Can parents of secondary school students really help in the process of reading at home with their children?

In 2012 Pause Prompt Praise was introduced in some Te Kotahitanga schools as a means of not only raising the reading achievement of students including Māori students but also for engaging Māori whānau and community members with the reading tutoring processes themselves.

At initial training hui, school leaders and teachers shared the concerns that they had in relation to working with their Māori communities to implement this one-to-one reading tutoring programme. These comments are detailed in the column to the left of the table on the next page. Detailed in the column to the right are key messages from a teacher and Māori parents from these schools, who subsequently undertook training in Pause Prompt Praise, and who participated in these activities.

Key questions [Download 1]

  1. What sense do you make of the following comments and statements?
  2. Sometimes assumptions are in conflict with reality; what are the implications when this is the case (i.e. for Māori students, Māori whānau, teachers and school leaders)?
Concerns raised by school leaders and teachers Key messages and feedback from Māori parents, teachers and research
Māori parents may have had bad experiences of school and therefore might not want to engage with the school. “I’ve always known that my daughter had a problem with reading but her schools have not listened to me or showed me how to help her” (Māori Parent)
If parents are not literacy competent themselves they will not have the confidence to support their children. “PPP is not complicated – parents regardless of their own reading ability understand the strategies and how to use them” (Teacher)
Do/will secondary students read with their parents? “I’m really pleased to have this opportunity to learn how to support my daughter with her reading because I’m not sure that I am doing the right thing” (Parent)
What are the implications of implementing Pause Prompt Praise – a primary school programme in a secondary school? Pause Prompt Praise has been widely and successfully used in many primary schools but the original research team sought to specifically target and accelerate the reading achievement of intermediate and junior secondary school students. (McNaughton, Glynn, Robinson & Quinn, 1981)
Māori whānau don’t / won’t come into secondary schools Māori whānau are not likely to come into secondary schools if they are not given the opportunity. Traditionally forms of invitation (newsletters and phone calls) have not been as effective as kanohi kitea dialogue and interactions (Our own observations)

Resource 1 comes as two sheets — one is seen above, the other with spaces in column two. This allows for the writing in of your own key messages and feedback.


Video 1: Connections and Collaborations

Key thoughts

“It makes the learning experience a journey.”

“He [my son] appreciates that when he makes a mistake it’s OK. We come back to that word… I realised a lot of issues weren’t with him, they were with me…”

Key questions

  1. What in this video clip do you find surprising or challenging?
  2. How do you think parents in your school view their role in terms of a learning partnership between the school and themselves?
  3. What questions does this leave you with?

What are smart tools?
(Robinson et al., 2009)

  • Tools are “externalised representations of ideas that people use in their practice” (Spillane, 2006, p.18).
  • The use of the word ‘ideas’ captures the fact that tools can incorporate useful knowledge that can help teachers improve their practice in relation to a specific task.
  • While a tool is a concept that can encompass whiteboards, software, and policy documents, today we are talking about tools that have some direct or indirect evidence showing that they can assist in improving teaching and learning.
  • For leaders, it is not just a matter of selecting or developing tools but of ensuring that any tools they introduce – together with the associated routines – assist the users to achieve the intended purposes.
  • We call tools that meet this criterion smart tools.

Smart tools incorporate sound theories, are well designed, and achieve intended outcomes.


Key messages from Chapter 7, Leadership BES
(Alton-Lee et al., 2009)

Why connect with family, whānau and communities?

  • Connections with family, whānau and communities have the potential to enhance outcomes for all students, especially those who have been underserved or are at risk. Certain kinds of school-family connections and interventions can have large positive effects on the academic and social outcomes of students.
  • Some kinds of engagement with families and communities can be counterproductive. It is important that school leaders promote engagement that they understand can be effective.
  • By establishing educationally powerful connections, leaders gain access to a greater range and depth of resources to support the work of their schools.

What kinds of connections make a difference?

  • In general, the largest positive effects were found when schools – usually in association with an external researcher – develop the capacity of parents to support their children’s learning through programmes that are designed to teach them specific skills (for example, skills to promote literacy development).
  • Joint parent/whānau and teaching interventions had the highest overall effect size (1.81) and reflect interventions that were designed to help parents or other community members support children at home and school and that simultaneously provided teachers with professional development.
  • Conversely, there is research to show that without a clear focus on both potential and effective strategies, unintentional negative effects can result from parents helping with homework.

The table below details an analysis of NZ data from the Competent Children Project (Wylie, Thompson, & Lythe, 2001; Wylie, Thompson, Hodgen, Ferral, Lythe & Fijn, 2004; Wylie, Ferral, Hodgen, & Thompson, 2006; Hodgen, 2007). The effects sizes show the counterproductive effects that parents helping with reading homework can have.

Practice / Provision Age of students Outcome No. of Studies N Students Effect size
Parent help with reading homework 10 Reading (age 10 & 12) mathematics (age 10, 12 & 14) logical problem solving (age 10, 12, 14 & 16) over and above effects accounted for by family income and mother’s education. 1a 523

This highlights the critical importance of educational powerful connections, especially when accelerating achievement in communities, such as Māori communities, that have been traditionally underserved by the education system. This module is concerned with these types of Connections and Collaborations and the use of two specific strategies or smart tools.