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Family Involvement Across Learning Settings
Harvard Family Research Project Commentary
Families play important roles in supporting children’s learning not just in school but also in the many out-of-school contexts in which they learn. Harvard Family Research Project’s Helen Westmoreland talks about how families and nonschool learning settings, such as out-of-school time programs, museums, and libraries, can work together to promote student achievement.
In the May 2009 FINE Newsletter, Harvard Family Research Project's Elena Lopez and Heather Weiss proposed a new, three-part definition of family involvement. This definition, reproduced in the box below, reflects research on the diverse ways in which children learn and how family engagement can support children’s learning pathways and lead to student achievement. A core principle is that family involvement happens not only at home and at school, but across a variety of nonschool supports that help children to learn and grow—including early childhood programs, museums, libraries, after school and summer programs, and other community-based institutions.
Schools, families, and other learning institutions need consistent and aligned support to help children achieve their academic potential. Providing that support by recognizing and investing in family engagement policies and practices in nonschool learning settings is key to closing the achievement gap and supporting success for all students. However, disparities in access to nonschool supports are well-documented in low-income communities, and emerging research suggests that, when opportunities are available, low-income families learn about and engage in these settings in different ways than middle and upper income families. In order to maximize the chances for a strong return on investment in nonschool learning settings, all families need to be engaged and supported in reinforcing children’s learning at home.
Defining Family EngagementReflecting a systemic approach to education from birth to young adulthood, effective family engagement:
This article is part of the August 2009 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the FINE Newsletter Archive, visit www.hfrp.org/FINENewsletter.