By Dr Nina Hood
Our webinar with Dr Melanie Riwai-Couch, Tufulasi Taleni and Ally Bull, co-authors of the report School-led learning at home: The voices of parents of Māori and Pasifika students provided a rich discussion of the learning emerging from the lockdown period about the value of home-school partnerships and how schools can engage in true, bidirectional partnership with families. Below are some of the key ideas discussed by our three speakers.
Reporting and communication, what do parents really want to know?
Parents reported in the survey enjoying the opportunity during lockdown to get to know their children as learners, including what they enjoyed, the challenges they faced and how they were progressing. There often is a disconnect between business as usual reporting and communication by schools and what parents really want to know. This provides fertile ground for schools to probe further and to ask: What do we know about what families want to know about their child’s progress? What are the best ways of communicating this information? Do we provide opportunities for families to ask questions as well as being given information from schools?
Multiple views and contexts of learning
There was a prevalent view among parents surveyed of learning as a linear trajectory. The reality, however, is that learning develops in fits and starts, with multiple inputs leading to quite different learning pathways. The lockdown period has shone a light on the valuable learning that occurs outside of school and at times the disconnect between the values and the learning inside and outside of school. We now need to get better at helping children to mediate the boundaries between home and school.
Exploring different views of partnership
True partnership involves parents being “determining contributors” to the education of their children rather than “informed consumers”. Telling parents what is happening is not partnership. There is an opportunity arising from the lockdown to explore how positive experiences of both children and parents during this period can be carried forward into schools. This includes the opportunity to disrupt and challenge longstanding assumptions about what works and to build powerful partnerships in which families and schools are engaged in ongoing dialogue that traverses all aspects of school life.
Approaching parent and student voice
It is important that schools approach the capturing of parent and student voice without having the answers. In some instances, a basic survey might be the best approach for capturing parent voice. However, it also may be beneficial to have face-to-face conversations. There is power in keeping things simple, asking just a few open questions. It is important that the information captured is genuinely used to make decisions and that families are invited to participate in the decision-making process. It’s about working with, not doing to, communities.
Opportunities moving forward
The report has emphasised the value and importance of engaging with the perspectives of Māori and Pasifika parents. While the recent lockdown presents an opportunity for focusing on partnerships, it’s important to remember that it is always the right time to strengthen partnerships. A key part of this work involves becoming a better listener and recognising that you don’t always need to solve problems but rather to listen deeply in order to collectively address issues. There is an opportunity currently for schools to capture and build on the learning that has occurred over the past eight weeks, to understand how students, teachers and families have been impacted, and to use this knowledge as a springboard to a hopeful future.