Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Application of Participatory Action Research to Family-School Intervention. (Research into Practice)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Application of Participatory Action Research to Family-School Intervention. (Research into Practice)

Article excerpt

Abstract. Participatory action research is a process in which researchers operate as full collaborators with members of an organization (stakeholders) in linking theory and research to acceptable and effective practice. Schools are being charged to use this approach to address the challenges of developing system-level interventions for many of their current problematic areas, such as family-school partnerships with economically disadvantaged and culturally and linguistically diverse families. Participatory action research is a means for school psychologists, as participatory researchers, to provide leadership for collaborative research within schools for the development of system-level interventions. A case study is described in which a school psychologist served as the participatory researcher in an action research process for the development of a family-school partnership program in a Chapter I, ethnically and linguistically diverse elementary school. The outcomes indicated that the participatory action research proc ess resulted in the design and implementation of a research-based family-school partnership program that was culturally specific, was acceptable to stakeholders (parents and teachers), and had the potential for sustainability. Participatory action research is a viable means for school psychologists to provide leadership in developing research-based, effective and acceptable system-level interventions in their schools.

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The theory and the related research underlying the basic principles of schools partnering with families are based on the ecological theoretical perspective of child development. When viewing a child's development from this perspective, family-school partnerships are seen as essential to optimize the academic, social, emotional, and physical development of a child (Bronfenbrenner, 1979, 1986; comer, 1984; Epstein, 1995). There has been extensive research supporting the theoretical principles underlying family-school partnerships. A conclusion from this research is that there is a strong relationship between parent involvement and improved educational outcomes for students (Christenson, Rounds, & Franklin, 1992; Henderson & Berla, 1994). Although all children benefit from parent involvement, it appears to be particularly important for children whose families are economically disadvantaged and/or ethnic minority-group members (Dauber & Epstein, 1993; McCaleb, 1994; Moles, 1993).

Unfortunately, relationships with economically disadvantaged and/or ethnic minority parents are perceived by school personnel as the most difficult to develop. This often results in teachers assuming that the parents are unwilling or unable to work with them (Moles, 1993). Also, research has established that there is a strong relationship between family status variables (e.g., socioeconomic status, education levels, marital status, ethnicity) and parents' involvement in children's schooling (Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997). A study by Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, and Apostoleris (1997) reported a positive relationship between socioeconomic status and parents' attendance at school activities and support of education through home-based activities. These authors found that the higher the socioeconomic level, the higher the level of parent involvement. They also found two-parent families to be more involved than single-parent families. Lareau (1996) found lower socioeconomic parents to perceive their ability to be involved with their children's learning and school as limited. Other researchers have noted that among various ethnic- and language-minority parents, differing levels of parent involvement with schooling were reported, and that these minority groups reported being less involved than the dominant ethnic group (McCaleb, 1994; Okagaki & Frensch, 1998).

It is very important to note, however, that family process variables (defined as specific things that families do to support their children's learning) have been found to be more important than status variables in predicting student achievement. …

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