Dissertation Abstracts

Can Parental Involvement in School Life Make a Difference on Citizenship Education at School?

Author: Freddano, Michela , michela.freddano@invalsi.it
Department: Educational Science
University: University of Genova, Italy
Supervisor: Prof. Mauro Palumbo
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: Italian

Keywords: citizenship educatio , parent involvement , parent engagement
Areas of Research: Education , Sociotechnics, Sociological Practice , Participation, Organizational Democracy and Self-Management


My doctoral research examines parental involvement in school life and its effectiveness on citizenship education, in term of students’ skills of civic engagement in social life. The main aims are: to deepen the concept of “parental involvement in school life” from the stakeholder standpoints; to examine the partnership between home, school, and community from a micro perspective; to study the effect of parental involvement on citizenship education.
Students’ success is reinforced by parental support in family and in school life. Some studies show that student learning improves in schools that promote parent participation. On the one hand, parental engagement promotes more awareness of school policies and practices and better supervision of student achievement; moreover, it suggests school socialization, values, norms, and citizenship skills. On the other hand, parent participation in school life is influenced by their socioeconomic and cultural background and by the quality of support from the school and community.
This dissertation begins with the premise that:
- the involvement of parents in school life allows school to know students’ needs and promote students’ achievement (Castelli et al., 2011). This is especially the case in a society that is characterized by complexity, multiculturalism, and globalization, and in which citizenship education is a curricular key literacy for lifelong learning (MIUR, 2009);
- Italian schools granted autonomy and the policy decision-making was decentralized changing school responsibilities and introducing innovative strategies that promoted more frequent and direct involvement of stakeholders, the parents in particular.
The main hypothesis is that parent participation in school life positively affects citizenship education of young people.
To test this hypothesis, a reasoned multistage sampling was conducted by taking into account the results of the background research that focuses on the differences between the districts of the Municipality of Genova, in term of social, economic, cultural and school background. 614 students from 28 classrooms (314 students from 15 primary school classrooms, and 300 students from 13 middle school classrooms) as well as the students' parents were selected. The parents involved in the research totaled 611, of which 312 were parents of primary school schools and 299 of middle school students. In total, 520 parents responded to the parent questionnaire so that the percentage of no participation was only 14.7%.
Data were collected by using a face-to-face questionnaires on citizenship education among students; a self-administered questionnaire on involvement in school life among parents; interviews with the teachers of citizenship education and interviews with school administrators.
The data were analyzed using descriptive analysis, factor analysis, and multilevel modeling.
The results show that parents informally participated in their children's schools: in order to be informed by the schools, to be consulted by the schools, through bottom-up assemblies, through volunteering at the schools, and as members of a parents’ association.
In particular, students’ citizenship education and the involvement of their parents in school life are greater during primary school than during middle school and the partnerships between parents and teachers significantly affects citizenship education especially in primary school.