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Parent Involvement vs. Engagement

-by Tanya Stogre, Grade 5 Humanities

In my first blog in this 4-part series on parental engagement, I gave a brief outline of what the research says about why having parent and community involvement is significant. In this blog, I will discuss the difference between parental involvement and engagement, the importance of the distinction and the research behind it.

Involvement: comes from the Latin, ‘involvere’, which means ‘to roll into’ and by extension implies wrapping up or enveloping parents somehow into the system (Benson, 1999, p. 48). The implication in the word is that the person ‘involved’ is co-opted, brought into the act by another party (Beare, 1993, p. 207, as cited in Benson, 1999, p. 48).

Engagement, in comparison to involvement, comes from en, meaning “make,” and gage, meaning “pledge” – to make a pledge (Harper, 2001), to make a moral commitment (Sykes, 1976, p. 343). The word engagement is further defined as “contact by fitting together; ... the meshing of gears”. The implication is that the person ‘engaged’ is an integral and essential part of a process, brought into the act because of care and commitment.

Resulting in movement away from: the typical hierarchical structure of power and relationship within schools, from the unidirectional agendas set by the schools, from the sense of ownership assumed by educators for these agendas, and from a single focus of parent involvement being on its benefits for children.

By extension, engagement implies enabling parents to take their place alongside educators in the schooling of their children, fitting together their knowledge of children, of teaching and learning, with teachers’ knowledge. With parent engagement, possibilities are created for the structure of schooling to be flattened, power and authority to be shared by educators and parents, and the agenda being served to be mutually determined and mutually beneficial.

In order for this to be the case, though, there must be the recognition that both educators and parents hold knowledge. Engagement also has the potential to promote teacher and parent knowledge being acted upon in side-by-side relationships, resulting in shared power and decision-making, and mutually established agendas. (Pushor, Ruitenberg, et al., 2005).

Teaching and Learning Research Exchange: Parent Engagement and Leadership, Debbie Pushor and Claudia Ruitenberg, November 2005

1 comment:

Garry McKinnon said...

Tanya, I like your description with reference to the literature, of engaged parents as taking their place alongside educators in the schooling of their children. The community garden project which you so very capably facilitated, exemplifies parent and community member engagement.

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