The Contribution of Digital Technologies to the Involvement of Parents in School Life of Their Children: The Case of African Minorities

The Contribution of Digital Technologies to the Involvement of Parents in School Life of Their Children: The Case of African Minorities

Maria João Cruz (Instituto de Educação, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal) and Guilhermina Lobato Miranda (Instituto de Educação, Universidade de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJTHI.2019040103
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Abstract

Using digital technologies as a means to promote parental involvement has been a practice used in projects in different countries. Parental involvement has been studied as a factor contributing to the academic achievement of learners, although some ethnic minorities face barriers to this involvement. This article presents the current state of a research, carried out in the context of a PhD. It used the digital technologies that are present at schools, as a privileged means of training parents of African minorities in the scope of the language of schooling, in order to support their involvement in the school life of their children. The authors used an action-research methodology with a variety of data collection instruments: biographical interviews, naturalistic observation, research diary and field notes. The results show that parents became more involved in their children's school activities and began to better understand their lives inside school.
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Background

Parental involvement in children's school life is a well-explored topic in education, as it has repercussions on school integration and achievement (Clinton & Hattie, 2013; Fan & Williams 2010; Sui-Chu & Willms, 1996; Trivette & Andersen 1995). Considering the four dimensions identified by Sui-Chu and Willms (1996), namely home discussion, school communication, home supervision and school participation, this research carried out its intervention in the context of “school communication”, with the purpose of helping parents in the dialogue they established with their children about the realities inherent in the day-to-day of the schools. This was one of the weaknesses identified in the Report on Schools which in Portugal are classified as “Educational Territory of Priority Intervention” (see TEIP Report, 2012). This Report state that there were low levels of participation and involvement of the parents in the academic life of their children, mainly due to dismissal or incapacity.

To promote the parental involvement, we provided training actions to a group of parents, who wished to participate, focused on the teaching and learning that occur in the school life and in the language of schooling. To support our intervention, we used the digital technologies present in the schools. The concept of “language of schooling” is taken from Hattie (2009) when he says that the contributions from home affect positively or negatively the achievement of students. One of the aspects that this author distinguishes is related to the initial expectations of the relatives in face to the students' school process, where what gives advantage to the children is not the expectation in itself, but the knowledge of the language of the schooling that the parents have. Therefore, in addition to the low socioeconomic status of families, which does not favor the academic achievement of the students and the brain structure (Jednoróg, Altarelli, Monzalvo, Fluss, Dubois, Billard, Dehaene-Lambertz, & Ramus, 2012), ignorance of this language by parents may be the greatest barrier to the school achievement of children. The language of the schooling is understood as the language about the nature of day-to-day classroom learning (Hattie, 2009). Our study has embraced this definition, but has gathered the implicit concept in the practices of the Flaxmere Project, (Clinton, Hattie, & Dixon, 2007) which encompassed day-to-day schooling, including elements associated with the places of residence of the caregivers. It is a comprehensive concept, which we were happy to welcome in the face of the great lack of knowledge that the group of participants had about what it is and implies the home-school relationship. Encouraging this research, Clinton and Hattie (2013), in another study, argue that it is important to foster this parental learning, as it is crucial for children to realize that parents are involved with them in their learning and in the reality of the school.

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