• Parental involvement behaviours and attainment: student perceptions in FE

      Darnell, Judith Alexandra (University of BedfordshireUniversity of Bedfordshire, 2018-12)
      Research into parental involvement and links with attainment have been well documented for young children. However, parental influences for FE college-aged (16+) students have rarely been investigated in the UK. The project was based on investigating student perceptions of parental involvement within one FE college in South East England, and as such represented a case study. It involved 240 level three learners. The FE college at the focus of this project is clear through its “Parental Involvement Strategy Document” that parental engagement directly influences student attainment. However, this research project challenged this assumption and investigated student perceptions of parental involvement in respect to attainment. The project used mixed-methods to accomplish four aims. These were: 1. To investigate students’ perceptions of Parental Involvement Behaviours (PIB) regarding its influence on attainment and to identify similarities and differences between students’ perceptions and college policy/practice and inspectorate views. 2. To examine associations between student outcomes (UCAS points) and both a) reported PIB and b) the factors of student age, gender, ethnicity, cultural capital and course. 3. To identify if students of different ages, ethnic group, gender and course respond differently to questions about their PIB and, if so, whether the difference in response to Likert scale items is statistically significant or not. 4. To establish whether the quantitative and qualitative data gathered from the investigation of student perceptions of PIB discovers distinct models of student experiences and, if so, whether these reflect the hypothesised categories of DAPSS (Directive, Authoritarian, Parenting Support Style), PAPSS (Passive, Affable Parenting Support Style), NEAV (Negative Expectations, Aspirations and Values) and PEAV (Positive Expectations, Aspirations and Values) (or not) and also whether these models have an association with attainment (or not). Students voiced appreciation for independence and autonomy in relation to ownership for learning in FE and the project found that intrinsic motivation was more likely to associate with grades than external factors (such as parental involvement). Although there were individual PIB that appeared to associate with student attainment (respect, trust, high expectations and aspirations) this relationship is likely to be more complex since when these behaviours were grouped together as a model of experience (called ‘Clarified Independence’) the association with attainment was less apparent. Additionally, the idea of ‘causation’ and the ‘reactive hypothesis’ are deemed important when referring to high expectations and aspirations, since parental behaviours are likely to reflect prior student performance and so the link between high expectations and high attainment is more complex than it first appears. The project concludes that many parental behaviours are displayed as a result of previous student performance and so challenges the assumption that these parental behaviours can influence attainment directly, as has been reported in previous projects. Instead of devising parenting ‘styles’ as has been observed in previous research, the project presents a theory relating to ‘layers of influence’ in relation to different parental behaviours where six ‘models of student experience’ (MoSE) are highlighted for FE college students. This theory has been devised from a culmination of quantitative data and qualitative findings, which have been triangulated to demonstrate a holistic view of the complex patterns in relation to students and their perceptions of PIB. Overall, parental experiences in early childhood are more likely to have a bearing on and pave the way for influential factors in relation to high attainment, (which centres on students’ intrinsic motivation) rather than individual parental behaviours at college-stage. Additionally, the college provides mixed-messages in relation to parental involvement through its strategy document and its prospectus. There is also a mis-match between college policy and student perceptions surrounding expectations for parental involvement and its influences. A minority of students experience neglectful parental behaviours and voice their appreciation for positive connections with college tutors, who often offer emotional support in place of the parents/carers.