Community involvement in schools : a study of three Queensland secondary schools

Limerick, Brigid (1988). Community involvement in schools : a study of three Queensland secondary schools PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Limerick, Brigid
Thesis Title Community involvement in schools : a study of three Queensland secondary schools
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1988
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 405
Language eng
Subjects 930402 School/Institution Community and Environment
740200 Secondary Education
Formatted abstract
This study was motivated by a sense of unease about the ways in which secondary schools in Queensland respond to parents and community members who wish to become involved in school activities. Two basic questions were posed. First, what processes are used by secondary schools to involve the community in projects which are deemed to be successful? Second, what perceptions about, and rationales for, involvement are given by various participants - principals, teachers and parents - in these projects?

A review of the literature on community involvement in education indicated that little research had been conducted on either processes of involvement or participant rationales for such involvement. Greiner's phase model of successful change, drawn from the general field of organisational development, was useful in guiding the research questions formulated.

A broadly ethnomethodological approach, informed by Blumer's concept of the research process, was adopted to study three schools in different socio-economic areas in Brisbane. Observations and structured interviews were utilised in order to enable comparisons of trans-case data. The central objective of seeing both processes and rationales through the eyes of those involved necessitated the use of qualitative data. At the same time emphasis was placed on observing both processes and rationales in their wider social context. For this reason relevant material, including background data and the socio-economic context of the three schools, the nature of regionalisation, and the history of community involvement was investigated. 

The results of the study suggested a number of additions to the literature on community involvement in education. It became apparent that conventional institutional rationales for involvement were too narrow to encompass the range of reasons and motives given for involvement. Central to the findings was a theme that parents or community members need not interact at high levels of "participation" to feel personally empowered. Rather than a unitary interpretation of Greiner's final phase of widespread diffusion of an innovative project, the study suggested that schools should adopt a multiple project model, with a variety of structures to provide diverse opportunities for parents or community members to interact with the school. The role of the principal emerged as crucial in the process of setting a climate which supports community involvement in the school. The trans-case comparisons between the three schools indicated that the processes of successful involvement were fundamentally similar in all schools, although the nature of the projects introduced depended on the needs of the specific community.

This study offers a number of contributions to the development of community involvement in education. It provides a re-conceptualisation of school-community interactions through a more sensitive understanding of both the basic processes, and the underlying rationales, of involvement. A multiple project model of interactions which enables parents and community members to choose the ways in which they wish to interact with the school is suggested. Thus the school may serve an educational purpose for its broader community. The study highlights the need to educate teachers and principals on the issues involved in school-community interactions. It points to the need for teachers to develop the skills to work with a wide variety of parents and community members and for principals to develop the skills of understanding, managing and developing the culture of the school.

Underpinning the study is an acceptance of the philosophy of community education, which presents the view that schools should serve the wider community.
Keyword Community and school -- Queensland -- Brisbane
Education, Secondary -- Queensland -- Brisbane
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 07 Dec 2009, 10:06:39 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service