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Holistic parental engagement toolkit to improve child health, wellbeing and education in Mirrabooka, Western Australia: A design thinking approach

Parental engagement in children’s learning is a key factor in children’s health, wellbeing and education outcomes and an important vehicle for reducing the effects of disadvantage. However, low SES communities typically face greater barriers to parental engagement, and topdown strategies to address this are rarely successful. Through collaboration with The Smith

Family and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), this project will employ Design Thinking principles and cross‐disciplinary expertise from design, education and community psychology to develop a community‐driven, shared understanding of parental engagement and ‘toolkit’ of strategies for families, education providers and community support agencies.

This project aims to improve understanding and reduce barriers to parental engagement in a low SES community within the Perth metropolitan area. It sits within a larger community‐based project being undertaken by the national children’s charity, The Smith Family. The project will utilise the evidence‐based parental engagement conceptual model recently developed by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) in order to focus on those aspects of parental engagement that ‘matter most for children’s outcomes’ (ARACY, 2015, p.14). Importantly, the project will apply design thinking techniques as a novel means of drawing together diverse community groups and stakeholders to co‐create pragmatic and sustainable strategies to increase parental engagement in children’s learning. The project will be conducted in the Mirrabooka region (Mirrabooka, Nollamara, Westminster, Girrawheen, Koondoola, Alexander Heights, Marangaroo, and Balga) which is of significant socio‐economic disadvantage and has high proportions of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) families and newly arrived migrants and refugees. Expected outcome of this research are:

  • Production of parental engagement toolkits for service providers, schools and families to enhance parental engagement in children’s learning; Formal jointly‐published refereed conference papers and journal articles;
  • Opportunities to contribute one or more chapters to an edited book may also be generated by the project.

This project has a community wide impact, as Culturally‐diverse communities such as Mirrabooka present complex social and economic challenges for schools and other service providers that are seeking to encourage and support parental engagement as an important strategy for improving children’s learning, health and wellbeing. There is currently a lack of shared understanding within communities of what aspects of parental engagement matter most, and the strategies to promote these. In this project, a holistic parental engagement toolkit will be directly informed by the community and its service and education providers. The outcome will be an accessible and easily understood set of methods that the community can apply to improve parental engagement. As these methods are co‐created based on multi‐disciplinary knowledge and community needs, they will encourage collaborations among various stakeholders in the community.

Funding agency

ECU – Industry Collaboration Grant
Industry collaborators: The Smith Family, and ARACY (Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth)

Project duration

August, 2016 – July, 2017


Dr Christopher Kueh
Dr Mandie Shean
Jorgen Mackie (The Smith Family)
Dr Stacey Waters (ARACY)

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