Educational research

Opinions and commentary on educational issues and concerns

Posts By: Janet Goodall

New Publication: "Learning-centred parental engagement: Freire reimagined

📥  Educational Leadership

Goodall, Janet. 2017. "Learning-centred parental engagement: Freire reimagined." Educational Review:1-19. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2017.1358697.

Many years ago, Paulo Freire was one of a group of writers who insisted that we look at our processes of schooling differently, that we examine the power relationships in our classrooms clearly. He highlighted what he called the “banking model of education” (Freire 1970), which saw knowledge as a commodity which could be transferred, more or less intact, from teacher to student.
We no longer accept this sort of teaching in our schoolrooms; we have, in general, accepted a constructivist stance and help young people to build knowledge for themselves.
The way we treat parents, however, and other family members, has not altered in the same way. In this article, I used Freire’s banking model of schooling as a lens through which to examine how parents are treated in schools. For all that we have moved a long way in relation to our children’s learning, along the lines suggested by Dewey (Dewey 1986, 1897), Montessori (Montessori 2013) and others as well as Freire, our relationships with families still seem to be stuck in a much earlier paradigm.
In this article, I build on Freire’s work on power and relationships, and marry this to the literature around parental engagement with children’s learning. We have known for some time that one of the best levers we have to narrow the achievement gap between children from different backgrounds is the engagement of their parents in their learning (Desforges and Abouchaar 2003). Many schools still see engagement as being about relationships between parents and schools, rather than about parent’s engagement in learning, per se, yet the value of parental engagement is to be found in the home learning environment (Sylva et al. 2008, Goodall and Montgomery 2013). Freire’s work provides a useful framework for moving toward partnership working with parents, (Goodall 2017), through an examination of the power relationships involved.
This marrying of Freire’s work with the research around parental engagement with children’s learning allows us to move to a series of five statements, which suggest a new view of parental engagement: that school staff and parents both participate in supporting the learning of the child, that both partners value the knowledge that the other brings to the partnership, that there is dialogue around and with the child’s learning, that all actions around that learning are taken in partnership, and that both partners respect the legitimate authority of the other’s role and contribution to the learning of the child. Moving to this point will be neither easy nor quick, but it will be in the best interest of all of our children.


Desforges, Charles, and Alberto Abouchaar. 2003. The impact of parental involvement, parental support and family education on pupil achievement and adjustment: A literature review. London: Department of Education and Skills.
Dewey, John. 1897. "My Pedagogic Creed." The informal education archives; First published in The School Journal, Volume LIV, Number 3 (January 16, 1897), pages 77-80. Accessed 18.01.03.
Dewey, John. 1986. "Experience and education." The Educational Forum.
Freire, P. 1970. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Translated by translated by Myra Bergman Ramos. London: Penguin Books. Original edition, 1996;Originally published by The Continuum Publishing Company.
Goodall, Janet. 2017. Narrowing The Achievement Gap: Parental Engagement With Children’s Learning London: Routledge.
Goodall, Janet, and Caroline Montgomery. 2013. "Parental involvement to parental engagement: a continuum." Educational Review:1-12. doi: 10.1080/00131911.2013.781576.
Montessori, Maria. 2013. The montessori method. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers.
Sylva, Kathy, Edward C. Melhuish, Pamela Sammons, Blatchford Iram Siraj, and Brenda Taggart. 2008. "Final report from the primary phase: pre-school, school and family influences on children-s development during Key Stage 2 (Age 7-11)."165.



Book Chapter: Understanding Emotions in Mathematical Thinking and Learning

📥  Educational Leadership

By Janet Goodall, Sue Johnston-Wilder and Rosemary Russel

Editors: Ulises Xolocotzin

eBook ISBN: 9780128024898

Hardcover ISBN: 9780128022184

Published Date: 26th May 2017

Available online at -


In our chapter (Chapter 11) in this edited work, we build on ideas of mathematical resilience, that is, becoming resilient, unafraid in the face of mathematics, and illustrate how the notion of mathematical resilience and the growth zone can be used to improve the emotional experience of learning mathematics at home.

We introduce the notion of mathematical safe-guarding as an intrinsic part of the parent's role. We also introduce maths, as experienced typically in the home, as Accessible, Linked, Inclusive, Valued, Engaging (ALIVE) and contrast this with maths as experienced typically in school, as TIRED (tedious, isolated, rote, elitist, de-personalised). On the basis of previous work in the field, we consider that the teaching of maths in many situations may in fact constitute an issue which should be covered by those with a remit for safeguarding.

We demonstrate the power of the 'growth zone model' in bringing parents from mathematical exclusion to inclusion and curiosity, and learning how to apply safeguarding to the practice of learning mathematics.

Based on the literature in the field and an interview process with a mother/child dyad, we suggest that many people have learned to be helpless in the face of maths; it is common to hear people not only proclaim, “Oh, I’m no good at maths” but also to tell their children the same thing, setting maths up as an area of struggle and anxiety, rather than experiential learning. People who experience learned helplessness in relation to maths feel that they have no control over their own learning or work in this area.  This aptly describes the experience of many parents, and was the case for the mother and child whose learning process is described in this chapter.

Through work with “Brenda”, the mother and child both began to overcome their helplessness in relation to maths, and took back control of their own learning.  We offer concrete suggestions for supporting both students and parents to overcome maths anxiety and to become maths resilient.


Narrowing the Achievement Gap: Parental Engagement with Children’s Learning

📥  Educational Leadership


This book, due to be published by Routledge in the spring, examines the issues around the achievement gap between children from different socioeconomic backgrounds.  This gap is larger in the UK than in many other places, and seemingly implacable; one of the main arguments of the book is that we’re looking in the wrong place for the solution.  We know from the research that most of the gap arises from issues outside of school, yet so far, we have concentrated our efforts to narrow the gap on school based practices.

Through an examination of the concepts of social and cultural capital, as well as ideas around race, ethnicity, poverty and school effects, the book argues that the achievement gap is systemic, rather than related only to individuals; to do this, it utilises Gramsci’s concept of hegemony.  That constitutes the problem: the book proposes supporting and increasing parental engagement with children’s learning as a good deal of the solution.

One of the main ideas in the book is that we have put up arbitrary barriers around different types of learning, so that we have come to equate education and even learning with “what goes on in school”; this explains why we’ve concentrated our efforts to narrow the gap around schools and also explains why we’ve had less success than one might hope.

Parental engagement with children’s learning (not with schools, but with learning in the home, or at least outside of schools) has the potential to significantly narrow the achievement gap.  However, this relies on understanding what that engagement means, and also on avoiding some of the problems that have plagued the field.  We need to avoid a deficit model of parents and parenting, as well as an ethnocentric model which sees only one “right” way to parent or to engage.  We also need to be wary of seeing “parent” as a synonym for “mother”, and, as much of the literature does, assuming that we can continue to base parental engagement on mother’s unpaid, unacknowledged work.

The book concludes by offering suggestions for the way forward for practitioners, policy makers and researchers.

The book is by no means the final word in this field, as there is still a very great deal to learn and do, but I hope it will be a useful stepping stone.


Technology and School-Home Communication

📥  Uncategorised

Communication between schools and families is a vital support to children's learning, and modern technology offers unprecedented opportunities for communication - but how are schools to know what to use, and how to use it for the best?
In a recent article, entitled Technology and School-Home Communication, I explored these issues.

First, I proposed a definition of communication, based on the literature, which suggested that communication happens when a signal (such as a note home about a topic covered in school) passes from one person to another; however, that's not all, because for the interchange to be understood as communication, the second person involved has to be capable of understanding and potentially responding to that signal.  This second part of the definition is important because parents have often reported that schools send home too much information, in forms that parents don't understand and, importantly, can't use to support their children's learning.

We know from the literature in the field that engaging parents in children's learning is one of the best levers we have to raise achievement, but such engagement depends on accurate, two way, respectful communication between school staff and families, and the literature shows that such communication can lead to gains in children's learning.

Since over 70% of homes in the UK are considered to have access to broadband services, and over half the adult population has access to a smart phone, schools have begun to use digital communication with parents more and more.  In fact, there is now a bewildering plethora of "apps" available to schools for this very purpose - but almost all of them incur a financial cost and they will all incur costs in time to set them up and use them.

In the article, I attempt to meld the literature around engaging parents in children's learning with that around communication, to lead to some principles for good choices that schools might make in this area; I also look at some of the issues and challenges ahead in this fast paced area.


Parental Engagement Toolkit Research

📥  Educational Leadership




As already reported on the University Blog, together with Wiltshire Local Authority, I recently launched a Toolkit for Parental Engagement.

Through the research in the field, (For example: Goodall and Vorhaus 2011, Goodall 2012, Goodall and Montgomery 2013, See and Gorard 2014, Huat See and Gorard 2015), we know that parental engagement in children’s learning is one of the best levers to support children and, importantly, support disadvantaged learners.  The pilot of this toolkit is part of Wiltshire’s programme of support, particularly around those students who qualify for pupil premium support.

The forms of parental engagement which make a difference to students are those which take place in the home, which support the attitude toward learning in the home, rather than those which aim to get parents into school.  For many schools, this requires a shift in emphasis for their work with parents; the toolkit supports this shift.

The toolkit consists of two main elements.  The first is an action plan, which schools build after looking at where they want to be, and what barriers they might face along the way.  The action plan allows schools to be clear about what they will do, and importantly, how they will know and evidence if they have achieved their aims.

The second part of the toolkit is a detailed evaluation form.  Previous research (Guskey 2002, Goodall, Day et al. 2005, Harris, Day et al. 2006) has shown both that schools often fail to evaluate their interventions, and that one of the main blocks to change is the institution itself.  Based around the framework developed by Guskey (Guskey 2000) the toolkit provides schools with a scaffold to not only see what they have accomplished in relation to parental engagement, but to evaluate whether the school itself has changed in the process, and what changes still need to take place.

The pilot project began in January 2016, and will conclude in January 2017, and is partially funded by the Public Engagement Unit at the University of Bath.  Schools have come together twice so far, and will come together for a final, celebration event early in 2017.

Although we are only part way through the project, schools are already reporting changes in their practices, and in their relationships with parents.

You can follow the progress of the pilot on the  project blog, and by following the twitter hashtag, #wpetk.


Goodall, J. (2012). "Parental engagement to support children's learning: a six point model." School Leadership & Management 33(2): 1-18.

Goodall, J., C. Day, G. Lindsey, D. Muijis and A. Harris (2005). Evaluating Impact of Continuing Professional Development. London, Department for Education and Skills.

Goodall, J. and C. Montgomery (2013). "Parental involvement to parental engagement: a continuum." Educational Review: 1-12.

Goodall, J. and J. Vorhaus (2011). Review of best practice in parental engagement. London, Department of Education

Guskey, T. R. (2000). Evaluating professional development. Thousand Oaks, Ca, Corwin Press.

Guskey, T. R. (2002). "Does it make a difference?  Evaluating professional development." Educational Leadership: 45 - 51.

Harris, A., C. Day, J. Goodall, G. Lindsay and D. Muijs (2006). "What difference does it make?  Continuing Professional Development in Schools." Scottish Journal of Educational Research 37: 90 - 98.

Huat See, B. and S. Gorard (2015). "The role of parents in young people’s education—a critical review of the causal evidence." Oxford Review of Education(ahead-of-print): 1-21.

See, B. H. and S. Gorard (2014). What do rigorous evaluations tell us about the most promising parental involvement interventions? A critical review of what works for disadvantaged children in different age groups, Nuffield Foundation.