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Over the years educators are faced with many challenges in carrying out their job functions. As a result, action research has been designed to help find meaningful ways of solving daily challenges in the classroom and school environ. An action research is a research used in one's own institution to find and solve one or more educators' problems by collecting and studying data, with the aim being to change, understand and improve practices (Gay & Airasian, 2003). However the definition that best suit this study is Colhouns' (cited in Gay et al, 2003) that describes action research as a fancy way of saying "let's study what's happening in our school and decide how to make it a better place" (p. 262).
It is important for educators to do an action research as it helps them to take a deeper look at old problems in a new way and assess what is or is not done by themselves or students. Furthermore, it helps teachers with professional development and solving problems cooperatively within the school. This kind of research is most suitable for teachers as it is done on the job in shorter periods, although not in-depth, it is manageable and feasible and teachers are more committed because they can identify the areas they view as problematic and in need of change. It is also beneficial as the research is ongoing and the strategies used have the ability to be widely applied to other educators with similar problems. As a result, it is the best methodology suited for conducting this research, as it identifies the research problem, designs a strategy to solve the problem while monitoring the progress of the participants.
Parental involvement in education has become a greater challenge in recent years and has posed a problem for educators in Jamaica. Parents have competing priorities which oftentimes reduce the quantity and quality of time available for their involvement with children's education. Now more than ever, mothers constitute a large part of the workforce which does not allow for quality time to be spent with children. Many children are living in low-income single female headed households without the basic necessities such as proper food, clothing and shelter. Statistics from the Planning Institute of Jamaica (2002) has confirmed that forty-five percent of all Jamaican household are female headed. In spite of the Ministry of Education implementations of a parental involvement section in the early childhood curriculum, parenting seminars, and workshops to help parents with the job of parenting, not much has change.
Furthermore, policy makers, teachers and other stakeholders have recognized that a collaborative effort between the home and school is necessary for the improvement and success of the Jamaica education system which is crucial to student's academic achievement. Roopnarine and Johnson (1993) stated definitively that the home and school environment must have a continuous and close link, as the love and support found at home will lay the foundation for learning. Cotton and Wikelund (2001) recommended that parents support their children's schooling by attending school functions and responding to schools' obligations. United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF) has stated that there have also been numerous debates and discussions about the sub-standard educational system that exist in Jamaica. Despite a great deal of public investment in education, it will not yield the intended result without stronger support by more parents. Hence, the MOE has embarked on a number of different programmes, in an effort to strengthen parental involvement in schools.
In an article published in the Daily Gleaner dated May 26, 2008, Sylvester Anderson, president of the National Parent Teacher's Association of Jamaica stressed that there is a greater need for better parental involvement in school activities and student's educational development. He stated that some progress was made, but, there was still room for improvement as attendance at PTA meetings was pretty low with attendance rate of about 20 to 30 per cent. This he emphasize, was not good enough for a partnership.
Background to the Problem
In Jamaica, especially in the inner-city community, the high fertility rate resulting from teenage pregnancies has shown a marked difference between adolescent parenting versus adult parenting, as teenaged parents lack the resources and maturity to care for their children adequately. However, the problem of poor parental involvement is not only seen in adolescent parents but adult parents too. This is oftentimes manifested in the interest shown in the activities at schools. Many parents have lost interest or have little or no time to be involved in school activities which have affected both the school and their children's performance. Some, however, are illiterate, lack training or skill and have not completed secondary education, hence their inability to secure jobs to care for their children or assist them in their school activities.
Despite being unemployed, some parents still do not go to meetings unless refreshment is provided or they can gain tangible rewards. In addition, some mothers are oftentimes busy caring for younger children which results in their absence from all activities conducted at their children's school. In many of the homes fathers are absent leaving the responsibility of parenting on the mothers. Furthermore, some fathers are involved in gangs and show little inclination to participate in school activities although they are unemployed. Allen and Daly (2002) posit that although fathers may not be recognized as being important to early childhood development in some culture, their involvement does have significant impact. As a result of fathers' involvement, children demonstrate better cognitive, emotional and social development outcomes. Furthermore, anecdotal evidence suggests that many parents do not seem to have their children's education as priority, but, instead are more interested in partying, fun and fashion than in the education of their children. There is also a sense of hopelessness amongst parents in inner-city communities which results from their low level of education and the marginalization from sectors of the society.
In addition, many parents also lack the courage and initiative to seek help for themselves and as a result succumb to an attitude of carelessness in their children's school base activities. This has led to their perpetual absence from and non-involvement in school base activities. Researchers of parental involvement in schools have stated that parental involvement has direct and lasting impact on children's learning and academic achievement (Wishon, Crabtree & Jones, 1997). Consequently, this has not changed the action of many parents to become involved in school base activities. From all appearance it seems that many parents of lower socio-economic status are unaware of the impact they have on their children's performance when they are involved.
Furthermore, limited data exist on parental involvement in inner-city basic schools which perpetuates the cycle of non-involvement. There is also an insufficient amount of materials available for parents to read, especially parents in inner-city communities who need materials that speaks to their needs and situations, to understand the role they can play in the school and their children's lives to affect better outcomes for them. I am also unaware of any previous studies of parental involvement in an inner-city basic school from a developing country where schools often have low parental involvement. Interventions that have been shown to be effective in developing countries may be more difficult to implement in this context. Different cultural beliefs and values may also affect the acceptability of the strategies advocated by these programmes. Although inner-city refers to the central area of a major city, in Jamaica it is used to define an impoverished area where majority of the population is poor, unemployed, lack education and training. These communities are volatile with frequent occurrence of criminal activities and murder. Inner-city communities usually generate a feeling of hopelessness and perpetuate a vicious cycle that seems hard to break.
Provision made to schools by the government differs from country to country, which result in some schools struggling more than others. Primary to tertiary level schools in Jamaica receive better funding than basic schools. Basic schools are community funded organizations catering to children from 2-5 years of age. Fees are set by each basic school which can be the same or different. A subsidy is paid to the practitioners each month and a very minimal nutrition and material grant is given to the school twice yearly by the MOE for each student, along with food items such as rice, flour, cornmeal, oil, corn beef and tin mackerels. The school fees, lunch fees and funds raised are used to operate the school and pay staff salaries along with funds from the sponsoring body. Not all schools have a sponsoring body and hence they experience more challenges in meeting their yearly expenditure. As a result of unemployment many parents experience problems in finding both school fees and daily lunch fees. This sometimes spill over into anger towards the school when they cannot meet their needs and are called in to settle their account. This has resulted in many parents being absent from school activities as they oftentimes try to hide from practitioners and administrative staff by leaving their children at the outer gates of the school to go in alone.
As a principal of this institution for the past eleven (11) years, I have noticed a decline of parental involvement in school activities. Parents of the incoming students are usually the ones most likely to be involved in school activities, but after the first three months they lose interest and start imitating the behaviours of previous parents. As a result of this challenge, it is my intention to conduct an action research to identify barriers to parental involvement and to develop and implement strategies to foster changes through focus group, and improve parental involvement in school activities. Findings will be communicated through discussion to other educators.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of this study is to investigate the low level of involvement of parents in school base activities in a selected inner-city basic school and to find strategies to improve their involvement using recommendations from focus group discussions. According to Mills (2007) in using the bottom-up strategies, parents would be the ones making the recommendations for change instead of the top-down strategies in which the school administration makes the decision. As a result, this will be more meaningful as parents will buy into the idea as it came from them. In particular, the action research study will focus on the dependent variable parental involvement and independent variable focus group. Consequently, parental involvement should be impacted by the focus group which will result in an improvement of parents in school base activities.
Keywords: parental involvement, school base activities, inner-city, basic school, practitioners, focus group.
Outline of Innovation
Innovations are necessary to effect changes, so as educators we should be open to welcome different innovations in our school environment in order to improve the teaching and learning situation. The purpose for this innovation is to improve parental involvement in school base activities. This action research project entails using a focus group as the innovation. A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs and attitude towards product, service, concept or idea. For this research project parents will be asked their opinion of parental involvement and recommendations to improve parental involvement. This will involved parents working together to come up with strategies which will also be informing them of what they can do as parents. Some benefits of using a focus group is that it will generate a multiplicity of views and develop group dynamics. Great benefits can also be derived from non-verbal communication as this tells more about the topic than what is spoken about the topic. The diversity of the participants will add to the variety of opinions that are generated, hence creating many ideas for solution and change.
Two recommendations from the focus group will be implemented at different intervals to improve parental involvement. This will be done for the period April to October in all school base activities in which parents are involved. If the intervention does not work, other recommendations from the focus groups will be implemented and evaluated.
At the beginning of this action research questionnaires will be given to parents to discover their participation in school activities, communication between home and school and their attitude to school. Do you support school base activities at your child's school? How do you solve problems you have with the school? Would you like to be involved in your child's school? The responses from the questionnaires will be used to validate the research questions. Some of these questions will also be used to guide the focus group session.
Objectives or goals of the Innovation
By considering involvement as a means of empowering parents, one may be able, with the implementation of effective strategies, alleviate the situation of low involvement in school base activities. Consequently it is the goal of this action research to:-
Improve parental involvement in school base activities.
Decrease the challenges faced by parents that hindered their involvement in the programmes of the school.
Investigate what motivated parents' involvement in school activities and whether any benefits will be derived from this arrangement.
To identify and discuss the activities in which parents participate that will most likely improved involvement.
At the end, it is the goal of the researcher that parental involvement in school activities will be improved. This will be ascertained through the records taken from the attendance register and the students' participation in school base activities.
Description of the setting in which the innovation will be implemented
This action research project will be undertaken in Jamaica in an early childhood centre situated in an inner-city community plagued with poverty, violence and unemployment. Basic school education is conducted under the aegis of the Early Childhood Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The school has an enrolment of one hundred and ten students and seven practitioners inclusive of the principal. Students are between the ages of two and a half to five years old. Fifteen parents will be sampled randomly, while another fifteen parents will be selected purposively. The random sample will complete questionnaires while the purposive sample will participate in two focus group sessions on separate days. The random sample will have two days to complete and return questionnaires, while the purposive sample will participate in two focus group session for an hour each on the same day.
Assumptions and limitations of the action research
In conducting any research assumptions will be made to plan for the actions that will be taken:-
One assumption is that at the end of the study there will be an increase in parental involvement in school activities.
Participants in focus group will be honest and open in answering questions.
Parents will see the need to be involved in school activities.
Parents will participate in the research.
At least two fathers will participate in the research.
Not having enough financial resources to provide refreshment, incentives, materials for the data collection and intervention.
Not enough time to evaluate improvement or non-improvement in parental involvement.
Illiteracy of parents, which will result in more time being spent doing questionnaires.
Interpretation of questions may be different for each participant than what was intended
Parents' reluctance to change.
Participants in focus group might be influenced by more persuasive participants and their opinion is not heard.
Reflection on the Initial Aspects of the Action Research
As I reflect on the initial aspects of this research I realize that I was over thinking the entire process which caused me much confusion, frustration and stress. I realized that I needed to have started planning earlier how I will be getting the necessary resources needed for this project. I also realize that I was coming to the exciting part of the programme where I would be planning my intended research. This made me excited but also apprehensive of the magnitude of work that would be included. I often wondered:
Will implementing strategies recommended by focus group help to improve parental involvement in school activities? Will parents see the benefit of being involved in the activities of the school their children attends? Will parents recognize the barriers that are preventing them from participating in school activities? As parents participate in the school activities it is hoped that they will experience a renewal of interest in their children and the school. Since all learning is intertwined with socialization, education is the best way to get parents socialized. As is often said "parents are blamed but not trained" Providing parents with training on parenting will most likely help them to become better parents and more involved in school activities.
CHAPTER 2: Literature Review
Educational Significance of the Action Research
This action research is aimed at improving parental involvement in school base activities by learning about the barriers and benefits and providing information and strategies for improvement through focus group. It is hoped that parents' involvement in this action research will provide some educational benefit for both parents and their children. The results from this study will assist me and other educators to become actively involved in getting parents support in school activities. The results of this study will be significant to educators, practitioners, parents, school, children and the Parent Teachers Association.
The findings will be significant to parents to inform them of the benefits of being involved in school base activities and to show how their involvement can help their children. In addition, parents will learn to overcome barriers to involvement in school base activities. It will be significant to teachers as the information provided will be beneficial to improve children's performance by involving parents as a part of the solution. The relationship between the home and school will be enhanced as teachers' and parents' relationship will grow and develop. As parents participate it should make the teaching/learning process easier for teachers. It will be significant to the school as it will improve parent's participation in school base activities and projects which will enhance the school development.
This study is important because, the preliminary review of the literature showed that not many studies have been published on this topic in Jamaica. It will also provide data which will inform educators and parents about parental involvement in schools and how it can be improved. This study will be significant to principals and the National Parents Teachers Association of Jamaica as they have raised concerns about low parental involvement in schools and the effect it has on both children and school. This study will give them additional information on how to improve parental involvement in inner-city schools. The findings will be significant as it can provide a foundation and add to available literature in Jamaica on parental involvement, and thus, prompting other researchers to conduct further studies.
Support for the innovation and methods of investigation
For the purpose of this research focus group will be used as a method of collecting information for parenting program improvement. According to Morgan (1993) focus group is defined as a method of group interviewing in which the interaction between the moderator and the group, as well as the interaction between group members, serves to seek information and insights in response to carefully designed questions. The nature of the questions and the group process produces an insight that is more outstanding in comparison to other information collection devises such as observation, surveys and less interactional interview techniques. Methods of recording and analyzing information gathered during focus groups, and strategies for collecting unbiased information have helped focus group research to gain credibility as an accurate and useful source of information collection. Focus group methods gained popularity in the 1980s when social scientists recognized the value of focus groups for qualitative research and adapted the techniques accordingly. In the 1990s focus group strategies have become widely researched and used in social sciences and human service organizations.
This innovation used is relevant as the problem of poor parental involvement is a social issue and since it concerns those that are involved, as they are the problem, it is best to get the suggestions from them seeing that if it is their suggestions they will own the process and find solutions.
In order to implement this innovation of focus group in my school setting, fifteen parents will be purposely selected base on their involvement and non-involvement in school base activities. The groups will consist of 7 and 8 participants who may have seen each other but do not know one another and who have similar associations to the topic being investigated (i.e., parents of a basic school discussing low involvement in school base activities). Although, focus groups often employ participants who are strangers to reduce sharing in ways that acquaintances might expect and to increase anonymity for the sake of honest responding, the participants selected are members of the same community and it is unavoidable for them not to see or know each other. Selecting participants who are similar may help in sharing ideas more freely and may prevent results from being so mixed that no conclusions may be drawn. It is important that the results are not generalized to other groups.
Two group sessions will be conducted, as using only one focus group to arrive at conclusions about a particular topic is risky since the opinions expressed may have more to do with the group dynamics (i.e., persuasive skills of one or two members) than a true sampling of the opinions of the population that the group represents. Having two homogeneous groups that provide different results suggests that more information is necessary.
According to Morgan (1993) and Krueger (1994) focus group is appropriate to be used when group members are lower in the power heirachy within an organization. Focus group helps participants to express feelings and experiences that they would not have otherwise share; focus groups can often get at more honest and in depth information. Furthermore, it can be used when one is interested in finding out the nature of consensus or when target audiences may not take questionnaires seriously or answer them honestly. Additionally, in situations where there is organizational conflict and or alienation, members of focus groups and their constituencies may feel 'listened to'. This may result in an honest and meaningful exchange of information. In addition, focus group sets an agenda and use questioning strategies that influence the group process. While focus groups may actually get at less information the dynamic interchange between the group members may result in more in depth and unbiased information concerning a particular topic. Focus groups are able to delve much deeper into issues to gain a deeper understanding.
Furthermore, Byers and Wilcox (1998) posits that "focus group interviews offer variety and versatility to both qualitative and quantitative research method and are compatible with the qualitative paradigm" (pp. 7-8). Hess (as cited in Schumm, Sinagub, Vaughn, 1996) noted the advantages of focus group which includes synergism, whereby a wider bank of data emerges through the group interaction, snowballing, wherein statements of one respondent initiate a chain reaction, stimulation, which occurs when group discussion generates excitement about a topic, security, when the group provides comfort and encourages responses and spontaneity which occurs because participants do not have to answer every question their responses are more spontaneous and genuine.
According to Fraenkel, Hyun and Wallen (2012) a questionnaire is basically subjects responses to questions by writing or by marking an answer sheet. Items are classified as selection or supply items. Selection items refer to those items which presents a set of possible responses from which a respondent are to select the most appropriate, and supply items are those which ask respondents to formulate and then supply their own answers. They further stated that the advantages of using questionnaires are that they can be mailed or given to a large amount of people at the same time. The disadvantages are that unclear or seemingly ambiguous questions cannot be clarified, and the respondent has no chance to expand on or react verbally to a question of particular interest or importance. Questionnaires were chosen as a method to collect data as they are relatively easy and inexpensive to create, analyze and communicate the findings. Questionnaires can be administered to a large number of persons who hopefully represent the population being investigated. Questionnaires may include as many questions as the evaluator thinks the respondents will complete. Both selection and supply items were used in this questionnaire.
To successfully carry out this research to document parents' low involvement and non-involvement questionnaires will be administered to parents. Responses will be assessed to verify observation of the level of involvement. This questionnaire contained thirty-three questions using yes or no responses, a four point Likert Scale: using never, sometimes, often or always, circle the letter that apply and short answers. Questions asking why are attached to some yes/no responses to clarify and extend answers given.
The questionnaire was prepared by the researcher and reviewed by peers. Items are divided into three categories which are demographic data (1-V111), participation in school activities (1-8), communication between home and school (9-18) and parents' attitude to school (19-33). The aim of the questionnaire will be to ascertain what prevented parents from participating in school base activities, parents' attitude to school, home and school communication and to find out how involve are parents in their children's school activities. The questionnaires will be completed by parents who are randomly selected. Items on questionnaires will be used to guide focus group discussions. Responses will be compiled and organized in categories base on themes that have already been selected.
Best and Kahn (2003) defines sample as a small portion of a population selected for observation and analysis. The sample of thirty parents of varying ages with children in different grade level in an inner-city basic school will be selected. They will be randomly and purposively selected because some are very involved, while others are not involved in school base activities and are available to participate in focus group discussions.
Data Collection Method
Data is referred to as the rough materials researchers collect from the world they are studying which provides clues and evidence that is actively recorded for later analysis Bogdan & Biklen, (1998, p. 106). In order to capture the relevant data to complete this research I will use the following data collection instruments, questionnaire, audio-tape, attendance register and narrative from the focus group sessions. Graphs will be used to illustrate the data. A mix-method approach will be used.
A focus group is basically a way to reach out to users of service for feedback and comment. The focus group concentrates on gathering opinions, beliefs and attitudes about issues of interest to the organization. It also provides an opportunity to learn more about a topic or issue. Benefits are gained from using focus group as it elicits multiplicity of views, easy to implement, participants are diverse and benefit is derived from the non-verbal component which oftentimes say more than is said aloud.
In order to protect and respect the privacy of the parents, no pictures will be taken during the research. The parents will be assured that the information collected will be used for research purpose only. The real names of the parents and school will not be mentioned or revealed. An explanation will also be given to the parents about the research and its purpose with an emphasis on voluntary participation and confidentiality. Parents will be assured that no harm will come to them during the research project. The information will be reported with honesty, respect and privacy.
In an article written by The Pennsylvania PTA, parental involvement is defined as the participation of parents in every facet of children's education and development from birth to adulthood, recognizing that parents are the primary influence in children's lives (retrieved March 3, 2013, http:www.paptaorg/parenting/parent involvement.htm). Parents in this context can be referred to as children's closest caregivers or members of their extended families.
In their definition of parental involvement Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler (2005) refer to two types of parental involvement activities oftentimes used by parents. One type is home-based involvement which includes activities that takes place between the child and parent outside the school setting. This entails helping child with homework, revising for test, monitoring of child's progress, providing enrichment activities pertinent to school success and corresponding with child's teacher on a regular basis. The other type is school-base involvement which includes activities wherein parents focus on their individual child in the school setting. These activities include parent-teacher conference, in-class observation of child, informal discussions with teacher, attending school events and volunteering to assist on school field trips.
Although the purpose of school is to educate children, this cannot be done in isolation without parental involvement, so when parents are involved both the school and student benefits. Deslandes and Bertrand (2005) agreed with the findings of Christenson and Sheridan (2000) where they affirmed that parent's involvement could take different forms, such as parent's roles in educating their children at home by helping with their homework and by volunteering at school or attending Parents Teachers Association meetings (p.164). Another writer, Evans (2000) interchanges the term parental involvement with parental participation and states that this includes a wide range of participation by parents from being recipients of services through to being instigators and controllers of programmes. In comparing with others one can note that in this definition parents would have to be literate, confident and possess the necessary skills, having time and energy to be involved in the programmes of the school. This, I partially agree with.
From the literature being reviewed it is obvious that parental involvement as thought by many is not a new terminology but can be traced to the beginning of time when parents were responsible for passing on the culture of their society to the prospective generation. Berger documented that this transfer of knowledge was passive and mainly concerned with making children good citizens who could protect and maintain the culture and civilization rather than educating them. However, at the turn of the twentieth century there was a marked difference in the education of children and the role parents played was more proactive. This was as a result of scientific research on human development, early childhood educators studying developmental theorist and parents who developed an interest in participating in their children's education (as cited in Isenberg & Jalongo, 1995, p. 59).
Moreover, it was not until the 1960s when parents were being blamed for the shortcomings and failure of their children that parental involvement was brought to the forefront to help parents not only in child development but in behaviour modification and school success for their children. Another point of view is that of Auerbach who stated that parents were involved as partners in the education of their children so that they could reinforce the school culture and practices at home. He conceded also that parental involvement cannot be overlooked as it has positive benefits for the children (cited in Briggs, Jalongo & Brown, 1997, p. 59).
On the other hand, Wishon et. al (1997) affirm that it is generally understood that parent involvement does not in and of itself guarantee improved educational outcomes but being able to participate ensure more accountability for the outcome. They also emphasized that effective teachers know that children can learn, succeed and achieve without parental involvement if the classroom environment provides appropriate support and instruction. In agreement, Springate and Stegelin (1999) concur that parents are still the key ingredients in the learning of their children as they are likely to be a constant factor in the lives of their children. As a result, effective parents will then ensure that they support their children's learning throughout the years of schooling.
In addition, Senechal and LeFevre (2002) stated that the importance of parental involvement in children's education had never been in any doubt and recently this topic had received increased attention through numerous researches. For example, Hill and Craft (2003) cited some researchers who found that parental involvement in children's education and school achievements was consistently associated with positive results. (Ames & Archer, 1987; Entwisle, Alexander, Pallas & Cadigan, 1987; Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, & Apostoleris, 1997; Hill, 2001; Jimerson, Egeland & Teo, 1999; Kohl, Lengua McMahon & The Conduct Problems Prevention Research Group, 2000; Luster and McAdoo, 1996), Feinstein and Symons (1999) found evidence that suggested that parental interest in children's education was the single most powerful predictor of achievement at age sixteen.
Benefits of parental involvement
Parental involvement benefits children, parents, teachers and the school. Research shows the tremendous positive impact that even the smallest efforts on the part of parents can have on children's learning. Beaty (2006) suggested that education should be viewed as a shared responsibility and to improve the educational outcome the school should reach out to the family. Furthermore, when children view their parents as a part of their educational journey, they feel motivated to achieve and feel justified in sharing achievement. He also added that "there is no doubt that when parents are closely involved with their children's pre-school programme, children tend to bloom" (p. 421).
According to Pena (2000) increase communication, increase volunteerism, better school support and better attitudes are just a few ways that parental involvement benefit parents, children and school. Additionally, when parents take an active interest in their child's education, the child's cognitive and physical development is enhanced; the child develops greater problem-solving skills and a significant increase occurs in the child's receptive and expressive language skills (Wishon et al, 1998, p.124). Several studies (Berk, 2006; Henderson & Berla,1994; Wishon et al, 1997) have agreed that parental involvement in school benefits children as they demonstrate greater responsiveness to both school and home environments and achieve academic success and wellbeing. Additionally, students benefit by getting higher grades, better attendance, and getting more homework done which builds their self-esteem.
In addition, Berla and Henderson (1994) concluded that when parents are involved, students achieved more regardless of ethnic background socio-economic status, and level of education. Educators also held higher opinions and expectations of students whose parents collaborate with teachers. As a result of parental involvement, students exhibited more positive attitudes and behaviour, hence, their misbehaviors decreased as parental involvement increased. Consequently, when programmes are designed to involve parents in full partnership, student's achievement increased and students who were farthest behind also made the greatest gains.
On the contrary, in a meta-analysis of 77 studies conducted by Jeynes (2005) underscored two patterns in his findings: (1) the aspect of parental involvement that required parents to invest large amount of time involved in communicating with children and (2) the more perceptive ones such as parental style and expectations had a greater influence on student's academic achievement than the more demonstrative types of parental involvement which included attendance and participation in school base activities and setting household rules.
Furthermore, researchers believe that good parent-teacher relationship influences student's performance positively. Izzo, Weissberg, Kasprow and Fendich (1999) asserted that when parents participated in school activities and had meaningful communications with teachers, they gain a clearer understanding of what the school expects of their children. As a result, they also learn from teachers how to help their children at home, thus enhancing their children's education and signaling to them that their parents value their education. They concurred that when parents attend PTA meetings, it created continuity between home and school, which is believed to be the most dominant spheres of influence in children's lives. Epstein (1991) concluded that when children received consistent messages from home and school they learn more.
Finally, children also benefit as research has shown that children whose parents are involved in their education showed greater social and emotional development (Allen & Daley, 2002). This included more resilience to stress, greater life satisfaction, greater self-direction and self-control, greater social adjustment, better mental health, more supportive relationships, greater social competence, more positive peer relations, more tolerance, and less delinquent behaviors (Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003).
Parents also benefit when they participate in their children's education in many ways. "Research findings have confirmed this fact that parents learn a great deal about child care from their early child care and education programme" (Riley, San Juan, Klinkner & Rammingen, 2008, p.103). When parents are involved some homes benefit tremendously as they become more intellectually stimulating. This is as a result of parents adopting activities and ways of interacting that they encountered at the schools their children attend. Parents also develop more positive attitudes towards themselves including greater feelings of self-confidence, self-worth and competence if the programme embraces and works with them. "Parents involved with schools in parent related activities have more knowledge of child development and an expanded understanding of the home as an environment for learning" (Eldridge, 2001, p. 66). As a result of this parents are better able and more willing to help their children at home.
Another beneficiary of parental involvement is the school, as there is improve morale among teachers, higher ratings of teachers by parents and more support from families. Wishon et al (1997) agreed that when parents become involved with the school they develop a better understanding of the goals set for both the school and student and the plans for achieving those goals. This statement justifies the importance of parental involvement. Furthermore, Epstein (1991) declared that children learn when parents are involved in their education. Motivated students are oftentimes more involved in class, are more concerned about homework and more successful academically. In addition, children's success in school will be dependent on the level of involvement of parents in the process. As a result, I am in agreement that schools need to keep parents involved, so they will better understand the importance of their role in the educational process.
Further studies have shown that schools benefitted when parents are involved in the activities. For example, (Epstein, 1991; Henderson, 1995) acknowledge that increased parental involvement had positive benefits for school as schools that favoured the involvement of parents usually outperformed schools with limited parental involvement On the basis of students' achievement and the overall quality of the school, those schools that had long-lasting and comprehensive parenting programmes were more effective in positively impacting students achievement than those without such programmes (Rioux and Berla, 1993). The positive benefits of parental involvement in school base activities cannot be overlooked. Hence, the school must continue to provide an environment in which parents are valued as primary influences in their children's lives and view themselves as essential partners in school life (McLaughlin, 2004)
Barriers to parental involvement
Although there are many benefits to parental involvement there are also some barriers. Some are attributed to parenting styles which have both positive and negative impact in the school and wider society. In assessing the different parenting styles and their impact on school involvement Berk (2006) posits that authoritative parents are warm but firm, attentive and sensitive to their children's needs, while the authoritarian parents appear cold and rejecting and frequently degrade their children by mocking and putting them down. On the other hand the permissive parents are overindulgent, inattentive and have little control over their children's lives which is similar to the uninvolved parents who have little involvement in their children's lives, are emotionally detached and oftentimes depress. As a result of the above parenting styles it is indicative that the permissive and uninvolved parent would not be involved in their children's school activities.
The former Minister of Education, Andrew Holness, in an article entitled Gov't to set up support group for parents, states that poor parenting is manifesting itself in children who are not socially well adjusted and who leave the private domain of the home and misbehave at school and in public. He further stated that the first strategy to solve this problem is education, so that parents can be introspective about their behaviour and reform achieved. Parents on the other hand have many problems that have prevented them from being involved in school. Some of the barriers to parental involvement are; parents being too busy, frustrated, too tired, having other siblings to care for, economically deprived, disinterested or too burdened by their own problems. However by building a relationship with each parent, teachers may help to eliminate any feelings of frustration, fear or anxiety on the parent's part.
Another barrier that prevents parents from being involved is their fear of being involved, not fully understanding what they can do and how valuable their contribution is to their children. Parents also feel that they do not have the ability to help their children. Eldridge (2001) confirms this in a statement by parents that they believe that "their assistance is not needed by the schools or teacher" (p.66). In addition, Decker and Decker (2005) opined that some parents may feel helpless about their ability to contribute to their children's education in any meaningful way. They further stated that this kind of behavior is usually exhibited among parents from the lower socio-economic background, who due to their limited education, experience difficulty in communicating with professionals. However, these researchers believed that being involved in parent's education programmes at their children's school, parents could enhance their self image which leads to greater confidence in the "parents as an educator role", and help other parents who are less capable.
Some practitioners do not help the situation either as they think parents have nothing to contribute. Becher (1984) stated that other factors are the attitude of practitioners who fear that parents will take over their teaching responsibilities and be too critical of them. In addition, practitioners are also uncomfortable talking about issues in front of parents as they do not trust them. Berger disagrees with the above arguments as he affirms that the practitioners must create an environment in which parents are perceived as partners in the educational process and not as adversaries.
Although Wallace (2002) contented that practitioners report a greater understanding of parents, their challenges and their cultural heritage when they are committed to parental involvement, parents sometimes can be difficult to deal with and as a result they put a strain on the parent-teacher relationship. This often become a barrier and hinders the parent-teacher relationship. Evidence of this is seen when they ignore all attempts at communication by not reading letters sent home or answering calls from school. Despite this Riley et al, (2008) recommend that teachers do not give up as it is the challenging parents who most need the teacher's attention and resources. Therefore, with a better understanding of a family's situation, teachers are more likely to be more supportive of the parents and less likely to be judgmental of them.
Amato (2000) and Epstein (1995) identified single parents as one of the barriers to parental involvement. This is as a result of single parents being poorer, less educated, and younger than is the case of two parents in two-parent homes (Entwisle, 1995, p. 139). Harris (as cited in Chipman, 1997, P. 51) disagrees however by stating that parents play an important role in the life of their children even if they are single, uneducated or economically deprived. It is quite obvious from the findings that parents have more benefits to gain than barriers to prevent them from being involved. Hence, it is my recommendation that parents use this as a catalyst for changing their action towards involvement in school base activities.
Improving parental involvement
It is important that the school takes the initiative in developing a positive relationship with the parents. Schaeffer and Betz (1992) affirm that "the key to removing the barriers, as is the key to all effective parent involvement, is the teacher" (p.25). This can be achieved before school begins and fostered throughout the school year. Epstein (1995) recommends that schools promote and support parenting skills and make communication more meaningful and regular between the home and school. Parents should be welcomed as volunteers, and their advice sought, since they know their children better than anyone else. The school can also help parents to understand the educational process and their role in supporting student's achievement. Consequently, parents should help with decision making as they are full partners in their children's education, and have many ideas that can be shared with the school.
She further states that schools should host grade level meetings for parents to learn parenting skills and child-rearing. This can be done through workshops, use of video tapes and phone voice messages. Parents can also be provided with suggestions on how to improve home conditions that support their children's learning. The school can also help by; providing training or educational courses for parents that will help them to get jobs, direct parents to support programme for health, nutrition and other services, assist parents in establishing home, environments to support students, teach parents activities that build self-esteem and competence in their children, encourage parents to give children responsibility, so children can take responsibility for their learning, host grade-level parenting workshops to discuss children's progress, conduct home visits as this is an effective strategy for involving parents especially in the inner-city where parents hide from the school.
For parents who are illiterate, provisions can be made wherein the school seeks to connect children to parents from the parenting body who can assist children with homework. A homework centre and a mentorship programme can also be implemented using parents, teachers, past students or older students with the ability to assist children with schoolwork. Furthermore, Epstein (1995) asserted that teachers can implement strategies such as maintaining a positive relationship with parents, having active parents spread the word to other parents and having schools implement strategies that exhibit themes of empowerment and outreach.
In addition, the school can initiate community meetings to help families understand the purpose and goals of the school and for the school to also understand families and their challenges. Furthermore, parents can be provided with information about child development and what to expect from children at different ages and stages of development, teach parents behavior modification strategies so they can discipline their children without force or corporal punishment, and help parents to develop ways they can stimulate their children's intellectual and emotional growth. While parents are waiting to collect their children, show videos about how children learn and how to work with children with special needs. In addition, help parents educate their children by ensuring that parents understand concepts being taught, offer parents opportunities to familiarize themselves with classroom materials and curriculum and provide parents with upcoming topics to be taught, so they can prepare their children for that learning or activity.
In conclusion, from the evidence provided above, I believe that parental involvement is important to the school, parents and children. The evidence for benefits far outweighs the barriers, hence I would recommend that parents get involve in school base activities. There can also be definite improvement in children's academic performance if parents are involved in the process. Despite the obstacles, the parents and school should ensure that they each do their part in promoting parental involvement. It is also important that the school take the initiative in developing a positive relationship with parents. The key to removing the barriers to effective parent involvement is the teacher who can achieve this before school begins and foster it throughout the school year. Parental involvement can benefit the school to a great extent which will in effect benefit the student's academic performance. From the various literature reviewed it is evident that, parental involvement is important to the school, parents and the child. Despite the obstacles, the parents and school should ensure that they each do their part in promoting parental involvement.
Identification of the Research Questions
In order to determine the level and benefits of parental involvement and to find strategies to improve the involvement the following questions were asked.
What are some of the factors that impede parental involvement?
In what ways do parents benefit from being involved in school base activities?
What are the strategies that can be used to maintain parental involvement?
Reflection on the literature to the student's own practice
This chapter focuses on the underlying theory and relevant literature related to parental
involvement in school base activities. It outlines information on parental involvement, benefits of parental involvement, barriers to parental involvement and strategies to get parents involved. The attempt has been made to make reference to locally based research wherever possible, in addition to international sources, so that a realistic perspective of the topic under review may be obtained.
As I reflect on the literature I am reminded of my own life, of how busy I am that I am not involved in my son's school activities. I do participate by allowing him to be involved in the activities at his school however, I rarely attend any meetings or school activities. If I were judged, I would be found as guilty as the parents I am writing about. I am grateful that it's not too late to get involved, as I have learnt from the literature the many ways in which parents can benefit. I too want to benefit. I want the parents to benefit also as they will, as a result of their involvement their children's academic performance will be improved. I now understand that there are many barriers that have prevented parents from getting involved. Because of this I will be able to teach parents how to overcome the barriers so they can be involved. I will also try to assist wherever possible with barriers of financial resources. Base on my own situation, I know I will be more empathetic towards the parents at of the students, although I will still insist on their participation. I particularly like the strategies used to get parents involved, as they are workable. As the principal, I know that I will be using some of these strategies at the beginning of the school year to get the parents involved from the onset.
CHAPTER 3: Plan of Action
Summary of the Action Plan
This action research project sought to find out the reasons why parents were not involved in school base activities and to find ways to improve their involvement.
In order to accomplish the project objectives, the following steps are necessary.
Step 1. Fieldwork will be undertaken between April - October 2013. A purposive and random sampling from both the attendance register and school records will be done to select thirty participants from the parent body. The purposive sample will be used for the focus groups and random sampling will be used for answering the questionnaires. Parents will then be notified by letters and face to face that they have been selected to participate in a study that seeks to find out why parents are not involved in school base activities and to find strategies to improve involvement. Parents will be notified of the ethical guidelines and then allowed to sign consent forms if they agree to participate.
Step 2. From the random sample, parents who can read will be given questionnaires to fill out and return. For the ones who cannot read they will be given assistance to complete questionnaires. Questionnaire will be administered to parents to ascertain their level of involvement in school base activities.
Step 3. Purposive sample will be placed in two group base on their level of involvement in school base activities (involved/not involved) for focus group session at different interval.
Step 4. Focus group discussions will be held with each group at two different times for an hour. The focus group discussion will be conducted on the school compound, in the boardroom, which is a comfortable setting, so participants will feel appreciated. Table and chairs will be arranged so that all participants can easily see each other. Name tags will be provided to help participants to better interact with each other. The session will cover three main topics in the span of 60 minutes. Participants will be told that the group will run for 90 minutes to prevent conflicts arising from late arrivals or topics warranting further exploration. The questions ask will be open-ended to seek essential information. Ending questions will be ask to prompt the participants to summarize their positions, provide feedback concerning the moderator's interpretation of the group results and seek any information that may have been missed. Note taking and audio tape recorder will be used to capture all essential information in an unbiased way. Audio- tape will be transcribed later. Information to answer research questions will be covered in focus group sessions. Narratives will be used to support participant's response to particular questions.
Step 4. Each meeting will be summarized. Summaries will be analyzed and a written report done. The responses will be summarized under different themes.
Step 5. The two most outstanding recommendations made will be implemented at different intervals in all upcoming school base activities, (18 activities up to October), to see if parental involvement has improved.
Step 6. All data will be analyzed and the results documented accurately in order to judge the effectiveness of the action research project. Data includes attendance register, questionnaires and narratives from focus group. Analysis may range from gathering impressions from listening to the session and or tapes of the session along with reviewing notes taken during the session. A careful analysis of a full set of transcripts from tape recordings will be documented. Intensive analysis of focus group data involves tape recording, transcribing and coding each session. Data will be represented on graphs.
Step 7. A report of the findings will be documented and presented to the Board of Management of the school, teachers and parents.
Step 8. If no improvement is recorded after innovation, then other recommendations will be implemented and evaluated until a solution is found.
Alignment of Materials with the plan of action
In order to accomplish the plan of action the following materials were needed: Questionnaires to be administered to parents, audio-tape to record focus group sessions. Note pads to take notes. Graphs will be used for representing data.
Validity of Instruments
In collecting the data using focus group, Wolcott's Strategies for Ensuring the Validity of Action Research will be used. The researcher will talk little, listen a lot, record accurately, begin writing early, let reader's see for themselves, report fully, be candid, seek feedback and write accurately (Mills, 2007, p. 95). Due to the educational level and ability of the parents that will be involved in this research, assurance will be made to ensure that the content-related evidence of validity are correct in order to get valid data from the questionnaire. Fraenkel et al. (2012) states that "validity depends on the amount and type of evidence there is to support the interpretations researchers intend to make concerning data they have collected" (p. 148).
Information will be collected from questionnaires and focus group discussions. In order to ensure that the information obtained through the use of the questionnaire is valid, appropriate and comprehensible content that is logically organized to get at the intended variable which is parental involvement will be used. The questions used will adequately cover the content to be assessed. The format will be appropriate as it moves from demographic details to yes/no responses which broadens into why responses to get a deeper and better understanding of participants views. Questions will also included short answers to get participants perception. Questionnaires will be designed to uncover parental participation, communication and attitude to school. The print will be clear, using size twelve font, spacing will be adequate as each question will have their own response spaces, instructions given will be clear and language used will be appropriate. Responses will be evaluated by restating the questions in a slightly different form at a later time in the interview. In addition, the instrument used and the topic of the research can also be replicated by other researchers.
Validity of the research will be measured by Guba's Criteria for Validity of Qualitative Research. According to Guba (as cited in Mills, 2007), dependability refers to the stability of data. To ensure that the data is dependable the overlap method will be used whereby the focus group discussion will be used to contribute in understanding responses on the questionnaires. An audit trail will also be established by allowing a peer to assist in examining the processes of data collection, analysis and interpretation. Confirmability will be used by practicing triangulation, comparing data sources and different methods. A detailed account will be given of the context in which the research was conducted to aid in transferability.
Reliability of Instruments
Mills (2007) posits that reliability is the degree to which a test consistently measures whatever it measures. The two instruments focus group and questionnaire will be reliable. They will be able to measure the data collected accurately and consistently wherever they are used. No matter where they are used the responses will be reliable for the environment in which they are used.
According to Fraenkel et al. (2012) reliability refers to the consistency of scores that is obtained from one instrument to another. The scores obtained may not necessarily be the same but it should be close. Both the researcher and the peer will agree on the descriptive accuracy of the data collected in ensuring that the data collected met the criteria for reliability.
Assessment and Effectiveness of the Plan of Action
The assessment and effectiveness of the plan of action is suitable for the intended research. It is hopeful that following the steps given in the plan of action the results will be achieved. However, since the results will be dependent on the human element, I cannot say with certainty if they will participate willingly in the research. I do hope however, that they do, so the problem can be solved.