Reframing Parent Involvement: The Role of a Museum Program in Connecting Parents and Schools

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Using grounded theory methods, a qualitative study was conducted to generate theoretical propositions about the nature of parent involvement generally, and the role that a museum program can play in facilitating parent involvement more specifically. In-depth retrospective interviews were conducted via telephone with 20 parents who had participated in the museum program. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method and drawing from the Ecologies of Parent Engagement framework (Calabrese Barton et al., 2004). At the core of the analysis is the phenomenon of parent engagement - as opposed to parent involvement - that emphasizes the social and cultural negotiations through which parent engagement occurred, and the more informal, personal manifestations of engagement through the museum program. At a more micro level, analysis revealed the mechanisms through which the museum program facilitated engagement, namely building capital and authoring. Findings culminate with an adapted version of the Ecologies of Parent Engagement model, revised to reflect the role of a museum program in facilitating parent engagement. Overall, study results have implications for theoretical understandings of parent involvement, providing a more holistic picture of why and how parents are engaged, and what forms their engagement takes. Establishing hypotheses about parent engagement processes makes it possible for educators to reconsider practical strategies for bringing parents and schools together in support of children's development, and in particular to broaden their thinking about the spaces in which parent engagement occurs.