Education Family and Community Partnerships in Education
Linda Mitchell, Jane Furness, Bronwen Cowie, Maretta Taylor
  • LAST REVIEWED: 21 April 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0197


Education often involves partnerships, of which the teacher-learner relationship, as the most fundamental, is perhaps the most widely theorized and researched. However, many different kinds of partnerships exist in education settings, and they can occur at different levels within an education system. Partnerships are often expected to address multiple needs simultaneously, such as providing education to those who could not otherwise afford it, bringing together a particular set of values, maintaining indigenous languages and cultures, or providing a special focus alongside a general education (such as a sports academy might offer). Many of these may be thought of as community partnerships, the variety of which continues to expand and can involve learners of different ages. Further, since the late 20th century, the role of families in children’s education has become a focus of practical endeavor, theory building, and research. The common theme over time and setting is a desire to provide better outcomes for all people or for particular groups of people. This bibliography attends to family and community partnerships in education in current times, focusing on trends that are a counterpoint to existing barriers and seek transformation with regard to educational and social equity and fairness. Necessarily selective, this bibliography covers the key threads in current practice, theory, and research of socioeconomic, cultural, and political factors in achieving socially just outcomes in and through education settings and endeavors.

Theoretical Framing and Rationale

Ecological theory (Lerner 2005) and sociocultural theory provide a conceptual rationale for family and community partnerships in education. Both of these theories consider the individual in context rather than the individual alone. Indigenous cultures often understand children as being located in their environments within a web of relationships and concerned with collaborative endeavors (Rameka 2009). Where relationships between the education institution and the home and community are established, actions and understandings from one setting reinforce, support, and add to those in other settings. Such relationships are productive when they are empowering and based on understanding that families and communities have strengths and expertise, or “funds of knowledge” (González, et al. 2005). They draw on and can build student, family, and community social and cultural capital. Kana’iaupuni and Ledward 2017 describes evolving approaches and aims of culture in education, arguing for culture-based education, where instruction and learning evolve from the values, norms, knowledge, beliefs, practices, experiences, places, and language of a culture group. Many studies (See and Gorard 2015; Siraj-Blatchford, et al. 2003; Whalley and the Pen Green Centre Team 2007) have shown positive outcomes for children and for families from two-way partnerships with educational institutions. Providing collaboration between indigenous communities and education settings is found to be a way to reclaim indigenous languages in countries where colonization has subordinated these languages (McCarty and Nicholas 2014).

  • González, N., L. C. Moll, and C. Amanti, eds. 2005. Funds of Knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

    This book explains the theory and methods of a “funds of knowledge” approach to finding out about the competence and knowledge of families. It explores the implications for teachers of taking this approach and its application to school classrooms.

  • Kana’iaupuni, S. M., and B. Ledward. 2017. Mohala i ka wai: Cultural advantage as a framework for indigenous culture-based education and student outcomes. American Educational Research Journal 54.15: 311S–399S.

    DOI: 10.3102/0002831216664779

    The authors use a framework of cultural advantage to raise critical questions about structures, paradigms, and practices of effective education. They discuss advances in culture-based education (CBE), which transmits and applies cultural ways of being, knowing, and doing within past, present, and future contexts. Research using CBE from an indigenous Hawaiian stance is reported on, showing positive outcomes for students from teachers and school environments using this approach.

  • Lerner, R. M. 2005. Foreword: Uri Bronfenbrenner: Career contributions of the consummate developmental scientist. In Making human beings human: Bioecological perspectives on human development. Edited by U. Bronfenbrenner, ix–xxvi. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Bronfenbrenner’s bioecological theory has four interrelated components: (1) the developmental process, involving the relation of the individual and the context; (2) the person, with his or her distinct attributes and characteristics; (3) the context of human development, conceived of as interrelated nested systems; and (4) time, constituting multiple dimensions, including historical time and family time. Together, these components make up Bronfenbrenner’s process-person-context-time model for conceptualizing the dynamic, human development system, and for designing research.

  • McCarty, T. L., and S. E. Nicholas. March 2014. Reclaiming indigenous languages: A reconsideration of the roles and responsibilities of schools. Review of Research in Education 38:106–136.

    DOI: 10.3102/0091732X13507894

    McCarty and Nicholas describe four “telling cases” from Canada, the United States, and Hawaii to offer a critical examination of the reclamation of Indigenous mother tongues through schooling. A key finding was that family members are primary in any language reclamation effort, and that school-based programs can serve as supports for family language planning in the home and community. In successful community schools, indigenous community members exercised authority over development and implementation.

  • Rameka, L. 2009. Kaupapa Māori assessment: A journey of meaning making. Early Childhood Folio 13:32–36.

    In a case study of a bilingual early childhood center in New Zealand, Rameka discusses the journey of participants in developing an assessment framework that embeds Māori epistemologies, ideas of valued learning, and cultural norms and understandings.

  • 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 41.3: 346–366.

    DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2015.1031648

    The paper summarizes what would be needed to demonstrate that enhanced parental involvement produces better attainment and other outcomes, and it reports on the findings of a systematic review of available and relevant studies that meet these criteria. These confirm that parental involvement and attainment are linked. The authors assert there is promising evidence that intervening to improve parental involvement can be effective.

  • Siraj-Blatchford, I., K. Sylva, B. Taggart, P. Sammons, E. Melhuish, and K. Elliot. 2003. Intensive case studies of practice across the Foundation Stage. Technical Paper 10. London: Institute of Education, Univ. of London.

    As part of the longitudinal study of Effective Provision of Preschool Education in the United Kingdom, the researchers undertook intensive case studies of “effective” preschool centers, chosen retrospectively on the basis of multilevel analyses of intake and outcome measures. Where centers promoted a relationship with parents in terms of shared educational aims, and where pedagogical efforts were made at home to support children, sound learning could take place even when the pedagogic practice in the settings was not consistently good.

  • Whalley, M., and the Pen Green Centre Team. 2007. Involving parents in their children’s learning. 2d ed. London: Paul Chapman.

    DOI: 10.4135/9781446278888

    This book contains case studies of parents and children who attended the Pen Green Centre for children and families in Corby, England. It analyzes and tracks learning for both children and families. It discusses processes and resources for parent collaboration, and how the Pen Green approach has been applied to primary school.

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