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Research Proposal

Topic: Parental Involvement


Question: How can I use teacher-mediated strategies to increase levels
of parental involvement in the classroom?
Introduction:
During my Professional Placement I discovered that levels of parental
involvement in the educational process were minimal, and in many cases
non-existent. While I spent time in a classroom made up predominantly of
Year 5 students, limiting the need and opportunity for volunteering,
parents were invited into both the classroom and school on numerous
occasions via teacher-mediated notes home. These notes outlined details
of an art show and book week parade, both of which occurred during my
Professional Placement. There was also an open invitation for parents to
attend the weekly assembly, which occurred shortly before dismissal,
where students were encouraged to present work they were proud of and
received awards for various achievements. Over the six weeks I spent at
this school I came into direct contact with a handful of parents, most of
whom entered the classroom for early pick-up or late arrival, all of whom I
had limited direct contact with. Due to the limited exposure I have had
with parents and their involvement in the educational process, the
purpose of this study is to improve my practice in the area of parental
involvement in the classroom.
Research indicates that parental involvement has a positive impact on the
educational outcomes of children, improving their development of skills
and levels of self-efficacy (Hoover-Dempsey et al, 1987; Greenwood &
Hickman, 1991; Hornby & Witte, 2009; Peters et al, 2008; HooverDempsey & Sandler, 1995). As a preservice teacher it is essential to have
the skills necessary to actively facilitate parental involvement in order to
maximise any positive effects it may have on the educational outcomes of
students. It is also necessary to gain an understanding of any barriers
preventing parental involvement and actively work towards overcoming
these by providing parents with a variety of ways in which to be involved
both in the classroom and at home.
Schools are partnerships between families, teachers and the community
as a whole. As a preservice teacher it is my responsibility to gain the skills
necessary to build and maintain productive partnerships which benefit
students, families and the school community. Building positive
relationships with parents through successful involvement strategies aids
in cultivating and maintaining these partnerships, resulting in a positive
classroom environment for all students.
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This study will be undertaken as action research, spanning a five week


period, and will focus on a specific problem in a defined context, [rather
than] obtaining scientific knowledge that can be generalised (Burns,
2000 p. 444). While the central aim of this study is to improve my
practice, I also aim to maximize the learning potential of students through
the implementation of teacher-directed strategies to increase levels of
parental involvement, both within the classroom and at home.
Aims:
Parental involvement in education is identified as being the contribution
which parents make to the life and business of a school without
necessarily being part of the decision-making process (South Australian
Department For Education and Childrens Services, 1996 cited in
Groundwater-Smith et al, 2011 p.305). Spanning various types of
participation in the educational practices and processes of the child,
parental involvement includes, but is not limited to, parenting,
communicating, learning at home and volunteering (Hoover-Dempsey et
al, 1987; Sanders & Epstein, 1998; Epstein, n.d.; Hornby & Witte, 2009;
Epstein & Dauber, 1991; Tichenor, 1998). Considerable research highlights
a positive correlation between increased levels of parental involvement
and improved educational outcomes for students (Hoover-Dempsey et al,
1987; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995; Greenwood & Hickman, 1991;
Hornby & Witte, 2009; Peters et al, 2008). Qualitative in nature, much of
this research focuses on primary (ages 4-11) and middle (ages 11-14)
schools in America with improvements identified in students self-esteem,
academic achievement, attendance, attitude and behaviour (Tichenor,
1998; Greenwood & Hickman, 1991; Hornby & Witte, 2012; HooverDempsey et al, 1987). Due to the international nature of a large
percentage of the research, there is a need to further explore parental
involvement as it relates to Australian primary schools.
Further to this, throughout my time at University I have not been exposed
to any strategies that I can implement to encourage parental involvement.
Coming to the end of my degree, there will be limited, if any, opportunity
to advance my knowledge in this area through the required subject areas.
Due to this, the central purpose of this research is to improve my practice
in the area of parental involvement in the classroom, and subsequently
maximise the learning potential of all students. This will be done through
the exploration of one key question, outlined below:
Research Question: How can I use teacher-mediated strategies to
increase levels of parental involvement in the classroom?

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Many preservice teachers identify communicating and/or working with


parents and caregivers as a major area of concern (Groundwater-Smith et
al, 2011). While parental involvement is recognised as playing an
important role in the learning and wellbeing of students, it is an area that
often breeds anxiety due to a perceived lack of knowledge, skills and
strategies (Groundwater-Smith et al, 2011). In order to provide the best
educational opportunities for students it is essential for preservice
teachers to view families and the community as partners in the
educational process (Groundwater-Smith et al, 2011). The importance of
partnerships in education is highlighted within the Australian
Governments Family-School Partnerships Framework (2008). Within this
framework schools are encouraged to recognise the primary role of the
family in education [and work towards] sustainable and effective
partnerships between all members of the school community, including
teachers, families and students (Department of Education, Employment
and Workplace Relations, 2008 p.3).
Through this study I hope to gain the knowledge, skills and strategies
needed to improve my practice in the area of parental involvement in the
classroom. This will eliminate anxiety and enable me to enter any school
environment with confidence in my ability to build and maintain positive
relationships with parents and caregivers through effective
communication, and in turn maximise the learning potential of all
students.
Underpinning Literature:
Parental involvement in education is defined as parental participation in
the educational processes and experiences of their children (Jeynes, 2005
p.245). Epstein (1998) has identified six types of parental involvement
that are important to student learning and development which form the
basis of much research in the field. They include parenting,
communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and
collaborating with community (Hoover-Dempsey et al, 1987; Sanders &
Epstein, 1998; Epstein, n.d; Hornby & Witte, 2009; Epstein & Dauber,
1991; Tichenor, 1998). In order to be beneficial, parental involvement
must remain developmentally appropriate and relevant, therefore as
children grow older the ways in which parents are involved changes
(Hornby & Witte, 2010). A reduction is seen in direct, school-based
involvement such as attending reading circles and volunteering, with an
increase in supportive roles such as helping with homework and learning
from home (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1995; Hornby & Witte, 2010).
Considerable qualitative research indicates that parental involvement has
a positive impact on the educational outcomes of children, with literature
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suggesting it is essential for educational success and is strongly linked to


continued success later in life (Hoover-Dempsey et al, 1987; Greenwood &
Hickman, 1991; Hornby & Witte, 2009; Peters et al, 2008). High levels of
parental involvement have been associated with a number of educational
outcomes, with increases in academic success, improved language skills
and social competence identified from the early years of schooling
(Grolnick & Slowiaczek, 1994; Hill, 2001; Hill & Craft, 2003 cited in Hill &
Taylor, 2004). These successes are believed to continue throughout a
childs education, with improvements identified in academic achievement,
motivation, attitude towards homework and school, self-esteem, social
skills, attendance and behaviour, along with a decrease in student dropout
rates (Tichenor, 1998; Greenwood & Hickman, 1991; Hornby & Witte,
2012; Hoover-Dempsey et al, 1987).
These broad educational outcomes are noted in much of the literature,
however the specific type of parental involvement that results in these
outcomes is often unclear resulting in a considerable amount of
inconsistency. A lack of empirically based studies, along with various
interpretations of parental involvement and the different measures of
educational outcomes have been identified as possible contributing
factors to these inconsistencies (Fan & Chen, 2001). There is also little
information on what forms of parental involvement are most effective, and
on what specific areas these effects can be seen (Driessen et al, 2005).
A number of barriers to parental involvement exist, being both schoolcentred and parent-centred. While little research has been conducted into
overcoming parent-centred barriers, school-centred barriers can often be
reduced, and overcome altogether, through teacher education. Qualitative
research into preservice teachers attitudes towards parental involvement
indicates there is a need for education programs to provide preservice
teachers with the skills, knowledge and techniques necessary to
effectively work with parents through courses and hands on experience
(Tichenor, 1998). Additional research conducted in this area came to
similar conclusions, with a lack of teacher education resulting in limited
opportunities for parental involvement, and low levels of teacher selfefficacy in this area (Greenwood & Hickman, 1991). From this, it can be
concluded that, if properly educated, teachers can work towards breaking
down teacher and school-centred barriers and in turn increase levels of
parental involvement.
While parental involvement is identified as a key variable in improving
educational outcomes the inconsistencies presented in the current
literature make it difficult to make definitive conclusions about what types
of parental involvement are most beneficial and in what areas these

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effects can be seen (Hornby, 2011; Fan & Chen, 2001; Driessen et al,
2005). As a preservice teacher it is essential to have an understanding of
the types of parental involvement that are beneficial to different year
levels, along with being presented with opportunities for hands-on
experience in practicing strategies to increase parental involvement in the
classroom and at home. This study aims to explore the effectiveness of a
variety of different teacher-mediated strategies on improving levels of
parental involvement in order to maximize the educational outcomes of all
students.
Methodology:
The aim of this study is to examine the effect of various teacher-mediated
strategies on increasing levels of parental involvement in the classroom.
Due to the open-ended nature of the proposed research question, this
study will be done using a qualitative rather than quantitative research
approach. Qualitative research explores open-ended questions within realworld contexts, resulting in multidimensional studies which evolve over
the course of the research (Leedy & Ormrod, 2010). Current research
supports this methodological decision, with Fan and Chen (2001) stating
that a considerable amount of literature surrounding parental involvement
in education is qualitative, with open-ended surveys, questionnaires and
interviews forming the basis of much research in this field.
An action research process will be followed throughout this study. Action
research directly addresses the problem of the division between theory
and practice (Noffke & Somekh, 2005 p.89). Rather than being a linear
process, action research integrates the development of practice with the
construction of research knowledge in a cyclical process of problem
identification, action and reflection (Noffke & Somekh, 2005 p.89; Burns,
2000). Values based and focused on improving individual practices, action
research has an immediate impact [as] it is an integral part of day-to-day
work (Noffke & Somekh, 2005 p.89).
Participants:
The teacher, parents and students of a Year 2 classroom in a coeducational, Adelaide North-Eastern suburbs based, Government funded
primary school will be invited to participate in this study. Ideally, this will
include parents from various socio-economic, cultural and family
backgrounds (single-parent mother, single-parent father, extended family
under one roof, working parent/s, studying parent/s). It will also seek
participation from additional staff members in order to ascertain whether
a prevailing norm exists within the school as a whole.
Methods:
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Data will be collected over a five week period (02/05/2016 to 03/06/2016


inclusive), with a number of different methods to engage parents to be
employed throughout this time. Below is a brief overview of the proposed
process, followed by a detailed description of each data collection method
that will be employed throughout this study.
This study employs numerous methods for data collection to ensure
triangulation is achieved. Triangulation is the use of two or more methods
of data collection [and is a] powerful way of showing validity,
particularly in qualitative research (Cohen et al, 2011 p. 195).
Week 1 (phase 1): Questionnaire to be completed by parents;
questionnaire to be completed by teachers; questioning of students;
observation & reflection
Week 2 (phase 2): Invitation of parents into the classroom via teachermediated note; observation & reflection
Week 3 (phase 3): Invitation of parents into the classroom via childmediated note; observation & reflection
Week 4 (phase 4): Homework activity; observation & reflection
Week 5 (phase 5): Online portal for direct contact with parents;
questioning of students; observation & reflection
Reflective Journal
Journals will be used for personal reflection throughout the duration of the
study. Personal reflection is essential for action research as this type of
research develops through the self-reflection spiral [being] a spiral of
cycles of planning, acting, observing, reflecting and then re-planning,
further implementation, observing and reflecting (Appendix A) (Cohen et
al, 2011 p.347) Regularly noting down additional problems that have been
identified, actions that were successful/unsuccessful and key observations
will result in rich data that can be used in conjunction with information
gained from questionnaires, questioning and observation.
Questionnaire
Questionnaires are widely used and useful instruments for collecting data
as they can be completed without the researcher being present and are
generally quite straightforward to analyse (Wilson & McLean, 1994 cited in
Cohen et al, 2011). Two questionnaires will be used in phase one of the
study, the first of which will be completed by classroom parents (Appendix
B) and the second will be completed by additional staff members and the
classroom teacher (Appendix C). The parent questionnaire will be sent
home at the beginning of week one and will include a mix of both openPage | 6

ended and closed questions to gauge current levels of parental


involvement along with perceived barriers, outside influences and
opinions. The teacher questionnaire will be completed at the same time
and will also include a mix of open-ended and closed questions, however
the focus will be on teacher perception of parental involvement in the
classroom and what strategies are implemented to encourage parental
involvement. This information will aid in ascertaining what strategies are
useful in different year levels along with whether consistent strategies are
implemented throughout the school. The data collected from the
questionnaires will be used in conjunction with the data collected from the
questioning of students to identify the classroom norm, providing a basis
for phase two of the research.
Questioning
Children are identified as being the best sources of information about
themselves (Docherty & Sandelowski, 1999 p.177 cited in Cohen et al,
2011 p.433). As this study relates directly to the lives of students verbal
questioning will be used throughout the study, with care taken to ensure
the process is enjoyable, relaxed and child friendly (Cohen et al, 2011).
Informal questioning will be used in phase one to gauge the students
perceptions of their parents involvement in school-based and home-based
activities, with additional questioning occurring throughout the study as
needed. Questions such as those outlined below will be used to explore
levels of parental involvement both at home and in the classroom:
1)
2)
3)
4)

Whose parents come into the classroom regularly?


Do you like it when your parents are involved in the classroom?
What can I do to encourage your parents to be more involved?
Do your parents like to help at home?

Responses will be noted in a journal and will be thematic analysed in


conjunction with the parent and teacher questionnaires in order to gain
clear insight into pre-existing rates of parental involvement, along with
any changes that occur.
Observation
Observation encompasses watching and noting systematically people,
events, behaviours, settings, artefacts [and] routines and provides
investigators with the opportunity to gather live data from naturally
occurring social situations (Cohen et al, 2011 p.456). Observation can be
of facts, events or behaviours. It will be used regularly throughout the
study and will include observation of my practice by the classroom
teacher, which will be handwritten and presented at the end of each
session, and observation of the students and parents by myself.
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Observation will begin in phase one of the study, with initial levels of
parental involvement noted in a journal, and continue throughout the
study. All occurrences of involvement, including frequency, duration and
type will be noted, along with the gender of the parent to identify whether
gender plays a role in the type and frequency of parental involvement.
Analysis:
Data will be analysed using mixed-method analysis. Questionnaires will be
content analysed, with the raw data to be converted into percentages in
order to easily identify overarching themes and patterns. Journals,
reflection and any notes taken during observation will be thematic
analysed in order to identify, analyse and report patterns, themes and key
words within the data which link to pre-existing literature (Braun & Clarke,
2008).
Ethics:
Steps will be taken in order to ensure this study aligns with the National
Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (2007).
Confidentiality will be assured to all participants throughout the duration
of the study. Prior to commencement of the study consent will be obtained
from all participants in writing. Parents/guardians will provide consent for
themselves and students. A photocopy of the consent form will be
provided to all participants for their personal records, with the original
being kept by the researcher. All participants have the right to withdraw at
any stage, or choose not to complete any aspect of the study.
Validity:
Threats to validity will be decreased through a number of steps, including
the selection of appropriate methodology and instrumentation for data
collection along with the creation and use of appropriate data collection
instruments (Cohen et al, 2011). Steps will also be taken to encourage
completion of questionnaires through ease of use and friendly reminders
and to ensure the research question is answered (Cohen et al, 2011).
Subjective interpretation and selective use of the data will also be
avoided, as will making broad generalizations about the data (Cohen et al,
2011).
Outcomes/Possible Impact:
Literature indicates that parental involvement is an area that breeds
anxiety in preservice teachers (Groundwater-Smith et al, 2011). While the
benefits of parental involvement have been clearly documented and
teachers are aware that it is important for student learning and wellbeing,
few implement strategies to encourage parents to become involved
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(Groundwater-Smith, 2011; Tichenor, 1998). This is largely due to a lack


of knowledge of schools and families on how to effectively work and plan
together (Tichenor, 1998 p.249). Research suggests University degrees
lack the essential component of parental involvement, with preservice
teachers being underprepared for communicating and working with
parents when they enter the workforce (Tichenor, 1998; GroundwaterSmith et al, 2011). This lack of preparation is something that has occurred
throughout my University degree. I have not been presented with any
opportunities to gain skills, strategies or knowledge in the area of how to
successfully engage parents and encourage parental involvement at home
and in the classroom.
Trialling strategies for parental involvement will provide me with an
opportunity to learn skills in how to work effectively with parents and
families, bridging the current gap in my knowledge. Ideally, I will have the
opportunity to work with families from a variety of backgrounds, enabling
me to practice and implement a wide range of strategies and techniques
as every family is different, and one strategy will not be appropriate or
successful for all (Tichenor, 1998). Through this study, I will build my
confidence and self-efficacy around parental involvement, resulting in a
classroom environment that is welcoming to all and provides parents with
a variety of different ways in which they can be involved. Further to this,
having an understanding of what types of involvement are beneficial to
different year levels will enable me to focus my energy on appropriate
strategies for the best educational outcomes for each student. The
knowledge that I gain through this study will positively impact my
professional practice both now and in the future, enabling me to build
successful partnerships with families and positively influence the
frequency of parental involvement on a whole school level.
Schools are partnerships between families, staff, students and the
community as a whole. Building positive partnerships with families is
essential as families are a childs first educators, influencing their learning
and development throughout their schooling (Department of Education,
Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008). With families playing such
an important role in the educational process it is essential for preservice
teachers to gain knowledge and understanding in parental involvement
strategies. Through this study I will gain confidence in my ability to involve
parents in the educational processes of their children. This will enable me
to work towards cultivating and maintaining positive partnerships with
families on an individual and, ultimately, whole school level and in turn
improve student learning, attendance and behaviour (Department of
Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2008).

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Appendix A: Action Research Diagram

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(Department of Education and Training, 2011 pp. 3-4)

Appendix B:
Parent Involvement Questionnaire
Please answer each question below. Pick the answer/s that best describes
you and your situation.
1. Who is filling out this questionnaire?
____ Mother
____ Father
____ Both Parents
____ Guardian
____ Other (please specify)
2. I work
____ part-time
____ full-time
____ not at all
____ study
____ other (please specify)
3. Which ways best describe how your childs teacher has
communicated with you?
Pick all that apply
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____
____
____
____
____
____
____
____

letters and notes (formal)


letters and notes (informal)
parent-teacher interview
parent newsletters
phone calls
informal conversations before school
informal conversations after school
online (school/classroom website)

4. Which ways best describe your support of your childs schooling?


Pick all that apply
____ attending parent-teacher interviews
____ helping child with homework
____ volunteering on school excursions
____ buying books and other educational materials to be used at
home
____ reading to child on a regular basis/encourage reading in older
children
____ attending school events
____ volunteering during reading circles
____ volunteering at the school canteen
____ attending PTA meetings
____ other (please specify)
5. I read to my child/encourage reading at home
____ Yes
____ No
6. How often do you come into the classroom?
____ daily
____ weekly
____ monthly
____ when required
____ never
____ other (please specify)
7. I feel comfortable and welcome when I come into the school
____ Yes
____ Sometimes
____ No
8. I feel comfortable and welcome when I come into the classroom
____ Yes
____ Sometimes
____ No
9. In the past year, what school-based events have you attended?
____ school fair
____ art show
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____ book-week parade


____ assembly
____ other (please specify)
10.
Out of the events you attended, what did you find most
enjoyable?
____ school fair
____ art show
____ book-week parade
____ assembly
____ other (please specify)
11.
I find it difficult to attend school-based events and activities
due to
Pick all that apply
____ work
____ study
____ family commitments
____ other (please specify)
12.
to
____
____
____
____

I find it difficult to volunteer in the classroom and school due


work
family commitments
documentation (police clearance etc.)
other (please specify)

13.
Pick
____
____
____

I would like to be more involved in my childs education


all that apply
in the classroom
at school
at home

14.
How can I support your involvement in your childs education?
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

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Appendix C
Parent Involvement Questionnaire A Teachers Perspective
Please answer each question below. Pick the answer/s that best describes
you and your situation.
1. I have been a teacher for
____ 0-3 years
____ 3-5 years
____ 5-10 years
____ 10-15 years
____ 15-20 years
____ 20+ years
2. I have worked at the school I am currently employed at for ____
years.
3. I have taught the following year levels
Pick all that apply
____ Reception
____ Year 1
____ Year 2
____ Year 3
____ Year 4
____ Year 5
____ Year 6
____ Year 7
4. I am currently teaching a Year ____ class
5. Which ways best describe how you communicate with
parents/caregivers?
Pick all that apply
____ letters and notes (formal)
____ letters and notes (informal)
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____
____
____
____
____
____

parent-teacher interview
parent newsletters
phone calls
informal conversations before school
informal conversations after school
online (school/classroom website)

6. The parents/caregivers of my students come into the classroom


____ daily
____ weekly
____ monthly
____ when required
____ never
7. It is often the same parents/caregivers that come into the classroom
____ Yes
____ No
8. I find it easy to enlist parent/caregiver volunteers to help when
needed
____ Yes
____ No
9. I feel comfortable asking parents/caregivers to help in the classroom
____ Yes
____ No
10.
The parents/caregivers that come into the classroom are
generally
____ Mothers
____ Fathers
____ Other (please specify)
11.
The parents/caregivers of my students often help with
homework
____ Yes
____ No
____ Unsure
12.
What strategies do you implement to encourage parental
involvement in the classroom?
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
13.
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What strategies are most successful?

_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________

Page | 19