Interactions between the school and family are maximised when each views the other as educational partners striving towards the common goal of improving children’s learning and outcomes.
Parental engagement needs to be proactive rather than reactive (Olmstead 2013). Developing multiple ways in which parents can be engaged in their children’s education avoids parents shying away from engagement because they cannot see appropriate and constant entry points for that engagement (McKenna and Millen 2013). Creating both a physical and relational ‘shared knowledge’ space is an essential component of successfully working with parents to assist in children’s educational development (Mousoulides 2013; Campbell 2011).
In order to take advantage of opportunities for home-school-community relationships, the parents’ ideas and opinions about their children must be heard and educators must be receptive to this parental voice and presence (McKenna and Millen 2013). Successful communication with parents must be multidirectional, and their engagement in their children’s education must be understood as fluid and specific to culture and context (McKenna and Millen 2013). Conversely, open, multidirectional communication also allows parents to examine and better understand any preconceived notions they might have regarding teachers and school (McKenna and Millen 2013).
Positive teachers’ beliefs and attitudes are needed to maintain the best possible parental engagement, and to build mutual understandings and collaboration (Mousoulides 2013; Emerson et al 2012). Educators need to be careful that they do not slip into a ‘deficit’ thinking style in which parents are thought of in strict terms specific to the educational system (McKenna and Millen 2013). By encouraging an educational partnership as opposed to a formal or social partnership, the learning process of children is best facilitated (Oostdam and Hooge 2013).
Using technology to increase parental engagement is crucial for the future of children’s learning (Olmstead 2013; ). School’s need to maximise emerging technological tools to promote better communication between teachers and parents, and this can include voice-calling systems, school websites, class-parent portals, emails, and e-newsletters (Olmstead 2013). If schools can use technology to allow parents to view their children’s assignments grades as well as upcoming events or tests, some of the time pressures around when parents and teachers can communicate may be relieved (Olmstead 2013).