Last Updated: Thursday, February 18, 2021

What is ‘Parental Involvement’ and ‘Parental Engagement’?

What is this?

The definitions of ‘Parental Involvement’ and ‘Parental Engagement’ have been sourced from literature on the subject matter – see research links below.

Who is this for?

About this research

‘Parental involvement’ is not a clearly or consistently defined term in literature. It has been described as: representing many different parental behaviours; parenting practices such as parental aspirations for their child’s academic achievement; parental communication with their children about school; parental participation in school activities; parental communications with teachers about their child; and parental rules at home which are considered to be education-related. Harris and Goodall (2007).

The range of definitions implies that parental involvement is: multifaceted in nature, because parental involvement subsumes a wide variety of parental behavioural patterns and parenting practices. Harris and Goodall (2007) and Goodall and Montgomery (2014) consider parental engagement as active and meaningful involvement in children’s learning. Such learning can take place in a variety of settings including early learning and childcare settings, schools, the community, through family learning and learning at home. Parental engagement represents a greater ‘commitment, ownership of action’ than parental involvement within educational settings such as early learning and childcare settings or schools.

While there are no universally recognised definitions in Scottish education today the term ‘parental involvement’ most often focuses on parents getting involved in the life and work of the establishment. Early learning and childcare settings and schools involve parents by encouraging on-going, two-way communication between home and the establishment. They make sure parents have opportunities to contribute to establishment improvement and making decisions that affect the establishment, and they use parents’ skills to enrich the curriculum.

‘Parental engagement’ most often refers to parents’ engagement in their child’s learning at home, at school, and in the wider community. Parental engagement is supported by discussion between parents/practitioners and focuses on how families can build on what they already do to help their children’s learning and provide a supportive home learning environment.

It is recognised that there is a continuum between parental involvement and parental engagement. The movement between the two represents a ‘shift in emphasis, away from the relationship between parents and schools, to a focus on the relationship between parents and their children’s learning’ (Goodall and Montgomery, 2014). It is not always easy to say whether something is ‘parental involvement’ or ‘parental engagement’. Whether parents are involved in their child’s education or engaged in their learning they can make a positive difference in their lives!

How was the research carried out?

The definitions of ‘Parental Involvement’ and ‘Parental Engagement’ have been sourced from literature on the subject matter.

What are the strengths of the research methodology?

A range of research has been considered to identify clear definitions of the terms ‘Parental Involvement’ and ‘Parental Engagement’.

Reflective questions

  • What does parental involvement and/or engagement look like in your school/setting?
  • How are your community partners involved in supporting parental involvement and engagement?
  • How effectively are you supporting your parents to become involved and engaged in their child’s learning?

Related reading/research

Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 Guidance

Harris, A. and Goodall, J. (2007), Engaging Parents in Raising Achievement: Do Parents Know They Matter?. Research Report DCSF-RW004. University of Warwick. Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Goodall, J. and Vorhaus, J., with the help of Carpentieri, J.D., Brooks, G., Akerman, R. and Harris, A. (2011), Review of Best Practice in Parental Engagement: Practitioners’ Summary. Research report DFE-RR156. Department for Education.

National Parenting Strategy 2012

Goodall, J. and Montgomery, C. (2014), Parental Involvement to Parental Engagement: A Continuum. Educational Review, Vol. 66, No. 4, 2 October 2014, pp399-410(12). Routledge.