In-Depth Family Interviews Shed Light on Effective Family Engagement

December 19, 2016 09:25 AM
by / Topics: Improving Family Engagement

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 team gives an overview of the findings and shares how authentic responses from families give us the foundation we need to ensure our family engagement practices efficiently benefit student learning and success.

To learn more about the logistics of the in-depth interviews, and how the process reflected Flamboyan’s core values, read part-one of the blog series.

  1. Flamboyan Foundation: We know that these in-depth interviews explored “the how and the why something like family engagement does or does not work.” How can in-depth interviews be an evaluative tool for schools that have never done them before?

    Anita Drever: Family interviews are particularly important if you’re hoping, as a school leader, to measure the effectiveness of or the need for family engagement practices. Family responses and dialogue will inform implementation of services, ways programs may need to be tweaked, or validate the effectiveness of already instituted family engagement platforms. In the end, investing in this strategy helps teachers and school leaders better understand what key stakeholders, families in this case, need to positively benefit.Logistically, family interviews are fairly easy to conduct. You need an interview guide with conversational questions that will elicit responses to the questions a school would like answered; a strategy for recruiting families to come to the school for interviews (interviews can be done over the phone, during back-to-school night, etc.); a way to capture the information that families share (e.g. recordings and transcripts, detailed notes); and a consistent approach to capturing and sharing the main themes with stakeholders.

  2. Flamboyan Foundation: Give a few examples of the findings. How do they validate that schools are providing effective family engagement or may need to re-evaluate their family engagement strategies?

    Apeksha Goonewardena: Families emphasized that educators who partnered with them to build on their child’s non-cognitive skills made a difference in their child’s academic progress. For example, when teachers and families work together to build students’ growth mindsets—the perception that students can achieve their goals through effort, not innate ability—students thrive. When students have the experience of working towards a stretch-goal and then attaining it with the support of the adults in their lives, it’s transformative. In fact, Flamboyan has placed a big emphasis on supporting educators to partner with families to build non-cognitive skills because research shows these skills are strongly linked to academic outcomes. Therefore, when this theme emerged, it confirmed that Flamboyan is heading in the right direction when hearing directly from families that working with educators to provide related programs and strategies is increasingly helpful.

  3. Flamboyan Foundation: When you step back to reflect on the findings and the emerging themes that families shared, how can family engagement improve academic outcomes for children?

    Jeff Noel: What was clear from the interviews is that the partnerships educators are building with families are making concrete differences in students’ lives. They are a particularly effective tool for overcoming barriers to students’ learning.  Many families don’t have the opportunity to build these supportive relationships with teachers, administrators, specialists and staff at their children’s schools, however. In some cases, family engagement practices are sporadic at school or school leaders haven’t elevated engaging families as valued partners in student learning.

  4. Flamboyan Foundation: If you could sum up the results in a few words, what would they be?

    Anita Drever: “Partnership” and “open lines of communication.” We began the interviews by asking families about the most important things they do to help their children be successful. The majority of families identified “building relationships” and “maintaining open lines of communication with school staff” as the top two most important things they do for their children.