Family Learning: Engaging with Parents

Family Learning: Engaging with Parents

Family Learning: Engaging with Parents

Family Learning: Engaging with Parents


In Scotland, the involvement of parents in their children's learning is of increasing concern following the 2006 Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act. However, there is widespread apprehension that the legislation will do little to increase genuine involvement. In this book, author Jeannie Mackenzie makes a case for schools to take a fresh approach. She contends that in seeking to increase parental involvement in learning, schools tend to use means that are informed by the professional expertise of teachers, thus unintentionally distancing, disengaging, and disempowering the very parents schools most wish to reach. This practice is contrasted with that of family learning, which uses an appreciative, affirming, and accessible approach to better achieve the goal. The book sketches the history of family learning in Scotland and its connections with international developments. It proposes a working definition of family learning and means to measure its effectiveness. Family learning is located within social and situational theories of learning, and the book provides practical examples from across Scotland. The book will be of interest both at the strategic and the operational level, and will appeal to teachers, parents, policy makers, and adult educators.


There have been many occasions during my professional career when I have longed to be able to lay my hands on a book about family learning.

Working for over 40 years as youth worker, adult educator, education officer, assistant director of education, researcher and professor of community education, I have been concerned with learning in communities and the crucial role of parents in their children’s learning. I am not a trained teacher; my professional background is in youth work and community education. Yet the message of this book is as challenging to me as it will be to all involved in school education and everyone who wishes to maximise the educational development of all young people and empower parents as educators.

Jeannie Mackenzie takes us to the heart of territory where the concerns of parents, educators in schools and the community actually meet and where potential joint working and professional collaboration become compelling and a positive invitation to create change. She has assembled convincing international and well-regarded research which draws clear links between parents’ involvement in learning relationships with their children, and marked improvement in each child’s attainment, confidence and progression within school. Similar evidence is presented which demonstrates the significant effect which an acknowledged and nurtured parental educational role can have upon the confidence and personal development of parents and other adult relatives. Family learning is shown to be a creator of social capital because these benefits spread within both school and community.

The author has taught in primary and secondary schools; worked in community-based educational projects in disadvantaged communities and latterly served as a quality improvement officer in an education authority. As a result, her research on the current practice of family learning in Scotland is authoritative, instructive and reveals the non-statutory and somewhat patchy nature of local authority provision. Case studies that outline the contrasting characteristics of current practice and the advantages and challenges of this kind of work are invaluable as a guide to other teachers, field workers and researchers who will wish to examine the varied approaches and outcomes. The comprehensive chapter on definitions of family learning will serve to clarify what is . . .

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