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What the research says

We find that frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement... On average, teacher-family communication increased the odds that students completed their homework by 40%, decreased instances in which teachers had to redirect students' attention to the task at hand by 25%, and increased class participation rates by 15%.

Raising parent engagement is one of the best ways to raise student engagement. The benefits of an engaged parent body flow back to you and your class room.

With regard to parental effort, all three dinnertime parental effort measures are positively related to student achievement. The estimated magnitudes of the effects are also meaningful. For instance, changing from "never" to "sometimes" [having learning conversations at home] is estimated to increase achievement by more than 4-6 additional years of education for the parent, or USD$1,000 in additional per-pupil expenditures.

Not all forms of parent engagement are created equal. Simple "dinner-time" conversations have as much, or more effect, than many other ways parents are often encouraged to engage, such as volunteering or attending meetings.

Research demonstrates that effective schools have high levels of parental and community involvement. This involvement is strongly related to improved student learning, attendance and behaviour ... and can have a major impact on student learning, regardless of the social or cultural background of the family. Family involvement in schools is therefore central to high quality education and is part of the core business of schools.

It is tempting to think parent engagement won't be as effective in a particular school community, due to different demographics, but the research shows the impact of parental effort is significant across these boundaries.

Even though parents may not be actively involved with their child’s school, they may well be supportive of what teachers are doing, taking an active interest in what their children are learning in school and helping them relate this to the world beyond school. In families where at least one parent or significant adult is engaged in this way, children are more likely to be motivated to learn, to see the school in a positive light and to enjoy productive relationships with their teachers.

A parent may wish to engage with and support their child's learning, but cannot be physically present at the school. We should make opportunities for these parents to still play a meaningful role.

For parent - teacher relationships to become more supportive there needs to be more frequent and higher-quality interactions which are focused on connecting parental engagement to learning goals and objectives. Such interactions are beneficial not only for parents, who over time become more attentive to their children’s learning, but also for teachers, who become more aware of parents’ capacity to support educational activities and outcomes.

Teachers may be surprised by the willingness, the skillset and the creativity that parents can bring to supporting their child's education. They are an underutilized resource.

A Video To Share

This animation from the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne is a great resource to share with other teachers when encouraging them to think about parent engagement in a new way.