Focus on parental engagement as a means of improving student achievement has been studied extensively over decades (Boonk et al., 2018) and is mentioned by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a key to improving the quality of education overall (Saltmarsh and McPherson, 2019). While both Boonk et al. (2018) and Saltmarsh and McPherson (2019) acknowledge the inconsistencies in theoretical frameworks and definitions to guide research into parental involvement, the merits of this focus has been shown by Boonk et al. in a thorough meta-analysis showing a statistically significant positive relationship between parental involvement and academic success, and in other studies showing a generally positive link between educational outcomes and parent involvement (Murray et al, 2015; Bordalba and Bochaca, 2019).
Dependent on the model used to research parental involvement and involvement strategies, strategies can be separated into two large categories labelled home-based strategies and school-based strategies, or into more narrowly-defined categories: parenting, communication, learning at home, volunteering, decision-making and community connections (Boonk et al., 2018; Bordalba and Bochaca, 2019). Regardless of model, strong lines of communication between school and home are part of involving parents in their child’s educational journey (Saltmarsh and McPherson, 2019; Bordalba and Borchaca, 2019). Communication helps parents feel valued, and fosters confidence in helping their child succeed (Gartmeier et al., 2016). Simply stated by Bordalba and Borchaca (p. 45, 2019), “communication is a key dimension of parental involvement, which further fosters other dimensions of such involvement.”
What limits success in increasing parental involvement through communication is that communication skills and strategies are often left out of pre-service education programs (Gartmeier et al., 2016). Research by Gartmeier et al. into educator self-perception of communication competence revealed that half of respondents have low confidence in their ability, with the authors stating that the “international literature reflects that teachers are poorly prepared for the communication aspect of their professional work, especially regarding interactions with parents” (p. 207, 2016). This revelation makes necessary our posts on parental involvement through communication, curated resources, and specific and concrete strategies.
There is importance in distinguishing between one-way communication tools intended for dissemination of information, and two-way tools which encourage dialogue between parties. Schools traditionally use one-way tools that contain generic content (Saltmarsh and McPherson, 2019), minimize dialogue and parental involvement (Ozcinar and Ekizoglu, 2013; Bordalba and Bochaca, 2019), and leave parents feeling left out (Saltmarsh and McPherson, 2019). Murray et al. (2015) note that effective strategies for enhancing communication require both one-way and two-way communication opportunities, must be accessible with strong ease-of-use, and must come with robust supports to encourage involvement. As a result, posts were created that contain strategies, resources, and commentary for both one-way and two-way communication.
Recent trends in school-home communication suggest that parent preferences are shifting from more traditional forms of communication (phone, conferences, newsletters) to digital forms like text messaging (Project Tomorrow, 2019); however, even with good intentions and appropriate tools, parent involvement is difficult to get and sustain (Ozcinar and Ekizoglu, 2013). Many factors influence communication strategies and parental involvement including: ethnicity/culture, socio-economics, time, training, attitudes and beliefs, and language barriers (Boonk et al., 2018; Murray et al., 2015; Bordalba and Bochaca, 2019). In consideration of these factors, the strategies and communication technologies included in our posts account for accessibility and language issues, as well as focusing on device-agnostic and free applications that can be used as either one-way or two-way communication tools depending on teacher and parent preference.
The reviewed research also acknowledges that within the levels of schooling exists differences between the structure and desired function of communication to engage parents (Boonk et al., 2018; Murray et al., 2015). As stated by Boonk et al., “parental involvement does not diminish as children grow older but it does change in nature” (p. 25). As children move through the education system, communication often shifts from two-way to one-way, as school structure promotes student self-reliance and independence – a consideration recognized by parents – which can be at odds with the school desire to improve and maintain parental involvement (Saltmarsh and McPherson, 2019). As such, Boonk et al. segmented their findings into age-related categories that illuminated how parental involvement shifts, and which relations positively or negatively affect student achievement in these categories. The recognition of shifts in approach from elementary to high school aided in our decision to create two posts specific to these grade level ranges.
Data from Boonk et al. (2018) show that positive relations of parental involvement on academic achievement shift from direct support at elementary school – where parents’ ability to provide direct support is likely linked to frequency of parent-teacher communication using two-way tools (Ozcinar and Ekizoglu, 2013) – to indirect academic support at middle school and above. More interestingly, negative relations at the grade 9-12 age range include parental control and parental interference. These finding support out decision to curate and create posts using different communication tools and strategies to align with these shifts from grades K-8 to 9-12. Additionally, the noted gap in the literature and resources explored show a lack of consideration around the collection, storage, and retrieval of communications as a means of fostering better coordination between parents, educators, schools, and school supports. This gap prompted us to create resources to account for these needs.
Feature Image by Mike Meyers on UnSplash
Boonk, L., Gijselaers, H. J. M., Ritzen, H., & Brand-Gruwel, S. (2018). A review of the relationship between parental involvement indicators and academic achievement. Educational Research Review, 24, 10–30. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2018.02.001
Bordalba, M. M., & Bochaca, J. G. (2019). Digital media for family-school communication? Parents’ and teachers’ beliefs. Computers & Education, 132, 44–62. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2019.01.006
Gartmeier, M., Gebhardt, M., & Dotger, B. (2016). How do teachers evaluate their parent communication competence? Latent profiles and relationships to workplace behaviors. Teaching and Teacher Education, 55, 207–216. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2016.01.009
Murray, E., McFarland-Piazza, L., & Harrison, L. J. (2015). Changing patterns of parent–teacher communication and parent involvement from preschool to school. Early Child Development and Care, 185(7), 1031–1052. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004430.2014.975223
Ozcinar, Z., & Ekizoglu, N. (2013). Evaluation of a blog based parent involvement approach by parents. Computers & Education, 66, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2013.01.012
Project Tomorrow | Speak Up. (2019). Retrieved July 23, 2020, from https://tomorrow.org/speakup/2016-digital-learning-reports-from-blackboard-and-speak-up.html
Saltmarsh, S., & McPherson, A. (2019). Un/satisfactory encounters: communication, conflict and parent-school engagement. Critical Studies in Education, 0(0), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/17508487.2019.1630459