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LIFE - Children, Youth and Families at risk

Research Review

Formal and Informal Parental Involvement in School Decision-Making in Denmark

Ravn, Birte. (1998). Formal and Informal Parental Involvement in School Decision-Making in Denmark. Childhood Education, 74 (6), 375-377.

PURPOSE: Discussed and critiqued formal and informal parental involvement in education decision-making in Denmark’s Folkeskoles (primary and lower secondary schools).

LITERATURE REVIEW:

  • Ravn & Hogsbro (1997) found that children’s learning is enhanced when parents are invited to help plan the curriculum and provide ideas, personal skills or other knowledge.
  • Andersen, et al (1993) expressed that informal influences of parents (social meeting, class excursions, etc.) are just as important as formal influences (school board).

METHODS:

  • School boards of 5 to 7 elected parents, 2 teacher representatives, and 2 pupil representatives monitored formal school activities such as budgeting and scheduling.
  • Parents participated in social meetings, excursions at the school or class level, alternative educational initiatives and other informal activities.
  • A model known as "Joint Acting" was implemented to encourage greater communication and cooperation between home and school, in both formal and informal activities. Briefly defined, Joint Acting is the process of enabling all education stakeholders to share ideas in an environment of mutual respect, and to ensure a logical, reasoned communication process.

RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS:

  • Although the school boards were designed to be democratic, some turned into managerial boards whose function and value were questioned, as parent representatives became dissatisfied and discouraged about the duties and leadership of the school-based decision-making body.
  • With informal involvement, the eases with which teachers and parents communicated determined whether everyone’s ideas were effectively applied. Teachers who agreed with parents to integrate subjects and to use non-traditional teaching methods, found that parents’ involvement and contributions to be most fruitful and their efforts well spent.
  • Joint Acting recognized four fundamental requirements that both teachers and parents understand and agree upon: 1) content, or the focus of the discussion, 2) structure and organization, or the ways that meetings and consultations are conducted to ensure dialogue and mutual assistance, 3) intentions and possibilities, referring to why particular topics are discussed, decisions are made, and actions are taken and, 4) benefits, or who gains from the interactions and partnership activities.
  • Both teachers and parents have to understand the processes of Joint Acting if they are to promote more effective dialogue and cooperative action at both the formal and informal levels.

Developed by Rose Foster for UW honors course HP4152, Spring 1999


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