What is Parent Engagement
“Parent engagement” in education most often refers to parents’ engagement in their child’s learning at home, at school, and in the wider community. It is about parents and carers, schools and communities working together to ensure that every parent can play a positive role in their child's learning. This includes raising awareness of the benefits of increased engagement as well as building the confidence and skills of parents to engage.
“Considered broadly parental engagement consists of partnerships between families, schools and communities, raising parental awareness of the benefits of engaging in their children’s education, and providing them with the skills to do so” (Emerson et all, 2012, p.7).
However, it is also a two-way communication where schools recognise the role of the parent as a child’s first teacher and bringing together that parent knowledge with teacher knowledge to create meaningful partnerships.
Parent Involvement vs Parent Engagement
Parent Involvement and Parent Engagement are two terms that are often used interchangeably. However, in recent times there has been a shift to parent engagement as the term that best describes the type of reciprocal, mutually beneficial relationships where schools and parents work alongside one another rather than parent involvement which implies working within an agenda set by schools.
A number of beliefs underlie an expanded concept of family engagement. One of them is a belief in parent knowledge—the belief that parents or caregivers, living in the complex context of the family, hold deep and rich knowledge of their children. The deeper kind of family engagement that we seek—participating in the analysis of student achievement results, helping to establish school priorities, contributing to decisions about homework practices, and so on—requires that schools lay parent knowledge alongside teacher knowledge to make more fully informed decisions on behalf of students. This kind of engagement is about giving parents a voice and a place in the core work of schooling—teaching and learning (Pushor, D., 2011).
Why is Parent Engagement important
Parents, families, and carers are a child's first and most important teachers. Irrespective of their education, occupation or income, parents and carers have an important role to play in supporting their children to become confident and motivated life-long learners. Many years of research has shown that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, they like school more and are more engaged with their school work, they attend school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills.
We begin to make real change only when we challenge myths and deficit thinking about parents and families. As we move from old ways of family involvement to new ways of family engagement, we enable parents to take their place alongside educators in the schooling of their children, combining their knowledge of children and of teaching and learning with teachers’ knowledge. As the structure of schooling is flattened, educators and parents can develop a new agenda— one that is mutually determined and mutually beneficial (Pushor & Ruitenberg, 2005).
Parent engagement in schools and in their child’s learning has also been shown to reduce the impact of socio-economic disadvantage on educational outcomes. In the Tasmanian context, where educational retention and attainment has been a key focus in recent years this outcome of parent engagement is particularly pertinent. It is well understood that parent engagement is an important factor in raising children’s higher education aspirations. As Tasmania strives to increase educational attainment, understanding how to more effectively engage parents is becoming increasingly important.
Regardless of income level or education background, all families can—and do—support their children’s success… When schools engage families in ways that are linked to improving learning, students make greater gains. When families are engaged in positive ways, rather than labelled as problems, schools can be transformed from places where only certain students prosper to ones where all children do well. (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson, & Davies, 2007, p. 3)
- Emerson, L., Fear. J., Fox, S., and Sanders, E. (2012). Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research. A report by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) for the Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau: Canberra.
- Henderson, A. T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V. R., & Davies, D. (2007). Beyond the bake sale: The essential guide to family‐school partnerships. New York, NY: The New Press.
- Pushor, D., & Ruitenberg, C., with coresearchers from Princess Alexandra Community School. (2005). Parent engagement and leadership. Saskatoon, SK: Dr. Stirling McDowell Foundation for Research into Teaching. Parent Engagement (PDF)
- Pushor, D., (2011). Looking Out, Looking In: A partnership approach respects the strength and knowledge of students’ families. Educational Leadership, September 2011. (pp 65-68)