This week we were asked to research a topic of interest to devise a potential research task.  One of the things I have struggled with since moving to a new school is how to engage this different group of children so that they are actively participating in their learning and we are all enjoying our time together. So of course this is where my research led me. The following is my outline for research, which will be refined and expanded throughout this semester:

Research Topic

Australia’s cultural diversity has implications for schooling, however, students from different ethnic backgrounds are often reported on as a group, but they do not, in fact, have the same achievement outcomes. For example, Cobold (2010) reports that Asian students perform significantly higher on mathematics tests and reading levels when compared to students from Middle Eastern, Pacific Island and North African backgrounds. This homogenised approach to examining students’ achievements based on ethnicity assumes similarity of parental engagement with learning and attitudes across ethnic groups. The research proposed here examines Middle-Eastern parents’ engagement with their child’s learning and family attitudes towards education with the aim of identifying how these impact on student attitudes and achievement.

Draft research question

How does Middle-Eastern Australian parental engagement with their child’s learning affect student engagement and achievement?

From Literature to Research Question and Practical Importance

Cobold’s (2010) scathing account of the The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority’s (ACARA) ‘My School’ website and its failure to recognise the effects of different ethnic group concentrations in specific schools and areas as an additional factor when examining overall school performance reveals a serious flaw in our education system. In Australia’s multicultural environment, it is more important than ever before to examine the impacts of parental engagement on schooling. Goodall (2013) defines parental engagement as much more that parental involvement at school activities. It includes parent interactions with the school, but it also includes “..parental engagement in their learning in the home, and the atmosphere towards learning in the home” (Goodall, 2013, p134).

Gorard, See and Davies’ 2012 report “The Impact of attitudes and aspirations on educational attainment and participation” examined this wider concept of parental engagement. They present a causation model that relates beliefs and behaviour to educational engagement and performance. Their meta-analysis of over 166,000 reports and studies found that there are specific elements of family and student beliefs and attitudes that impact on how students engage with the education system and beyond.

Similarly, Kordi and Baharudin (2010) and Fan, Williams and Wolters (2102) research also found that parental engagement and attitudes towards learning and education are different and thus have different effects on their children’s educational outcomes. These studies examined the differences between Asian and European American families and Caucasian,  African American, Asian American and Hispanic families.

There is a lack of research into the impact of ethnic background in Australian schools and their effects on student engagement and attitudes towards learning. Cobold (2010) discusses various reports undertaken but these focus on reporting the differences as achievement results and not examining the underlying causes. Goodall’s (2013) six point model of parental engagement to support children’s learning, derived from their comparisons of parenting and student outcomes, may then be a useful starting point for examining Middle Eastern background families with students in the Australian education system context. This could be used for the development of appropriate, targeted interventions with this community. This model has an Authoritative parenting style at its centre, with the other dimensions being Learning in the home, Beginning learning early, taking an Active interest, having High aspirations, and Staying engaged.

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