Barriers to parent involvement in schools and school decision making
: a case study

  • Jean Whiteway Loke

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    This thesis explores the concept of parent involvement in schools and school decision making. It is written in the first person following one of the acceptable procedures identified within case study method and as suggested by Fry in Zakaluk and Samuels (1988, pp.85) as being an acceptable procedure for scholarly writing.

    The research context follows the volatile periods in education in the 60's and 70's when the notion of parent involvement in schools gained prominence and by the 80's had become an integral part of education systems in Australia, England and America. The theme of the research is 'barriers' to this involvement that inhibit the equity of the process. These barriers act to effectively exclude large sections of communities whose children attend government schools. The specific focus of the research is an exploration of one potential barrier - the writings produced by education department personnel, particularly those of the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia.

    The contents of the thesis are set out in five chapters with the last three specifically covering the case study. General operational definitions are given in Chapter One with more context specific definitions given within the chapters. There is an outline of the predominant theories (psycho/social, economic and political) that underpin the concept of parent involvement and provide a grounding for this research. The concept is given its historical perspective in Chapter One which provides an understanding of the forms of involvement that have occurred over time and sets each form in relation to the other on a continuum. Evidence from the literature in Chapter Two, is employed to confirm general and widespread existence of barriers to parent and citizen involvement in schools and school decision making.

    The research is reductionist in approach with a focus on one possible barrier that has received little attention in the literature. The research strategy used draws on aspects of hermeneutics, linguistics and content analysis to develop a case for the existence of a barrier being created by the writings of the education personnel. Chapter Three includes an explanation and illustration of the ideology underpinning the research design and methodology, as well as a list of the key research questions. The extracted data have been collated and presented ready for analysis in Chapter Four. Responses to the key questions and the research problem derived from the data base are presented in Chapter Five.

    The research raises a number of questions that indicate the need for further research. It presents a number of recommendations for the nature of this research and for possible means of overcoming the barriers that have been identified (see pp. 176-177).

    The major findings of the case study are:
    1. That mixed messages are being sent to parents about the nature of their allowed involvement through the 'texts' that are produced by the NTED (Northern Territory Education Department).

    2. That parents could obtain perceptions from the texts about the writers' advocacy of the concept of parent involvement.

    3. That the writing of the NTED personnel can be perceived as revealing their general value preference towards the concept of parent and community involvement (pp.174-175).

    Thus 'texts' produced by the NTED, for parents to use, can act as a barrier that inhibits the involvement of large numbers of parents in any school community in the Northern Territory.
    Date of Award1993
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDarol Cavanagh (Supervisor)

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