POWERFUL FAMILY ENGAGEMENT IN LEARNING ” LEARNING AT HOME”
In the dynamic landscape of education, research consistently highlights the pivotal role of family engagement in a child’s learning journey.
Much is made by both schools and families of the value of family engagement activities on the school site. Activities such as monitoring homework tasks, attending school and parent/ teacher meetings, social celebrations and school events do not necessarily engage families in their children’s learning. (Mapp & Kuttner-The Dual-Capacity Framework). However schools do offer many valuable opportunities for families to attend the school and it would be foolish to dispense with these occasions which, with a little re-imagining, can become rich engagements in learning.
The high value of school located involvement is erroneous when in fact the most influential location for such engagement is in the home amongst family. More specifically, improved learning outcomes have been found when parents engage with their child’s learning at home by reading and playing mathematics games together, communicating high educational expectations, and talking with their child about their school activities and interests (Castro et al., 2015; Fox & Olsen, 2014; Harris & Goodall, 2007; Perkins & Knight, 2014; Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, & Lloyd, 2013
This article explores the profound impact of family engagement and delves into evidence based strategies for families to meaningfully engage with their children’s learning at home.
The Value of Family Engagement:
- Academic Achievement:
A multitude of research studies consistently demonstrate the positive correlation between family engagement and academic achievement. A meta-analysis conducted by Fan and Chen (2001) found a significant positive relationship between parental engagement and
student achievement across various age groups and ethnic backgrounds. Students whose families are actively engaged in their education tend to have higher results, better attendance rates, and increased motivation to succeed academically (Hill, 2004)
- Social and Emotional Development:
Family engagement fosters a nurturing and supportive environment that significantly impacts a child’s social and emotional well-being. The American National PTA reports that children with engaged parents are more likely to have better social skills, exhibit positive behaviour, and develop a greater sense of belonging within the school community. Research by Jeynes (2005) highlights the association between parental engagement and reduced risk of behavioural problems and emotional distress among students.
- Increased Motivation and Self-Efficacy:
Family engagement plays a pivotal role in shaping a child’s motivation and self-efficacy beliefs. When parents actively participate in their children’s learning, students feel valued, supported, and are more likely to develop a growth mindset (Desimone, 1999). A study by Henderson and Mapp (2002) emphasises that family engagement positively influences a child’s belief in their own abilities (self efficacy), fostering a sense of empowerment and perseverance in the face of challenges.
- Bridging the Achievement Gap
Family engagement is a critical tool in narrowing the achievement gap between students from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Research by Mapp (2013) reveals that when schools actively involve families, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or educational attainment, it significantly impacts student achievement. Family engagement initiatives that promote inclusive and equitable practices can effectively address disparities and enhance educational outcomes.
Effective Ways for Families to Engage with their Children’s Learning at Home:
1. Establish a Learning-Friendly Environment:
Creating a conducive learning environment at home is paramount to a child’s academic success. Designate a specific area where children can focus on their studies, ensuring it is well-equipped and free from distractions. Research by Guthrie et al.(2004) suggests that a dedicated study space positively impacts a child’s motivation and concentration levels, facilitating optimal learning outcomes.
- Set a Consistent Routine
Establishing a structured routine is key to fostering discipline and developing good study habits. Set aside specific times for homework, reading, and educational activities. Consistency and predictability provide children with a sense of structure and help them prioritise their academic responsibilities (Dearing et al., 2006)
- Promoting a literacy-rich environment at home
Promoting a love for reading is a powerful tool for academic growth. Surround children with a diverse range of reading materials and set aside dedicated time for reading. Engage in shared reading activities and model reading behaviours by demonstrating your own interest in books. Research by Sénéchal and LeFevre (2002) suggests that early exposure to reading positively influences a child’s language development, vocabulary acquisition, and overall academic performance.
- Support Homework Completion:
Demonstrate an active interest in your child’s homework and assignments. Provide guidance and assistance when needed, but also encourage independence and problem solving skills. Research by Xu (2004) highlights that parental involvement in homework completion positively impacts a child’s academic achievement. However, it is essential to strike a balance and avoid over-involvement, allowing children to take ownership of their learning process.
- Foster a Culture of Inquiry
Encourage curiosity and critical thinking by engaging children in intellectual discussions. Encourage them to ask questions, explore different viewpoints, and express their ideas. Research by Vygotsky (1978) emphasises the importance of social interaction and dialogue in cognitive development. Encouraging children to voice their thoughts and actively engage in conversations promotes higher-order thinking skills and enhances their understanding of concepts
- Utilise Educational Resources;
Leverage the abundance of educational resources available both online and offline. Explore reputable educational websites, digital learning platforms, and educational apps that align with your child’s age and curriculum. Libraries, museums, and community centres often
provide additional resources, workshops, and learning opportunities that can enrich your child’s educational experience.
- Engage in Real-Life Applications:
Integrate learning into everyday activities by finding opportunities to apply knowledge in practical settings. Encourage children to participate in household tasks that involve mathematical calculations, problem-solving, or creative thinking. Linking academic concepts to real-life applications enhances comprehension, retention, and the transfer of knowledge (Corno and Snow, 1986).
- Engage in Creative Projects:
Promote hands-on learning experiences by engaging children in creative projects. Encourage them to explore science experiments, artistic endeavours, or technological activities. Research by Davis (2016) suggests that project-based learning fosters critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and a deeper understanding of concepts.
- Collaborate with Teachers and Schools:
Develop a collaborative partnership with your child’s teachers and school community. Attend parent-teacher conferences, participate in school events, and stay informed about your child’s progress and educational opportunities. Effective communication and collaboration between families and schools have a significant impact on a child’s academic success (Desimone, 2009).
10.Celebrate Achievements and Efforts:
Acknowledge and celebrate your child’s achievements, both big and small. Praise their efforts, highlight their progress, and provide constructive feedback. Research by Hattie(2009) highlights the significance of feedback and reinforcement in promoting student motivation, self-confidence, and academic growth.
Family engagement is a cornerstone of a child’s educational journey, with significant implications for academic achievement, social-emotional development, and overall well being.The evidence presented underscores the value of active family engagement and provides practical strategies for families to engage with their children’s learning at home. By fostering a nurturing and supportive learning environment, establishing consistent
routines, and leveraging various educational resources, families can play a pivotal role in shaping their children’s educational success and fostering a lifelong love for learning. Through collaborative partnerships with schools and an unwavering commitment to their children’s education, families can empower their children to reach their fullest potential.
Tony Dalton is an independent Family Engagement practitioner who works with school communities locally and internationally