Spotlight On: The Impact of Parental Engagement on Students’ Success

11 March 2019

This article first appeared in Queenwood News Weekly 8 March 2019.

Formal education is one of the many ways that children learn and develop but even before they walk through the school gates, experiences at home and within the community start a child’s learning journey and will continue to have a significant impact throughout their entire life.

Parental engagement is a way of describing the relationship between families, schools and communities. It recognises the important role that both parents and teachers play in children’s learning and wellbeing. Research has shown that it builds children’s confidence, motivation, capability and competence as learners (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, 2012). While it is clear that parental engagement in education can build positive attitudes to school and learning, excessive parental pressure can also have a negative impact on student wellbeing. A parenting style that is emotionally distant yet has high expectations of academic success can result in low levels of self-esteem in children (Levin 2005).

Parental engagement is not to be confused with parent involvement. Parental involvement includes many positive things such as cheering at a carnival, attending an assembly, or volunteering on an excursion. This kind of participation can have a strong impact on the culture of the school, and is something we value, but it has a low impact on the academic outcomes of the child (Jeynes, 2005). Parental engagement, on the other hand, is not about physical presence at school events (although it may include that); it is more about being actively interested and well informed so as to foster meaningful communication with their child.

So what exactly does effective parental engagement in learning look like? It has many aspects. By setting high, reasonable and consistent standards parents can make clear their belief that their child can learn through effort and positive thinking. When parents consistently express confidence in their child’s potential and encourage them to succeed academically, students perform better. (This is not the same as lavishing empty praise, which can backfire.)

Parents can support their child by establishing habits which promote health, wellbeing and regular study as well as setting clear routines before and after school and during weekends. Use mealtimes as an opportunity to talk about what your child is learning and the activities or programs in which she is involved. Create a home environment that promotes learning by ensuring there is a quiet place to work as well as access to games, books and puzzles. Discover things to learn together on a regular basis and ideally find some one-to-one time with each child.

Another important way to engage with your child is by showing interest, giving specific praise and teaching social skills. Discuss the fact that learning involves making mistakes. Celebrate effort, persistence and hard work as these will be the attributes that contribute to lifelong success. Share your own learning experiences, successes and challenges to model the habits of mind and behaviours of successful learners. (Lucas, 2010)

Parental engagement can result in many short- and long-term benefits for the child. In the short term, and especially in the younger years, the main benefits can be linked to attitude and esteem. This has a positive impact on their social and emotional wellbeing, self-efficacy and motivation. Longer term outcomes for the child include higher academic achievement and improved mental health and wellbeing. (Fox and Olsen, 2014)

Successful parental engagement is continuous. It affects what children achieve, how they experience school and assists in the transitions through their academic life. As teachers at Queenwood it is our role to foster the connections that make parental engagement effective. Newsletters, written reports, open classrooms and curriculum workshops are just some of the ways that we keep parents informed of their child’s learning. In addition to formal parent-teacher evenings, there are good channels of communication throughout the year and especially in the Junior School we often have frequent, personal discussions regarding each child’s progress. The ideal way to support a girl’s learning is simply through regular chats about her life at school – what she’s learning, what she enjoys, what she doesn’t and how it fits into the bigger picture of life. If at any point you would like to understand more, please don’t hesitate to contact her class teacher (Junior School) or tutor (Senior School).

Ms Melissa Coombes
Year 2 Teacher