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Piloting an empowerment methodology for increasing parental engagement in schools and learning Susan Maury, Researcher Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service.

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Presentation on theme: "Piloting an empowerment methodology for increasing parental engagement in schools and learning Susan Maury, Researcher Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service."— Presentation transcript:

1 Piloting an empowerment methodology for increasing parental engagement in schools and learning Susan Maury, Researcher Good Shepherd Youth & Family Service 3 rd Annual Sector Research & Evidence Forum 2 August 2013 Parents of vulnerable children speak into the system

2 Uplift intentions & goals A small, sharp action research project piloting an empowerment methodology. Intention was to improve parental engagement in schools and learning. Focused on parents: their voice, their viewpoint, their vision. Allow parents to develop their own indicators & outcome measures.

3 Why parents? The policy context “Family involvement in schools is…central to high quality education and is part of the core business of schools.” (DEECD Family-School Partnerships Framework: a guide for schools and families, p. 2) Recognition is there – but are we succeeding at reaching those who are on the margins?

4 Theoretical frame Epstein’s Overlapping Spheres of Influence (1987).

5 Why parents? the research landscape Local and international research overwhelmingly supports the positive outcomes which are achieved through parent engagement. Two streams of parental engagement: in the school community, and in their child/ren’s learning experiences (in the home, or through family outings).  Emerson, L., Fear, J., Fox, S., and Sanders, E. (2012). Parental engagement in learning and schooling: Lessons from research. Family-School and Community Partnerships Bureau.

6 Emerson et al Parental engagement influences on student achievement: Higher grades and test scores, Enrolment in higher level programs and advanced classes, Higher successful completion of classes, Lower drop-out rates, Higher graduation rates, and A greater likelihood of commencing postsecondary education.

7 Emerson et al, cont. Parent engagement influences on child development: More regular school attendance, Better social skills, Improved behaviour, Better adaptation to school, Increased social capital, A greater sense of personal competence and efficacy for learning.

8 What reduces engagement? 1. Parental role construction reflects a hands-off approach; 2. Parents experience poverty & have a low sense of efficacy; 3. Community values, norms and attitudes are not in alignment with supportive behaviours; 4. Parents are ineffective at insulating children from negative influences or promoting positive choices; 5. Social networks/peer effects are negative; 6. Engagement approaches are simplistic and unlikely to address complex needs in high-risk, disadvantaged populations.

9 Uplift research goals Development and pilot of an empowering, interactive tool which facilitates: Parents creating a vision for their children's school years. Parents identifying specific actions for families, the school(s) and the community to take in support of the vision. Parents set their plan in motion. Indicators developed which could be aggregated up.  Also reflect on models for CSO/school partnerships.

10 Assumptions Parents have critical insight and knowledge concerning their children and their environment. A positive perspective frames the discussion in action and hope while still allowing critical analysis. A creative, organic process results in richer, more meaningful outcomes while also increasing ownership. Within the identified scope, participants are able to direct the process. Participation in the workshops was confined to parents and the research team.

11 Methodology frame 1. Community groups self-develop indicators. 2. Indicators aggregated up for a shared pool. 3. Annual review and self-rating. Leads to a plan. 4. Ratings are aggregated up, for a comparative overview across groups.  Measuring Empowerment? Ask Them: Quantifying qualitative outcomes from people’s own analysis. Jupp, Ali & Barahona; Sida 2010

12 Methodology Three 3-hour workshops, held weekly. Workshop 1: Visioning Workshop 2: Planning Workshop 3: Advocating

13 Location: SEIFA and AEDI Location: Hastings Westpark Primary School Hastings SEIFA index of disadvantage rating:912.2 Mornington Peninsula overall SEIFA rating: 1,022.5 AEDI indicates that the Hastings region: has approx. double the percentage of vulnerable children than the Australian, Victorian, and the Peninsula average: 18.3% compared to the Victorian average of 7.7%. has significantly lower comparative percentage of children above the 50 th percentile : 44.4% compared to 59.0% Victorian average.

14 Location: 2012 NAPLAN results Assessment area Grade 3 AllGrade 3 similarGrade 5 AllGrade 5 Similar Reading Substantially below Persuasive writing Substantially below BelowSubstantially below Spelling Substantially below On parSubstantially below Grammar & punctuation BelowOn parSubstantially below Numeracy BelowOn parSubstantially below Below

15 Participants Nine participants in total. All women. 6 had children enrolled at Hastings Westpark Primary. 1 had children enrolled at the other primary school located in Hastings. 1 had a child enrolled at the local Catholic primary school. 1 was a grandmother. Some also had older children who attended the local secondary school.

16 Workshop 1: Visioning

17 Vision: introductions

18 Vision: Framework

19 Vision: What do we want?

20 Workshop 2: Planning

21 Planning: specifying vision

22 Planning: specifying vision, cont. Life skills Active fun Extended learning Equality Guided behaviours

23 Planning: identifying actions

24 Planning: Identifying actions What specific actions can the community take to support this vision? Rename Westpark (“Wallaroo”?) Redesign park with kids/teens involvement Community clean-up – ongoing Automatic hard rubbish pick-up - no voucher/pay system Self-cleaning toilets Regular police patrols and security cameras Training for community leaders Education & facilitation for getting a WWCC

25 Workshop 3: advocating

26 Advocating: engagement

27 Advocating: engagement, cont.

28 Advocating: commitments

29 Outcomes - parents Participants very happy with both the process and their outputs. Some of their comments: Hands-on nature of the workshops was a plus; the process wasn’t boring or passive. Surprise at the high degree of consensus, and the comprehensive outcome from such a creative process. “We are thinking more, and more comprehensively, about these issues.” “Our vision has skills which are necessary for everyone, but they look different in each life.”

30 Outcomes – research goals The workshops far exceeded the anticipated goal of increasing parent engagement in the school. Primary focus is to change the community. Understand the power of an inclusive approach. Demonstrated high levels of empowerment. Due to sample size of one, unable to realise goal of developing meaningful indicators. Achieved goal of a reflective experience for the agency.

31 Replicability? The process is only a small part of a bigger system Antecedents: There was space for this group already carved out. Process: Important – but does not stand alone. Support structure: Includes school(s), community groups, City Council, agencies, others.  Assistance is necessary.  Appropriate systems & structure provide a venue for the group to give voice for meaningful change.

32 Replicability? Cont. What we don’t know: Would this process work with CALD families? Would this process work with more marginalized, low- functioning individuals? Could vision and plan outcomes be aggregated up in a meaningful way, providing a list of indicators which could be used across communities? Could the outcomes be useful to communities across time for planning and measuring progress?

33 Lessons for policy What is meant by ‘parent engagement’? Is the key question: “How can we engage parents to make the school better and/or improve educational outcomes for children?” Or: “In what ways can the school and community better support parents in guiding and directing their children’s holistic development?”

34 Lessons for policy, cont. Policy and processes need to address the unique, complex barriers to participation which families on the margins face. Many needs are likely to be location- specific. Others may be system-wide. Expectations and attitudes may influence outcomes.


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