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Engaging Families and Whanau in their Children's Learning

The Context

The Kura Iwa ICT cluster, is made up of nine Canterbury Schools – Bamford, Bromley, Christchurch East, Linwood Intermediate, Ouruhia, St Albans Catholic, St Anne’s, St Mary’s and Tai Tapu, with eTime facilitating their ICTPD programme.

At the end of 2010 each school completed an ICT Review Rubric.  In collating the results the cluster identified a common weakness around National Goal 4 – Increasing the capability of families and whanau to actively participate in their children’s learning.

In Term 3, 2011 the Principals and Lead Teachers across the cluster attended a Leaders Practicum facilitated by eTime where they explored current research around engaging parents and whanau and looked at initiatives being implemented by other schools outside of the cluster that utilised online environments and tools (locally, nationally and internationally).

Following this session, all schools were required to reflect on current practice and implement at least one new initiative.  The Kura Iwa Teaching As Inquiry model was used to plan, implement and reflect on its success.  From there schools could identify their next steps for 2012.

The Research

During the Leaders Practicum the cluster reflected on research published in Enabling the 21st Century Learner - eLearning Action Plan, MoE (2006) and From Partnerships and networks - Kiwi Leadership for Principals  that both reinforce that the better the relationship between schools and parents, whanau and community, the better student outcomes.

The cluster then explored Joyce Epstein’s Six Types of Parental Involvement (2002). According to Epstein, by implementing activities for all six types of involvement, families can be productive partners in their children’s school successes.  Using the keys, each school reflected on the activities that they currently had in place, shared their experiences and identified areas for further development.

Following this discussion, the cluster looked at a wide range of initiatives being implemented in other schools.  They also looked at the research of eLearning expert, Dr Martyn Wild in regards to the role that schools/parents/whanau should be playing in ensuring our students online safety. He emphasized the importance of engaging parents in better understanding what their children are doing online and the strategies to deal with the issues that they face.  This was also reinforced by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood who recommended that schools need to raise parent awareness and provide them with measures that can be taken at home.

A presentation of our initiatives and the outcome:


Challenges we faced

  • Lack of understanding by many parents – of how the risks associated with online learning can be effectively managed.  Often parents who objected to their children engaging online, didn’t really understand what was involved.  To overcome this – some teachers found that they needed to chat in person to the parents to help them to interpret and understand the school internet use policies
  • Strong parent opinions about eLearning tools (ie iPad). In some cases parents had formed strong opinions about the use of devices based on media reports  - however lacked knowledge of how these devices were being used to enhance learning.  The cluster agreed that they really needed to focus on clearly communicate the processes that students were working through when engaging online.  Quite often the emphasis is on the final product and the powerful learning that was involved in reaching the final product was overlooked.
  • Parent Involvement – (eg Computers in Homes scheme, Information Sessions, blog commenting).  Although numbers are increasing, the challenge still lies in getting parents/whanau to take up the opportunities that are offered to them.  Schools also need to provide the necessary support.

Next Steps

  • Continue to build on current initiatives
  • Publishing more material and advice about how parents can support their child’s learning
  • Provide opportunities to educate parents about developing technologies that their children are using
  • Ultranet Schools – providing parent logins and utilising the Parent Portal
  • Providing guidance to parents around constructive commenting within blogs, wikis and Ultranet environments