Using Social Media to “Engage Parents in Inquiry Curriculum” (EPIC)

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Willis, Linda-Dianne
Exley, Beryl
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For the last several decades, parent-school engagement has shifted to viewing parents as playing central roles alongside teachers as co-educators in their children’s school learning. Such an approach has been shown to enhance student learning and wellbeing outcomes. The continual growth and rapid expansion of digital technologies and platforms, particularly social media, has thus raised questions about how these technologies may (or may not) facilitate parent-school engagement. This presentation presents the findings of a research project called EPIC – “Engaging Parents in Inquiry Curriculum”. The project investigated: how parent-school engagement developed; the enablers and impediments of social media-supported inquiry curriculum; the benefits to student learning and wellbeing; and how social media enabled or impeded teacher, parent and student voice.

Using a collaborative inquiry approach, data were collected from two early-years teachers, their students, and the students’ parents using surveys, online weekly meetings, and interviews. To facilitate participant interactions, the research harnessed the ubiquity of social media platforms such as Skype and apps such as Seesaw to complement face-to-face exchanges. Rogoff’s three interrelated planes of sociocultural analysis – personal, interpersonal, and community – were used to examine interactions among the different participants and the effects of these interactions on their participation and learning. The agency|structure dialectic provided a conceptual lens to describe and explain how the use of social media as part of an inquiry curriculum enabled or impeded parent-school engagement.

The findings highlighted how access to knowledge about inquiry curriculum approaches as well as ways to contribute to online social media spaces variously affected teacher, parent and student participation and hence possibilities of parent-school engagement. The presentation discusses the project's contribution to an emerging contemporary model of how engaging parents in inquiry curriculum that includes social media can enable parents and schools/teachers to work together to improve student learning and wellbeing in different contexts. The presentation also discusses the model’s transformative potential for scalable, transferable use within and across education sites, systems, and organisations with possible broader long-term social, economic and political impact—nationally and internationally.

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Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference. Education Research Matters: Impact and Engagement
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Curriculum and pedagogy
Primary education
Parent Engagement
Inquiry Curriculum
Social Media
Digital Technologies
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Willis, L-D; Exley, B, Using Social Media to “Engage Parents in Inquiry Curriculum” (EPIC), Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference. Education Research Matters: Impact and Engagement, 2018