Educational engagement practices of Tongan parents in relation to their children's learning

This study explores the parental engagement of Tongan parents in relation to their children’s learning and designs an engagement framework to enhance this engagement. Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological systems theory framework was employed to conceptualise and inform the analysis of parental engagement of Tongan parents in this research. Talaloto, a new Pacific research methodology which I developed for use in this study, was utilised for data collection from Tongan parents, as a way of capturing their authentic voices, grounded within their culture. Talaloto provides a space for personal lived experiences to be told. Focus group interviews were used for gathering data from teachers and students. Initial data collection motivated me to develop and implement an intervention to enhance parental engagement practices, for a sample of Tongan parents, students, and teachers, associated with a local primary school. The findings showed that parental engagement is an holistic process, requiring collaboration between home, school, and the wider community to enable both participation and interaction. Recognition of and valuing home funds of knowledge as well as the implementation of home visits by teachers, were found to be significant contributors to transforming relationships and lifting student achievement. The intentional creation of an Engagement Broker role for the purposes of the intervention demonstrated the importance of such a role in providing guidance to all participants as they navigated differing contexts and new roles and relationships. A key outcome of this study was the development of the ‘Kato Alu ‘framework, where a cultural metaphor is used to conceptualise and contextualise the understanding and use of parental engagement practices by Tongan parents in their children’s learning. I used the four stages of crafting the Kato Alu: Tokonaki (preparation), Lalanga (weaving), Teuteu’i (decoration) and Foaki (presentation), to symbolise the four steps for guiding the parental engagement process. The hope is that this framework may be applied in other Pacific settings and can be adapted for broader use.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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