained in a new report released today titled Pedagogies, practices and processes for engaging parents and communities in children’s learning and wellbeing.
ISQ CEO Chris Mountford thanked the 22 teachers and school leaders from three ISQ member schools who participated in the 2022 research project.
“We are proud to say that EPIC is delivering real results,’’ Mr Mountford says.
“Despite decades of research and increased recognition on what parent engagement is and why it is important, how it may be achieved effectively in practice remains inadequately emphasised, which was a key focus for EPIC 2022.
“This project is giving our member schools what they are asking us for which is evidence-based guidance in how to effectively engage their most powerful allies – parents and carers.”
Parents elevated to educational ‘partners’
QIS Parents Network Executive Officer Amanda Watt also welcomed the findings and the increasing elevation of parents from ‘customers’ to ‘partners’ in their child’s education.
“EPIC 2022 confirms that teachers engaging parents may only involve small tweaks to a teacher’s curriculum planning and practice,” Ms Watt says.
“We’ve also heard that parents are often waiting in the wings and are mostly very receptive to invitations from their child’s teacher.
“As Dr Willis often says, parent engagement at its heart is a teacher asking themselves at every curriculum planning session: ‘How can I bring what I’m teaching a child – and what a parent knows about what I’m teaching their child – closer together?’.
“We now know that teachers and school leaders believe the dividends from investing in parent engagement far outweigh the effort involved. The research also shows parents are keen for invitations to be involved in their child’s learning and wellbeing.”
New ways of thinking, new practices
“Teachers have always known that parents have a deep well of knowledge . . . our EPIC findings illustrate how educators can tap into that knowledge.”Dr Linda Willis
EPIC lead researcher Dr Linda Willis, of Griffith University, says the project’s findings offer schools and families new ways of thinking and new practices. The findings advance decades of research cementing the ‘why’ of engaging parents in their child’s learning – and converting it to the ‘how’.
“Teachers have always known that parents have a deep well of knowledge and our EPIC findings not only show this but also illustrate how educators from early, middle and senior years can tap into that knowledge,’’ Dr Willis said.
“This research gives teachers something we know they are seeking – ’how to’ guidance for effectively engaging parents in their child’s learning and wellbeing.
“We know unequivocally after two years of embedding ourselves in Queensland independent schools for this research – and in State and Catholic schools since 2008 – that engaging parents not only works, it can be reasonably easy and also enriching for teachers’ practice and wellbeing.
“When engaging parents happens well it means teachers and parents are working as partners for their child’s education.”
Parent engagement is an increasing focus of governments and policy makers and features in many schools’ strategic plans.
The 2022 EPIC research findings have also been distilled into a suite of professional development videos and a series of snapshot documents which will support all independent schools to effectively engage parents.
EPIC research will continue in 2023 in an expanded format.
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