Parental involvement is an emerging issue in education. Many research studies show that when parents are interested in science and involved in science activities, their children’s performance in science increases. According to these research studies, many science educators are concerned with how to improve parents’ engagement in learning science. At the international science competition, U.S.A ranked lower than many Asian countries including Korea, Japan, and Taiwan (TIMSS, 1997). According to the report of TIMSS (2001), US eighth-graders performed slightly above the international average of 38 nations in science. In the 1995 study, US eighth-graders had tested above the international average in science, compared to students in 41 participating countries. Direct comparisons of international standing cannot be made between the two years because the list of participating countries is not identical. In fact, the data shows no absolute improvement in performance of US eighth-graders between 1995 and 1999, in science. To improve students’ performance in science, not only teachers at school but also parents at home must be engaged in science education.
Science teachers at schools want to get parents involved in science education. Even though science classes may be well prepared there will always be students who do not understand the material and think that science is a difficult subject. It is challenging for teachers with limited time and resources to successfully motivate all of their students to be excited about science. Individualizing the learning to each of the students needs can be an overwhelming task, but the individual support is critical to helping students enjoy science learning. Teachers realize that parents know their own children best and that when they are involved in the learning process both teacher and student benefit. One of the challenges is to develop productive ways to involve parents in their children’s learning.
Students who feel that science is boring and difficult could benefit from additional help and encouragement from their parents in studying science at home. When parents show interest in science and take part in science experiments related to what their children learn at school, the children may become more interested and excited about science. Not only is the home environment a great place for children to apply what they learn in school to their daily lives, but spending time with a parent who supports their child’s learning has effects that are immeasurable. Different from the school environment, home environments are the real places where students can make connections between book related facts and the real world. With the help of a parent, they can experience problem solving on a daily basis. In fact, the parent can help the child recognize a real-life problem and guide them in solving it. These kinds of experiences are ones that children remember forever.
Teachers and administrators who recognize the importance of parental involvement try to hold conferences and meetings with parents to further involve parents in science education. These meetings can be time consuming for the teacher and don’t usually engage the parents in doing science with their children. Additionally, there are many barriers that keep the level of parents’ participation in these conferences low. Some of the parent-centered barriers are lack of time, cultural or socioeconomic differences, language difference between parents and teachers, and parent attitudes about science and school. Similarly teacher-centered barriers include lack of time, lack of training in working with parents, and teacher attitudes towards parents (Fehlig, 1996; Katz, 1996; U.S. Department of Education, 1997). There is a need to develop flexible strategies for increasing parent involvement with their children’s science education in the home.
According to the survey conducted through a nationally representative sample of 900 public schools enrolling kindergarten to eighth grade students, some of the barriers relate to the challenges and pressures that parents face and others are associated with the constraints facing teachers and other school staff.
Fig.1 Percent of public elementary schools (K-8) that perceived
various concerns as barriers to parent involvement at their school to a great
or moderate extent.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Response Survey System, “Survey on Family and School Partnerships in Public Schools, K-8,” FRSS 58, 1996
Because parental involvement provides an advantage of improving science education, it is necessary to address the problems that prevent parental involvement. Using technology as a tool for increasing parental involvement is a growing phenomenon in science education (Gergen, 1991). Technology not only provides a new way to communicate with parents but it provides a wealth of free and accessible resources that can easily be used by parents in the home. By engaging technologies in communicating with parents and supporting information about science education, teachers can overcome barriers to parent involvement in science education.
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Ellinger, Thomas R., and Beckham, Garry M. (1997). South Korea: Placing Education on Top of the Family Agenda. Phi Delta Kappan, 78 (8), 624-26.
Fehlig, Janis. (1996). Parents’ Science Lab. Science and Children, Oct 1996. 17-19.
Gergen, K. (1991). The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life. Basic Books: USA. 3-8.
Katz, Phyllis. (1996). Parents as Teachers. Science and Children, Oct 1996, 47-49.
TIMSS. (1997). http://timss.bc.edu/TIMSS1/TIMSSpPublications.html
U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Fast Response Survey System, “Survey on Family and School Partnerships in Public Schools, K-8,” FRSS 58, 1996