Secondary School Parents Feel in Community with Their Children’s Schools When…


Parents are recognized as key educational stakeholders contributing to positive student outcomes. For decades educational researchers have been pursuing the question, how do you increase parent involvement in schools? With this question, educators and policymakers are curators of parent involvement, resulting in practices that tend to be school-centric (Lawson, 2003). Parents are commonly emphasized as partners in education; adages such as "it takes a whole village to raise a child" are invoked, but whether and/or how parents feel part of a school community is rarely interrogated. This research redirected the study of parents in schools from the typical question of "involvement" by asking, what makes parents feel in community in their children's schools? We focused on secondary school parents since research shows parents' involvement declines at this level (Epstein, 2001), and they feel displaced on the school landscape (Blinded, 2013). Based on semi-structured interviews with 18 parents of rural secondary schools and 13 parents of urban secondary schools in Alberta, Canada, we identified discourses that demonstrated parents' sense of community with, and sense of disconnection from, their children's secondary schools. Using Freeman's (2017) categorical thinking as an approach to analysis, data were viewed through four lenses as proposed by McMillan and Chavis (1986) in their sense of community theory: membership, influence, integration and fulfillment of needs, and shared emotional connection. This research advances the conversation about parents by injecting a conceptual focus on community, a term with current and universal appeal.

Author Information
Bonnie Stelmach, University of Alberta, Canada
Marcela Herrera-Farfan, University of Alberta, Canada

Paper Information
Conference: IICEHawaii2019
Stream: Educational policy

This paper is part of the IICEHawaii2019 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon