In-Depth Family Interviews Shed Light on Effective Family Engagement

December 5, 2016 12:00 PM
by / Topics: Improving Family Engagement

dataandeval_Q&A

In this two-part blog series, we invite you to go “Behind the Scenes” with the Flamboyan Data and Evaluation Team to learn about the process and surface-level findings of in-depth interviews with families that shed light on effective family engagement.

In this post, the Data and Evaluation Team discuss the logistics, and open up about how the process was a reflection of Flamboyan Foundation’s core values – people, catalytic action, equity, and impact.
Background:
  1. What are in-depth interviews? Why are they useful?
    In-depth interviews are a type of qualitative research which explores how and why something like family engagement does or doesn’t work. Qualitative research and in-depth interviews reveal issues that researchers weren’t even aware of at the outset. We led guided discussions with one to three families at a time who considered their interview time as a safe space to reflect and discuss their experiences. Each family helped us identify barriers, unintended consequences, both positive and negative, and other discoveries in family engagement work that surfaced in the findings.
  2. How many families did the team interview? What grade levels were represented?
    Altogether, our team, with the assistance of many of our Flamboyan colleagues, interviewed 71 family members of D.C. Public Schools or D.C. public charter school children in grades PRE-K3 through 12th. Our sample was ethnically, racially, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse. Families of special education students were also a significant portion of our sample. The main objective of these interviews was to hear from diverse families. Specifically, we selected schools that would allow us to hear from families living in wards 7 and 8, English Language Learner (ELL) families, and families in gentrifying neighborhoods.
  3. In-depth interviews make families feel valued and part of the conversation, but what’s the next step to ensure that what we learn from the findings will drive family engagement work further with families’ input at the forefront?
    In speaking to families, we’re building our knowledge around what’s working, what’s not working, and why. These insights will inform our teacher and school leader training, our coaching approach, and the direction we take as an organization that equips schools with the resources they need to further family engagement work.
  4. Flamboyan’s work in D.C. helps educators engage families as partners to accelerate student learning. How do in-depth interviews help achieve this work?
    In addition to families helping us understand why things are or are not working, they also help us understand how they themselves support their student’s learning. We began the interviews by asking families about the most important things they do to help their children be successful. Their input gives us context so that we can support educators to build on the areas families feel are most important in supporting their children. It was interesting how many families identified building relationships and maintaining open lines of communication with school staff as one of the most important things they do for their children.
Connection to Core Values and Flamboyan Foundation’s Work:
  1. Flamboyan’s Core Values are People/Impact/Catalytic Action/Equity. How did these show up in the interviews and the process?
    Flamboyan’s core values appeared distinctively throughout the interview process and motivated our team’s work. In particular, Flamboyan’s core value of people was evident in each interview our team conducted. We were intentional about providing families with a safe space for them to share. As a result, we were able to see and hear families through an authentic lens. Additionally, by interacting with families, we were able to connect our internal work with an external context that focused on the power of the people we serve. The core values of equity, impact and catalytic action were also visible throughout the interview process. Issues surrounding equity emerged in many forms at several schools. Specifically, special education families, ELL families, and working families all encountered a unique set of challenges that limited their ability to engage at schools. Given these challenges, our team has acted quickly to communicate the urgency of this work and the wider impact it could serve to the organization. It is our hope that by highlighting the stories and experiences of the families we serve, our organization will move towards the outcomes needed so that one day every child will have the opportunity to live a fulfilling life.
Next week, the Data and Evaluation Team will go deeper and share surface-level findings that suggest that family engagement work is continues to be an important indicator of student achievement in DC.