Educational research

Opinions and commentary on educational issues and concerns

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.


EuroSLA Conference

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On 26/08/2016, I gave a presentation entitled "Parents and their role in language learning motivation". The abstract can be found below.

Language learning motivation is likely to be influenced by important individuals surrounding learners, such as their parents (Williams & Burden, 1997). Whereas the potential role of parents in motivating their offspring was identified early on by Gardner and Lambert (1972), there have been relatively few in-depth studies that focus on the role of parents in fostering their children motivation (Bartram, 2006; Kyriacou & Zhu, 2008), even though Bartram (2006) findings suggest that parental attitudes are not only language- but also context-specific.
This mixed-methods study investigates the role of parents in fostering language learning motivation of Polish language learners of English. 599 fifteen-year old students attending state schools completed a motivational questionnaire, in which they were asked to report their mothers’ and fathers’ level of education and level of English, and 20 learners participated in semi-structured interviews. MANOVA analyses of the questionnaire data revealed significant differences between students whose mothers and fathers had differing levels of education affecting scores on self-efficacy beliefs, English self-concept, ideal L2 self, instrumental orientation and self-regulation. The scores tended to increase with the level of mothers’ and fathers’ education. Similarly, there were significant differences on six motivational scales (self-efficacy beliefs, English self-concept, ideal L2 self, instrumental orientation, intrinsic motivation and self-regulation), when students were divided according to their mothers’ and fathers’ level of English. The scores increased in line with the level of parents’ English as reported by students. Further, the interview data revealed a number of ways, in which parents’ fostered their offspring’s language learning motivation, such as communicating positive attitudes towards studying English; parental encouragement to study English in the form of verbal comments and, to a lesser extent, rewards; actively helping children with their English studies; and stimulating the development of intrinsic motivation by creating positive language learning experiences.

More information about the conference can be found here:


Psychology of Language Learning

📥  Language and Educational Practices


On Monday, 22/08/2016, I gave a presentation at the biannual Psychology of Language Learning Conference in Jyväskylä, Finland ( The abstract of the talk can be found below.

Sources and relationships between self-constructs in foreign language learning in Poland
Recently, many studies have examined an important role of the ideal L2 self in language learning motivation (see Csizér & Magid, 2014; Dörnyei & Ushioda, 2009). Yet, less is known about the relationships between the ideal L2 self with current self-constructs, even though Ushioda and Dörnyei (2009) assert that it is the gap between the ideal L2 self and the current selves that is the source of motivational power of the ideal L2 self. Moreover, there have been few attempts to examine antecedents of self-related beliefs (for exceptions, see Mercer, 2011).
The aim of the current study is to examine the relationship between ideal L2 self, self-efficacy beliefs and the English self-concept and identify the sources of self-related beliefs. 236 Polish learners of English aged 15-16 completed a motivational questionnaire, and 20 participated in semi-structured interviews. The quantitative data was analysed in SPSS, whereas the interviews were transcribed and coded.
The results of regression analysis revealed that the ideal L2 self is more closely related to learners’ self-efficacy beliefs than to their English self-concept, although the latter was also found to significantly contribute to the ideal L2 self. The interviewees reported six antecedents of self-related beliefs. These were: mastery experiences, grades, peer comparison, teachers, comparison across different domains, and other sources. The results suggests that the English self-concept and self-efficacy beliefs are socially co-constructed. The two constructs are also a basis on which students draw when creating positive visions of oneself as successful language learners. This finding is in line with Dörnyei’s (2009, p.11) assertion that the ideal L2 self is a possible self that one day can become reality.


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.


Educational Leadership, Management and Governance Cluster blog – May/June, 2016

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The members of the Educational Leadership, Management and Governance Cluster, Mike Fertig, Janet Goodall and I, have been very busy in this last month or so with research, publications, conferences and various other research-related events.


Mike and I, along with Tristan Bunnell, have been developing our work on the institutionalisation of International Schools. We have had an article accepted for the Oxford Review of Education and are working on other articles. We presented aspects of that work at the Alliance for International Education Conference in Bangkok earlier in the spring and at the AERA Annual Meeting in Washington in early April. Both papers went down extremely well. Mike also gave a presentation on ‘International School Principal Recruitment’ at the Bangkok conference. Mike and I have a chapter in press in a collection edited by our colleagues, Mary Hayden and Jeff Thompson.


Janet has been very busy developing her work on parental engagement in schools – with a number of exciting projects ongoing and various journal articles in the pipeline. The parental engagement tool-kit is a particularly interesting development. Janet and I are amongst the authors of article on the governance of FE Colleges, with Ron Hill and Colin Forest which we are revising for re-submission.


One of our cluster research students, Melissa Hawkins and I presented a paper on the place of complexity in educational organisation theory at the AERA Annual meeting, and again it was very well received. We’re developing that work for a proposal for another conference paper – the UCEA Conference in Detroit in November – and a journal article. Mel successfully completed her PhD confirmation process yesterday, subject to final Board of Studies approval, which is great news.


I’ve been busy in the last month – AERA as always was excellent; an article on head teacher performance management’s been published in Education Review (DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2016.1144560); and there are articles in press in Management in Education on the challenges facing the FE sector in England, in the Oxford Review – see above, and Educational Management, Administration and Leadership on the stakeholder model of school governing in England and Wales ( – very timely given what the White Paper has to say about parents on academy governing boards. The research we’re doing with the National Governors Association and York St John University on Primary School Head teacher recruitment is progressing well. The adult ego development and school leadership research also continues to develop very promisingly. Colleague Sam Carr and research student Neil Gilbride are working on that.


And finally, I’ve recently heard that the piece Izhar Oplakta from Tel Aviv University and I had published in Management in Education last year entitled ‘An exploration of the notion of the ‘Good Enough’ School’, has been awarded the BELMAS MiE Best Article Prize for 2015 – excellent news!