Too Much, Too Little, or Just the Right Amount of Struggle: What Do Butterflies Have to Do With Engagement? How do we know how engaged we are as families, as schools, and as family-school communities or whether this engagement is working? I know that each day you send home notes, texts, newsletters, and invitations that you are valuing my involvement as a parent.
There are times when incongruous perspectives and conceptualizations make our assessment and measurement of family-school engagement very difficult.
These are not easy questions to answer, particularly since we know that each family-school community context is different and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. What is right in one family-school community may not be right in another. We could rely on the number of school community members, parent involvement committee representatives, or the amount of funds raised. So then, what can we do to get a sense of family-school engagement and then measure whether our initiatives are working or not? Conduct a survey or large group discussion at the beginning of the year and another at year’s end.
WelcomeWilliams » NeuroscienceThe Neuroscience Program is designed to provide students with a uniquely interdisciplinary approach to studying a single remarkably complex organ—the brain. Neuroscience is a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field concerned with understanding the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. Ultimately though, all assessment and measurement of family-school engagement should serve a similar purpose: to enhance partnership, relationship, and communication while working toward student success and well-being.
We could keep track of the number of times a family walks through the door of the school for concerts, curriculum nights, or special events.


Look for changes in perception or awareness of what constitutes family-school engagement, even changes in willingness and comfort asking questions.
To get a sense of where families are at, ask them to tell you about what they do in a way that does not seem like interference or intrusion.
This will allow you to ensure that homework (inspired family practice) is meaningful and relevant.
The interdisciplinary nature of the field is apparent when surveying those who call themselves neuroscientists. Families and school communities have their own concepts of engagement, and these often vary from family to family and school to school.
I wonder how it is that you measure my engagement at school and whether I am considered under-involved, over-involved, or just right?
Ultimately, if we really want to know how we are doing, we should ask: through surveys, through open forums between family and school, or through informal conversations. Recognize that not all changes will be due to school initiatives but may be attributed to context, out-of-school influences, community involvement, etc. Parent reports on motivators for involvement, perceptions of invitations to be involved, ways to be involved, or family-school communication can be effective in planning and developing further family-school initiatives.
On their way into a curriculum or theme night (that engages child, family, and school toward a common purpose!) ask families to identify what they do at home that constitutes math, language, physical health and well-being, science, visual arts, etc.
I know, though, that at the core of successful family-school engagement is a substantial amount of trust and communication, reflective of thinking, interrogation of practices, and forward thinking on the part of families and schools. Among these are  anatomists, physiologists, chemists, psychologists, philosophers, molecular biologists, computer scientists, linguists, and ethologists.


While measurement of engagement, like family-school engagement itself, is not a science, and there is no one size fits all, what we do know is that traditional measures of engagement underestimate what family-school communities do on a day-to-day basis.
Or we could record the amount of communication between family and school (for example, the number of forms returned on time!). Asking students about their perceptions of involvement might also serve as a useful indicator. Keep in mind that what is often perceived as engagement by a family may not be self-evident on the school landscape. The areas that neuroscience addresses are equally diverse and range from physiological and molecular studies of single neurons, to investigations of how systems of neurons produce phenomena such as vision and movement, to the study of the neural basis of complex cognitive phenomena such as memory, language, and consciousness. Applications of neuroscience research are rapidly growing and include the development of drugs to treat neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, the use of noninvasive techniques for imaging the human brain such as PET scans and MRI, and the development of methods for repair of the damaged human brain such as the use of brain explants and implants. They give us one piece of the puzzle, and we are encouraged when we see our numbers going up. Combining this wide range of approaches and research methods to study a single remarkably complex organ—the brain—requires a unique interdisciplinary approach. The Neuroscience Program is designed to provide students with the opportunity to explore this approach. They are minor compared to the myriad of ways that families engage with their children on a day-to-day basis.



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