The objective of this study is to discuss theoretical foundations for collaboration within the framework of a K-12 educational system within the United States. Included will be two theories for effective parent and family involvement in K-12 learning environments and research of two organizations at the state, local, regional or federal level that supports or organizes parent and family involvement. In addition, this study will discuss how the theories are utilized and suggestions will be given on the methods an educational leader can use the theories in furthering the collaborative efforts in the K-’12 educational system.
It is reported that a change in the conception of “the very nature of what it means to know and learn….drives the interest in collaborative learning.” (Williams, 2009, p. 3) Traditionally, knowledge is conceptualized to be “something that is acquired.” (Williams, 2009, p. 3) Within this theoretical framework it is held that the “mind is the container of knowledge and that learning is a process that fills this container.” (Williams, 2009, p. 3)
I. Collaborative Educational Environment
According to Williams (2009) concepts are accumulated by individuals “through books or by teachers. Knowledge is a property of the individual mind and learning is the acquisition or construction of this property.” (p. 4) However, it is reported that “More recently, theorists have begun to think about learning as the process of developing the ability to participate in the culture and activities of a community. The emphasis is on the process (learning), in addition to the outcome (academic achievement). There is a growing recognition that knowledge cannot be separated from context; it is integral to the relationships among people and situations.” (p. 4) It is reported that collaboration in the workplace is “the ability to build cooperative relationships with colleagues and customers and be able to work with diverse teams to negotiate and manage conflicts.” (Williams, 2009, p. 5) Williams states that if learning is “a process of growing in the ability to participate in a community, then collaboration and learning to collaborate is an essential activity for school. Students take part in activities to the extent that they are able, observing and receiving feedback from those with more expertise” specifically more advanced students and teachers. (2009. p 5)
II. Collaboration: Benefits and Disadvantages
It is reported that in the area of research related to collaboration that there are many benefits in the area of students working together including in the classroom and throughout the school. Stated as benefits of students working together in the classroom are those of “including increased achievement, engagement, and pro-school attitudes.” (Williams, 2009, p. 5) It is reported that there are various reasons that achievement rises due to collaborative learning and specifically stated is “students working in groups can be introduced to new ideas that conflict with their own understanding. This can lead them to seek new information to clarify the conflict or to attempt to explain and justify their own position. Both of these outcomes can lead to learning. In addition, students working together can generate new approaches to solving problems that none of them knew prior to working together. Individuals then adopt these approaches to use in future problem solving. Finally, students also benefit by giving and receiving help. Giving help requires the giver to clarify and reorganize their understanding, helping him or her to understand the material.” (Williams, 2009, p. 6) Being in receipt of help in learning assists in filling in the gaps in the understanding of the student as well as assisting them in clarification of their own misconceptions. In addition, receiving assistance from peers in the classroom “increases the quality of the feedback available to students.” (Williams, 2009, p. 6)
The first theory noted in this study is entitled the ‘Comprehensive Supports for Student Learning’ stated to be a theory that “proposes that ?Internal and external barriers to learning and teaching contribute to active disengagement from classroom learning and lead to significant learning, behavior, and emotional problems. These barriers stem from a variety of widely discussed societal, neighborhood, familial, school, and personal conditions that interfere with success at school and beyond.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 2)
It is held in the work of Adelman & Taylor (2010) that internal barriers such as “biologically-based learning disabilities can prevent learning, they believe that external barriers are the primary reason children have learning, behavior, and emotional problems in schools.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 2) Included in these barriers are such as “lack of home involvement in education, lack of peer support for education, negative peer influences, lack of positive recreational opportunities, lack of community involvement, and inadequate school, social, and health support services.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 3)
These barriers serve to prevent “youth from fulfilling their cognitive potential and, researchers argue, frequently contribute to incorrect diagnoses of learning disabilities and attention problems.” ( Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 4) Furthermore, these barriers present as a “disproportionate impact on marginalized communities.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 4)
It is held in the work of Adelman and Taylor that “any effective learning strategy must address barriers to learning, including barriers due to the broader context of students’ lives.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 3) When these barriers are persistent in nature the result is the prevention of “sustained student involvement, positive classroom behavior, and learning. When there are high proportions of youth who are affected by these contextual barriers, a school- or district-wide approach may be necessary. Unfortunately, student supports are marginalized in policy and practice, and are organized and function in relative isolation, resulting in uncoordinated interventions.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns, 2011, p. 4)
Specifically stated is that the support provided to students is many times “focused on narrow or discrete problems and provides specialized services for individuals and small groups, rather than addressing the comprehensive array of problems which affect learning.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns,, 2011, p. 4) While the school may present with an extended list of interventions, such interventions are many times not connected to one another and specifically “truancy programs, physical health programs, free or reduced lunch programs, tutoring, and parent engagement programs” are disconnected. (Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns,, 2011, p. 5) Addressing these disconnects in the educational system requires engagement and involvement of families and it is reported in the work of Pullman, Wiggins and Bruns (2011) that “family engagement and involvement in education is a key factor in student performance.” ( p. 8) It is held by theories relating to family engagement that “All families can be involved in their child’s education at home and in the school, but some families face barriers or lack opportunities to participate. Schools can work to reduce these barriers.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Brun, 2011, p. 8) Types of involvement are varied and are reported to be inclusive of “communicating with the school, volunteering or attending school activities, learning at home, decision-making at advisory levels, and collaborating with the community.” (Pullman, Wiggins and Brun, 2011, p. 8)
Categories of the perceptions and beliefs of parents include those stated as follows:
(1) Parental motivational beliefs;
(2) Parental role construction — what parents feel their role is in their child’s education;
(3) Parental self-efficacy — how effective parents feel they can be in their child’s education;
(4) Parental perceptions of invitations to be involved;
(5) General school invitations — newsletters, emails, and community announcements;
(6) Specific invitations from teachers/staff;
(7) Specific invitations from students;
(8) Parental perceptions of life context variables;
(9) Skills and knowledge for involvement as well as time and energy for involvement. ( Pullman, Wiggins and Brun, 2011, p. 9)
It is reported that the following enhances the participation, engagement and involvement of the family in their child’s education:
(1) Creating a shared vision of family engagement, with parents, teachers, and school staff.
(2) Viewing family involvement as a core instructional strategy, as opposed to an ?add on;
(3) Viewing family involvement as one element of broader school, family, and community partnerships. ( Pullman, Wiggins and Brun, 2011, p. 9)
IV. Two Organizations that Support Family Involvement in Education and Collaborative Partnerships
The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education has a mission that is stated to be the advocating of “the involvement of parents and families in their children’s education, and to foster relationships between home, school, and community to enhance the education of all our nation’s young people.” (2015, p. 1) The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education reports that it seeks to:
(1) Serve as a visible representative for strong parent and family involvement initiatives at the national level.
(2) Conduct activities that involve the coalition’s member organizations and their affiliates and constituencies in efforts to increase family involvement.
(2) Provide resources and legislative information that can help member organizations promote parent and family involvement. (2015, p. 1)
The National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education believes the foundation for partnerships that are effective is communication and stated specifically…