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Monday, March 12, 2012

One's Pedagogy in Parental Involvement

One's Pedagogy in Parental Involvement

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

I would love it if parents were more involved in their children’s education. Investment reaps dividends.

Last week on Twitter, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan urged parents “to be more active and vocal.”  Michelle Rhee, former Washington D.C. Chancellor of Schools and StudentsFirst founder, provided links to information on Parent Unions as a “way to be more involved in the decisions affecting their kids’ education.” 

I understand Duncan’s and Rhee’s desires to share information that will enhance parental efficacy, in that large numbers of parents have felt disenfranchised over the years – many with good reason.  We need to ensure that parents are valued as “most critical” to the educational equation in their partnership and expertise!

Yet, the aforementioned avenues for involvement are not really the ones that I have witnessed as most effective in raising achievement.  I would suggest instead that the following examples of parental involvement would reap greater return in children’s academic performance, through what I call One’s Pedagogy in Parental Involvement in education.  I commit myself as a parent to these strategies for involvement, as I am sure you do as well.

Examples of One’s Pedagogy in Parental Involvement would include:

1.   Waking up in the morning prior to our children, so that children rise promptly, fashion choices are mindful, breakfasts are eaten, teeth are brushed, and book bags are organized.
2.     Ensuring that dinner table conversations are held regularly, so that events of the day can be discussed, problems can be solved, and homework can be monitored.
3.  Modeling good relationships and demonstrating patience, temperance, and effective communication.
4.  Checking in the middle of the night for electronic devices used for round-the-clock gaming or co-dependency texting.
5.   Evaluating children’s friendships and placing limits around those that are a bad influence.
6.   Holding firm on parental boundaries and decisions in the household, as children of all ages need to experience our saying “No,” thereafter accepting that some things in life are non-negotiable.
7.     Modeling life-long learning by reading books or by turning off the television to engage in family activities.
8.    Reading and discussing school regulations (Handbooks) with our children, clarifying that positive behavior in school prevents kids from being in twice as much trouble once getting home.
9.  Attending school functions when invited and showing support for our children’s academic achievement and extra-curricular accomplishments.
10. Teaching our children to respect their elders and to assist those who are less fortunate, as most everything they will need to know in life, they really did learn while in Kindergarten (Fulghum, 1989).

I, like Secretary Duncan and Ms. Rhee, believe we should steadfastly champion and honor the parents of our school children, as they are truly the best experts on their children.  As such, parents should much more often be invited to our schools to “partner with us,” rather than “listen to us.” 

Yet, as one concerned with deep conversation and meaningful debate in pursuit of heightened achievement and our children’s economic competitiveness through school re-imagination, I must ask …

“Although we cannot understate the importance of empowering parents and ensuring that they are honored as most-critical to their children's educational success, what is the better leveraging point for enhancing student success: One’s Pedagogy in Parental Involvement … or louder voices and union membership?”


Fulghum, R. (1989). All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten: Uncommon thoughts on common things. New York, NY: Villard Books.


Dr. Ryan Donlan encourages your thoughtful and spirited commentary on this Blog or at  Please feel free to give him a call as well at (812) 237-8624.


  1. While I agree with what you are saying, and we as educators must continue to strive to raise parental involvement, my issue is really more with people (including educators) who appear to want to use lack of parental involvement as a crutch for poor student success. What can we do to help the child when the parent is either unwilling or unable to be involved?

  2. Well-said, Cynthia! Your issue is mine as well -- This "crutch" is in a sense, a "soft bigotry of low expectations." As for your question ... one possible answer could be -- Focus on self-efficacy, and move full-speed-ahead with relevant academics and needs-fulfillment. Thanks for writing! Ryan Donlan