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Enabling schools as learning communities that are oriented towards lifelong learning

As a parent, you strive for the best possible outcomes for your children. You want your children to to grow and develop, to learn and to thrive, to become independent and contributing citizens in society. There is strong research evidence that shows that when schools and families work together, children do better, stay in school longer, are more engaged with their schoolwork, go to school more regularly, behave better, and have better social skills.

You recognise the important distinction between parent involvement in schooling and parent engagement in learning. You are happy to be fully involved in school activities as these have an important community and social function, but you see the key to facilitating positive change in your child’s education development as your active engagement, as a parent, in learning outcomes in the home.

The Virtuoso platform provides a framework of integrated processes that assists you – the parents, and teachers with keeping students engaged in learning while also helping to develop those characteristics that will make learning an integral and valued part of their lives beyond school.

Empowering students to co-create learning experiences in a supportive environment

Virtuoso empowers students to create their own, personalised and engaging learning experiences and encourages the active support and participation of parents and teachers.

This helps students reach their full potential and grow in a nurturing and supportive learning environment.

Virtuoso: The learning engagement platform that students have been asking for

"I want to discover my own strengths and receive feedback from teachers and peers."
"I want to have a voice in my classroom."
"I need to create, save and share information with teachers and other students."
"I want to discover my own strengths and receive feedback from teachers and peers."



For students to discover their own strengths, they need a process of reflection and contextual feedback. The key contributors to learning gains. Virtuoso does this through the Individualised Learning Pathway (ILP). Students can identify and develop areas of interest, aptitude, and ambition in collaboration with parents, teachers, and peers.

 

Informed by research: Individual learning pathways, Individual flow zone




Diverse forms of feedback: by voice recordings, text, video and screenshots.


Credentialled badging: Engage and motivate students with digital badges to recognise a skill or achievement.
"I want to have a voice in my classroom."



Students who are given a choice and a voice are more engaged in the learning process.Virtuoso captures students’ learning artefacts and feedback to inform the individualised learning design.

 

Informed by research: Configurable student feedback system




ePortfolios: Capture students’ learning and achievements for presentation, communication, and collaboration.


Feedback for teachers: Give teachers pre- and post-lesson feedback to articulate learning interests and needs.
"I need to create, save and share information with teachers and other students."



Students who can work collaboratively develop lifelong skills that prepare them for society. Virtuoso makes self-directed and collaborative learning enjoyable and meaningful for students.




Resource pool: Self-select learning content from a range of resources and share in the ePortfolio.


Collaborative design space: Embrace flexibility and freedom of designing and sharing lesson presentations with teachers and peers.

Virtuoso: The learning engagement platform parents have been asking for

“I want to stay informed of my child’s learning progress and daily school life.”
“I want to be able to support my child’s learning at home.”
“I want to spend less time and effort filling in forms for my child’s schooling.”
“I want to stay informed of my child’s learning progress and daily school life.”



Active parent engagement has a positive effect on a child’s educational achievements and performance levels at school.Virtuoso’s Parent Portal has a dashboard with a personalised newsfeed.This includes announcements regarding school activities and student performance.




Virtuoso also provides:


Child’s detailed information: Access to your child’s grade book, attendance, and calendar.


Interactive reports: Access to reports through ‘Analytics’, which captures and displays your child’s individual performance in relation to their class.
“I want to be able to support my child’s learning at home.”



Understanding your child’s strengths and their progress at school will help you support your child's learning. Start a valuable conversations that will directly enrich their learning experiences. With Virtuoso’s Individualised Learning Pathway (ILP), parents and teachers work together to help student learning by identifying interests, strengths, and goals.




Child's learning moments: Review your child's activities captured in ePortfolio to identify and discuss areas of interests at home.


Group messaging: Set up group communication to keep your child's teacher in the loop.
“I want to spend less time and effort filling in forms for my child’s schooling.”



Parents often spend considerable time and effort completing and sending paperwork to meet the administrative requirements of their child’s school.Virtuoso’s Parent Portal helps take the pain away from this process.





The Parent Portal enables you to:


Review and approve student excursion requests.


Explain the reasons behind your child’s absence, such as holidays, family issues or sickness.

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Six factors which affect achievement

It helps for schools to recognise parent involvement as only the first step towards parent engagement. Parent engagement is more about those specific actions that parents take to enhance their children’s schooling success and strengthen the communication they have with their children, teachers and school.

Expectations
Routines
Support
Culture
Role modeling
Opportunity to learn
Expectations
Setting high and consistent standards
Routines
Establishing ones which promote health, wellbeing
Support
Showing interest, giving specific praise and teaching social and learning skills
Culture
Establishing a warm, cooperative, positive environment
Role modeling
Demonstrating the habits of mind and behaviours of successful learners
Opportunity to learn
Creating a home learning environment that stimulates learning

The student – teacher partnership

The partnership between your children and teachers relies greatly on expectations. When these expectations are met, they create a yearning for learning and admiration. When unmet, they generate resentment and can often result in disengagement and a dislike for learning.

Inspirational moments
Introduce humour and banter
A stimulating environment
Trust and fairness
An appreciation of their world
Inspirational moments

Your children want to feel inspired by what they are learning. They want to know that their time in school and every class is worthwhile. Instances of surprise and enlightenment, even if brief, can make all the difference in motivating children to explore and delve deeply. Arousing astonishment and eliciting revelation are the hallmarks of a talented teacher.

Introduce humour and banter

A critical element in creating a successful learning community is the mood of the class. What is the tone and tenor of the student-teacher relationship? Laughter is definitely a key to keeping this mood light and productive. Witty banter and a dose of silliness also go a long way towards keeping children engaged. Even the toughest of teachers win points from students if they can lighten the mood with timely jokes. They make the minutes tick by with less boredom, and hopefully maybe even some anticipation.

A stimulating environment

The atmosphere of a class has a very strong correlation to the mood of the class. This atmosphere refers to both the personality of the teacher and the physical space. Is the room decorated in a visually stimulating style, with inspirational posters and relevant student work? Is the layout lively and pleasing, and the design kid-friendly and complementary? Critically, is the temperament of the teacher upbeat and joyful, with a motivating sense of optimism about the journey the child and the adult are taking together?

Trust and fairness

The most common complaint from students of any age is, a lack of perceived fairness! From their perspective, fairness equates to trust. Trust means clear expectations. If students don't trust that teachers are going to keep their word, treat them with decency, and give them the benefit of the doubt, then they will tune out everything else teachers try to communicate.

An appreciation of their world

For most students, adults have no idea what it's like to be a child today, and they couldn't possibly listen to the right music or wear the right clothes. But a teacher has a duty to figure out how to convey an understanding and an appreciation for children's worlds. Essentially, this means not alienating students by being deliberately out of touch with what is important to them.

Six types of parent engagement

Being clearer about how different kinds of parenting affects children’s development is extremely challenging. However, here are some factors that repeatedly emerge as being important in the research literature:

Parenting
Communicating
Volunteering
Learning at home
Decision-making
Collaborating with community
Parenting

Helping all families to have the basic home conditions in place including active parenting strategies and regular communication with school

Communicating

Designing effective home-to-school and school-to-home communication methods which engage all parents regularly

Volunteering

Recruiting volunteer parents to help in school, in classes and in extra-curricular activities

Learning at home

Learning at home Providing good information to enable all parents to help with homework and offer other family learning activities

Decision-making

Including parents in decision-making activities to build a sense of ownership including being involved in governance

Collaborating with community

Finding and using resources from the wider parent community to enrich school life

Research also indicates that when schools organise intentional programs to inform and engage all families, many more parents feel welcome at school and valued by educators and become involved because of school and classroom partnership practices.

What parents do at home has a significant impact on their children’s achievement, so investing time in having good conversations about your child’s progress, about your beliefs, expectations and feelings, making sure to listen carefully to what your child has to say is important!

Here are some research influenced practical ideas for parents that  you could consider adopting using our Virtuoso platform:

Expectations
Routines
Opportunity to learn
Support
Culture
Role modelling
Expectations
  • Be clear about your high expectations
  • Look ahead and help your child to set goals
  • Make clear your belief that all children can get smarter and learn more effectively through effort and positive thinking
  • Show affection and warmth while at the same time maintaining consistent boundaries of expected behaviour
Routines
  • Set clear routines for the time before and after school and for weekends and encourage your child to be involved in a reasonable amount of regular extra- curricular activity
  • Use mealtimes as opportunities to talk

  • Set aside time to read with your child and to look at their school and homework
  • Create space for your child to tell you when she/he is under stress or worried
Opportunity to learn
  • Ensure your home has lots of games, puzzles and books
  • Make sure that your child has a quiet place to study
  • Find things to learn together on a regular basis, ideally with parents sometimes creating special one-to-one time with each child
  • Use everyday activities, cooking, gardening, making things, reading the newspaper to do things together and get to know one another more
Support
  • Celebrate effort and hard work whenever possible
  • Tune in to the way your child learns, providing hands-on experiences where possible and also opportunities to reflect
  • Teach your child to practise – setting aside time, setting goals, repeating the hard bits, watching experts etc
  • Make it clear that learning involves making mistakes and requires effort
Culture
  • Encourage your child’s questioning!

  • Notice what your child loves doing and be on the lookout for their emerging passions
  • Talk about times when you are finding something difficult and what you are doing to cope
Role modelling
  • Talk about your own learning, successes, frustrations, times you have had to persist at something
  • Take the opportunity to share your passions and show how you make time to do things that matter to them
  • Talk about people you admire

Parents are more likely to be involved if they see it as part of their job as a parent, so here are some research influenced practical ideas for schools to consider adopting:

  • In partnership with parents, develop a clear strategy for parent engagement, including regular activities under all the six headings outlined below.
  • Have a clear understanding of what “Learner success” means to the school especially those aspects which go beyond academic achievement.
  • Hold an annual festival of parenting engagement to highlight the schools work in this area.

Employing the capabilities of our Virtuoso platform and using Epstein’s framework, schools could implement the following:

Parenting
Communicating
Volunteering
Learning at home
Decision making
Collaborating with community
Parenting
  • Use the school’s website and publications to suggest practical ways in which parenting for learning can be developed
  • Hold parent workshops and offer home visits
  • Express clear expectations about time spent on homework, on informal learning, on television, about the use of computers and the value of reading to/with and talking to their children
  • Educate parents about child health and well-being and the need for enough sleep
Communicating
  • Invest time in establishing personalised communications with all parents
  • On at least a half-termly basis, make sure parents know what their child is going to be learning and have some simple ideas as to how they can support them - as well as web-support. Ideally this should be done on a weekly basis in advance of the week ahead and available online.
  • Identify and remove educational jargon from all school literature and encourage all staff to speak to parents in plain English
  • Make it possible for all new parents to observe lessons at first hand
  • Use technology – e-mail, scanning etc. to communicate as regularly as possible, ensuring that they are often relaying positive messages
Volunteering
  • Annually survey the talents and skills of their parents
  • Offer a range of opportunities for all parents to contribute their time and talents
  • Clearly identify parent and teacher champions for all of the voluntary activities run by the school
Learning at home
  • Provide books and online materials to help parents understand how best they can support their children’s learning at home
  • Always suggest activities, beyond homework, which families might choose to do to support classroom learning
  • Host sessions for parents about how children learn
  • Create an illustrated map of all the informal learning providers in the area – libraries, museums, sports centres, sites of local interest etc.
Decision making
  • Put real effort into creating and supporting a thriving Friends and Family Associations
  • Make the prime momentum of these organisations the encouragement of parent engagement in learning
  • Consult parents wherever possible and always explain their decision-making processes clearly
  • Provide a range of opportunities for parents to be involved in an advisory capacity.
Collaborating with community
  • Use parents and local organisations for trips, special camps and other activities
  • Build alliances with those parents who have specific resources to share and with local community resources
  • Establish a programme of lectures, classes, workshops and visits to enrich the school curriculum

In this constant and rapidly evolving world, a ‘lifelong learning’ orientation to education is vital if students are to thrive in the global digital and knowledge economy.  Working in partnership, parents and teachers should be mentors and models of lifelong learning more than dispensers of knowledge such that students begin to view learning as an enjoyable and integral part of life.

It is not uncommon for teachers to sometimes struggle to understand a student’s interest and strengths, making it harder to engage the student. Virtuoso facilitates a paradigm shift in parent/student/teacher/school engagement.  Using our very user-friendly collaborative tools, parents can more readily engage with teachers to understand the unique learning journeys of their child.

More reading and references

  • Desforges, C., & Abouchaar, A. (2003) The impact of parent involvement, parent support and family education on pupil achievements and adjustment: A literature Review [White paper]. Department for Education and Skills. https://www.nationalnumeracy.org.uk/sites/default/files/the_impact_of_parental_involvement.pdf
  • Dweck, C. (2009) Mindset: The new psychology of success. Gildan Media Corp.
  • Joyce, L. E., & Associates. (2018). School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action (4th ed.). SAGE Publications Inc.
  • Redding, S. (1997) Parents and Learning. Lausanne, Switzerland: UNESCO.

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