Student learning and wellbeing is maximised when parents and teachers work cohesively together, a landmark study has found.
Griffith University researchers Dr Linda Willis and Professor Beryl Exley from the School of Education and Professional Studies collaborated with Independent Schools Queensland and the Queensland Independent School Parents Network to complete the three-year project where parents were involved actively rather than passively.
The Engaging Parents in Curriculum (EPIC) project recognises parents as the child’s first teachers and presents a model where parents, teachers and school leaders work as partners in a child’s education.
It’s been trialled across 10 independent Queensland schools, with the framework showing teachers were most successful with engaging parents when interactions were short, sharp, often, optional, personalised to their child and with purpose.
Project lead and Senior Research Fellow Dr Willis said parent engagement was simply about bringing parents closer to what their child was learning.
“More than 60 years of research has shown that effective parent engagement leads to enhanced outcomes for students,” she said.
“Students feel supported and affirmed when they have two important figures in their life – their teacher and their parent – invested and interested in what they’re learning.
“They do better academically and socially, and their attitude to learning at school and classroom behaviour also improves.”
Multiple engagement activities were offered throughout the school year through the EPIC initiative, with all being completely optional so families wouldn’t feel pressured to participate if something didn’t fit their schedules.
With parent engagement currently a national priority area, Professor Exley said the team was very pleased to be leading the way, producing success stories and allowing a diverse range of schools to see how other schools had managed their parent engagement journeys.
“Everybody’s wellbeing is increased when parents engage in their child’s learning,” Professor Exley said.
“With the right amount of guidance from expert teachers, we can build communities and really help guide and nurture those engagement opportunities.”
Principal of participating school Fairholme College, Dr Linda Evans, said anything the school could do to invite parents as partners in their child’s learning, rather than just consumers, could strengthen learning opportunities for both parents and children.
“Previously at events or information evenings we would have stood in front of parents and said, ‘this is our approach for these very good reasons and here’s the data that supports it’, but we would have failed to ask parents, who are their child’s expert, what it’s like for them at home and what’s important to them,” she said.
“We would have failed to include a parent voice and thus missed an opportunity to extend learning conversations beyond the school gates, and into the home.”
QIS Parents Network Executive Officer Amanda Watt agreed it was affirming to see parents elevated to “partners” in their child’s education.
“Parents have much to contribute and they want to contribute,’’ Ms Watt said.
“This research has confirmed engagement needs to be done with empathy – both from educators to parents and vice-versa.
“We have financially supported the EPIC research project since 2021 because we have seen first-hand how parent engagement transforms teacher, parent and student wellbeing.
“Trust, open communication and respect between home and school also means when rocky times happen, there’s a solid relationship from which to springboard.”