(translated from dutch Partnerschap met ouders)
The issue of parental involvement is an integral part of the teacher’s professional profile. Among other things, teachers are expected to ‘provide parents with information and advice about their child at the school; involve parents in class and school activities taking into account the diversity of the parents; engage with parents about parenting and education; communicate with parents from different language backgrounds in different linguistic situations‘ (Flemish Government Decree on the professional profile of the teacher, 2007).
Every school and every teacher is responsible for encouraging parents to get involved, especially in a metropolitan context. Working with parents requires greater effort on the part of the teacher in the city on account of the different languages spoken by many of the parents, the cultural and socio-economic differences and different parenting styles, but also due to the varying levels of knowledge and different feelings, beliefs and expectations with regard to the school, etc. (Samaey and Vettenburg, 2007).
Research (Bakker et al., 2013) shows that parental involvement has an impact on the pupils’ results and performance: parental involvement has a positive influence on both the cognitive (learning performance) and non-cognitive (motivation, socio-emotional) development of children and adolescents. But not all types of parental involvement have an impact!
We can distinguish between two types of parental involvement: school involvement and home involvement. By school involvement we mean the involvement of parents at school, such as attending parents’ meetings, helping to organise school activities, etc. Research shows that this type of involvement has little effect on pupils’ performance. However, this often continues to be the type of parental involvement that schools and teachers focus on the most. Home involvement refers to the involvement of the parents in their own home situation (talking about school, following up on/monitoring school activities and tasks, etc.). Home involvement does seem to have an impact on pupils’ performance, provided that children and young people do not perceive this home involvement to be a restriction of their autonomy. Home involvement can be further subdivided into ‘parenting‘ (= providing an environment at home that stimulates learning) and ‘teaching at home‘ (= substantive, ‘educational’ guidance of the child/young person by the parent). Pupils should be able to keep up with the curriculum and the class work without ‘teaching at home’; we cannot expect parents to have the necessary subject knowledge and skills to ‘teach’ their children. This is the responsibility of the teacher, who has been trained for this purpose. ‘Parenting’, on the other hand, the creation of a good learning environment at home, is the type of parental involvement that we must wholeheartedly encourage and which appears to have an impact on the performance, motivation and wellbeing of pupils.
Yet school involvement remains a key and necessary factor: on the one hand, so that teachers can gain insights into the various ways in which parents are involved and engaged at home and, on the other hand, so that teachers can play an active role in providing ‘responsive’ support or stimulating involvement at home.
Studies on the role of the teacher (Bakker et al., 2013) show that teachers can promote parental involvement in a variety of ways – though these efforts are more successful for school involvement than for home involvement.
The attitude and behaviour of the teacher towards the parent seem to be a key factor in this and we have observed that teachers often find it difficult to interact with parents and families with a different cultural, socio-economic and/or linguistic background. It is imperative that teachers develop their ‘sensitivity‘ (being sensitive and receptive to signals in a non-judgmental way) and ‘responsiveness‘ (being understanding, a personal and supportive response) in order to successfully work with superdiverse parents.
The first step towards achieving this is to be able and willing to connect with all parents (Haberman, 2011) and to be willing to get to know their world and their home situation better. It is also vital to communicate openly and transparently during accessible and informal contact moments (e.g. at the school gate). And finally, initiatives need to be launched to boost home involvement.
to be continued (collaboration with the environment)
- On the context of urban education, Brussels and superdiversity (Urban Education, 1)
- On superdiversity and differentiation… (Urban Education, 2)
- On establishing connections and high expectations for all pupils… (Urban Education, 3)
- Parents as partners of the school… (Urban Education, 4)
- Collaboration with the environment… (Urban Education, 5)
- Multilingualism, a minister and a policy paper (Urban Education, 6)