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A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Learning Outcomes and Parental Involvement During Early Childhood Education and Early Elementary Education

Abstract

This meta-analysis examined the relationship between learning outcomes of children and educational involvement of parents during a unique period of early childhood education and early elementary education based on 100 independent effect sizes from 46 studies. Learning outcomes are academic achievement, and frameworks of parental involvement measure family involvement and partnership development. The relationship (with adjustment over frameworks and study features) indicated a strong and positive correlation (.509) between learning outcomes and parental involvement. Although types of parental (behavioral, personal, and intellectual) involvement and building institutional capacity demonstrated the greatest importance to the relationship, the role of parents (family involvement) was more important than the role of schools and communities (partnership development). For a strong relationship, behavioral involvement, home supervision, and home-school connection were the keys from family involvement, whereas capacity to engage parents, respectful and effective leadership in relation to families and children, and institutionalized authentic partnerships were the keys from partnership development.

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Notes

  1. There is a need to acknowledge the ongoing debate on family (parent) involvement versus family (parent) engagement. According to Ferlazzo (2011), “involvement implies doing to; in contrast, engagement implies doing with” (p. 10). Specifically, “A school striving for family involvement often leads with its mouth—identifying projects, needs, and goals and then telling parents how they can contribute. A school striving for parent engagement, on the other hand, tends to lead with its ears—listening to what parents think, dream, and worry about” (p. 10). Some researchers believe that the difference is between participation (promoting opportunities) and relationship (sharing responsibilities) (Ferlazzo 2011; Ferlazzo and Hammond 2009). Although it is sometimes difficult to separate them, studies retrieved in this analysis tend to lean toward the participation side.

  2. This exclusion is actually appropriate given that school-to-home communication may logically connect better with the school (educator) factor than the parent factor. In other words, school-to-home communication can be better appreciated as a form of family-school partnership.

  3. These journals were chosen because they are leading ones in educational research. Our expectation was that significant major research work tends to be published in these prestigious journals. We therefore manually searched these journals to make sure the inclusion of significant major research work.

  4. We included unpublished studies in the present meta-analysis to address the issue of publication bias that always occurs because “studies with significant results are more likely to be published” (p. 278) and “published studies are more likely to be included in a meta-analysis” (p. 279) (Borenstein et al. 2009). “This tendency has the potential to produce very large biases in the magnitude of the relationships” (Borenstein et al. 2009, p. 278). One concern about the use of unpublished studies is the lack of peer scrutiny of their quality. Ideally, studies either published or unpublished should be examined by a set of quality indicators on research design to measure academic vigor. Like many other meta-analyses, the present meta-analysis did not pursue this task. Obviously, this lack indicated a methodological limitation for the present meta-analysis.

  5. Earlier, we defined learning outcomes as academic achievement and supportive cognition (that facilitates academic achievement) (see “Defining Learning Outcomes”). We then operationalized academic achievement using measures of performance in core content areas of language, mathematics, and science and supportive cognition using measures of general knowledge and school adjustment (control and behavior). Such definition and operationalization were common in the retrieved studies concerning early childhood education and early school success. Our practice is in fact one step beyond previous meta-analyses on the topic. For example, Jeynes (2005) took academic achievement as a self-explanatory concept (without a formal definition) and did not distinguish school subjects when measuring academic achievement (in both standardized and unstandardized cases). Not only did our treatment of learning outcomes align consistently with the retrieved studies, but also it resulted in a much greater clarity and specificity about the relationship between academic achievement and parental involvement.

  6. Because both standardized and unstandardized measures of academic achievement were employed in the retrieved studies, we created this variable to distinguish the difference. Standardized measures came exclusively from standardized tests, and unstandardized measures pertained to some forms of teacher rating such as grades. This practice is common among existing meta-analyses on the topic (e.g., Jeynes 2005).

  7. Although it is a common practice in comparative analysis (including meta-analysis) to use effect size to create a common metric for comparison, effect sizes are calculated from studies with different underlying constructs and metrics. Some researchers tend to concern about the conceptual validity of using these measures in any subsequent analyses. One potential way to alleviate this concern is to consider the concept of latent variable. From this perspective, each effect size would only be an indicator to a latent construct, resembling the measurement model in a structural equation model (SEM).

  8. For academic achievement, no retrieved studies used science as a measure of learning outcomes. Supportive cognition (general knowledge, school adjustment, control, behavior) were used as “others.”

  9. Because effect sizes were weighted to produce an overall estimate, it is possible that many individual effect sizes appear to be smaller than the reported overall effect size.

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Appendix

Appendix

Table 4 Frameworks of parental involvement
Table 5 Simplified summary of retrieved studies on the relationship between learning outcomes and parental involvement

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Ma, X., Shen, J., Krenn, H.Y. et al. A Meta-Analysis of the Relationship Between Learning Outcomes and Parental Involvement During Early Childhood Education and Early Elementary Education. Educ Psychol Rev 28, 771–801 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10648-015-9351-1

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Keywords

  • Parental involvement
  • Learning outcomes
  • Meta-analysis
  • Early childhood
  • Elementary education