A Bioecological Perspective on Parental Involvement in Children’s Education
Leah O’Toole, Marino Institute of Education (Ireland)
The rhetoric in favour of parental involvement in their children’s education is high; in fact the importance of parental involvement is so well established by so much research that it represents one of the most agreed-upon principals of good educational practice (Hornby and Lafaele, 2011). However, the literature often refers to ‘parents’ as though they are one homogenous group, disregarding the potential impact of issues such as race, social class, culture, gender, etc (Robinson and Harris, 2014). It is often inaccurately assumed that all parents are equally knowledgeable about educational systems, and have equal capacity to support their children. Since children’s access to school is mediated through their parents, and some parents are not in a position to promote their children’s interests through differing levels of cultural, economic and social capital (Bourdieu, 1986), then it cannot be argued that educational interventions that expect all parents to behave similarly will provide equitable outcomes for children. This paper reports the results of an Irish study of parental involvement in children’s educational transitions, and theorises the processes involved using Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model of Human Development (Bronfenbrenner and Morris, 2006). Its findings foreground the importance of proactive approaches to relationship building on behalf of educators, the efficacy of well-planned contextual supports for parental involvement, and the key role of understanding issues of diversity in informing good educational practice.
Keywords: Parental involvement; Diversity; Relationships; Bioecological theory