Evidence for Learning: Parental engagement

Parental engagement

A summary of the research evidence on parental engagement in the Australasian context.

The Teaching & Learning Toolkit focuses on impact; it presents an estimate of the average impact of parental engagement on learning progress, based on the synthesis of a large number of quantitative studies from around the world.

This page offers a summary and analysis of individual Australasian studies on parental engagement. In contrast to the Toolkit it includes studies which do not estimate impact, but instead investigate the implementation of interventions and how they are perceived by school leaders, teachers and students. This information is valuable for school leaders and teachers interested in finding out more about particular examples of parental engagement interventions that have been delivered in Australia and New Zealand.

This Australasian Research Summary was generated by Melbourne Graduate School of Education in 2016. 

Parental engagement covers the active engagement of parents in supporting their children’s learning at school. This includes programs focused on parents and their skills (such as improving literacy or IT skills), general approaches to encourage parents to support their children to read or do mathematics, and more intensive programs for families in crisis. Overall, there remains a limited amount of published studies on parental participation and schooling in Australasia.

The meta-analysis by Sénéchal and Young (2008), which included Australian data, examined intervention studies that tested the effects of parent-child reading activities on children s reading acquisition. The combined results for the 16 intervention studies, representing 1,340 families, showed a positive effect for parent participation in children s reading acquisition with a large effect size of 0.65 (95 per cent confidence interval [CI] from 0.53 to 0.76). The interventions in which parents tutored their children using specific literacy activities had a larger effect than those in which parents simply listened to their children read.

The meta-synthesis by Wilder (2014) examined nine meta-analyses into the effect of parental engagement on academic achievement. The meta-analyses examined (discussed in this paragraph) indicate that parental expectations, out of all types of parental engagement studied, correlates strongest with academic achievement (GPA). This relationship was strong across all age groups and ethnicities. The Fan and Chen (2001) study examined 25 studies that linked general forms of academic achievement and parental engagement, concluding that using generalised definitions of parental engagement and academic achievement will not elucidate effective results. They suggested using individual measures such as reading, writing, numeracy, etc. Despite this, they found a strong positive relationship between parental engagement and academic achievement. The strongest relationship was with parental expectations. The Jeynes (2003) study examined the relationship between parental engagement and academic achievement across 20 studies. This study broke down academic achievement into GPA, standardised tests, and teacher reports. It was found that parental engagement had a positive relationship with different aspects of academic achievement, with GPA demonstrating the strongest relationship. Examining the effect of parental engagement on urban elementary students, Jeynes (2005) conducted a meta-analysis of 41 studies, using a broad definition of parental engagement. The strongest positive correlation was found between parental expectations and academic achievement. The study by Erions (2006) examined parental tutoring on academic achievement across 37 studies. A positive relationship was found between parental tutoring and academic achievement. Jeynes (2007) examined parental engagement for urban secondary students across 52 different studies. Once again, parental expectations were found to have the largest positive correlations with academic achievement. However, the correlation is stronger for elementary students than for secondary students. The findings of the Jeynes (2012) follow-up study also supported the positive relationship between academic achievement and parental engagement. The study by Patall, Cooper and Roleinso (2008) found higher rates of homework completion and fewer homework problems associated with parental engagement. Patall et al., (2008) identified that there was no strong link between parental engagement and students’ outcomes in secondary students, although the meta-analysis showed an impact of parental engagement on achievement in primary students. The study by Hill and Tyson (2009) found that the positive relationship between parental engagement and academic achievement was mediated by parents’ ethnicity.

Niklas, Tayler and Schneider (2015) found that when parent-led, home-based literacy activities (HBLA) were undertaken more frequently, the impact on a child’s academic outcomes was greater. However, this joint Australian and German study, which involved 900 students over four years, stands alone in examining the effects of a specific type of parental participation in Australia. Parents with a higher education engaged in HBLA more frequently than parents with lower education. Migration background and main language spoken at home was strongly associated with HBLA in the German sample. Children who experienced HBLA on a daily basis outperformed children who undertook these activities less often, on both verbal and cognitive tasks [p < 0.001; partial E2=0.02 (IQ; E4Kids); 0.03 (VA; E4Kids); 0.05 (IQ; SRK); 0.24 (VA; SRK)]. Children whose parents have a higher education and/​or who speak the dominant official language of the country as their main language also had increased performance on the verbal and cognitive measures.

Erion, J. (2006). Parent tutoring: A meta-analysis. Education and Treatment of Children, 79 – 106.

Fan, X., & Chen, M. (2001). Parental involvement and students’ academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational psychology review, 13(1), 1 – 22.

Hill, N. E., & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: a meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental psychology, 45(3), 740.

Jeynes, W. H. (2003). A meta-analysis the effects of parental involvement on minority children’s academic achievement. Education and urban society, 35(2), 202 – 218.

Jeynes, W. H. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relation of parental involvement to urban elementary school student academic achievement. Urban education, 40(3), 237 – 269.

Jeynes, W. H. (2007). The relationship between parental involvement and urban secondary school student academic achievement a meta-analysis. Urban education, 42(1), 82 – 110.

Jeynes, W. (2012). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students. Urban Education, 47(4), 706 – 742.

Niklas, F., Tayler, C., & Schneider, W. (2015). Home-based literacy activities and children’s cognitive outcomes: A comparison between Australia and Germany. International Journal of Educational Research, 71, 75 – 85.

Patall, Erika A., Harris Cooper, and Jorgianne Civey Robinson. Parent involvement in homework: A research synthesis.” Review of educational research 78.4 (2008): 1039 – 1101.

Sénéchal, M., & Young, L. (2008). The Effect of Family Literacy Interventions on Children’s Acquisition of Reading from Kindergarten to Grade 3: A Meta-Analytic Review. Review of Educational Research, 78(4), 880 – 907.

Wilder, S. (2014). Effects of parental involvement on academic achievement: a meta-synthesis. Educational Review, 66(3), 377 – 397.

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Parental involvement; family literacy programmes; parents as tutors.