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Citation:Baker, A. J. L., & Soden, L. M. (1997). Parent Involvement in Children's Education: A Critical Assessment of the Knowledge Base. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, IL. ED407127.

This literature review provides an assessment of the quality of parent involvement research, highlighting significant patterns and commonalities and ending with directions for future research. Studies that investigated the link between parent involvement and student achievement were examined with regard to four methodological limitations: (1) use of non-experimental designs, (2) lack of testing for the specific effects of parent involvement, (3) inconsistent operational definitions of parent involvement, and (4) reliance on non-objective measures. The authors found that very few studies used experimental designs, and although some used quasi-experimental designs, their inherent limitations jeopardize even the most promising findings linking parent involvement to student achievement. They also found that many program evaluations tended to measure the effects of programs globally, rather than measuring the specific components of programs that related to parent involvement. This makes it impossible to attribute the outcomes of the program to the specific influence of parent involvement. Reviewers also observed that the research was characterized by the use of eccentric definitions and measurement tools, which makes it difficult to compare across studies and construct a cumulative knowledge base. Also, because very few studies actually observed or directly measured parent involvement behaviors, knowledge about actual parent involvement remains limited. And finally, this review found that program evaluations were especially weak due to budgetary and program setting constraints. Overall, authors concluded that the research evidence was less than conclusive, but they cite some examples of progress toward increased rigor, consensus, and scholarship. A total of 211 articles published between 1970 and 1996 were reviewed, including non-empirical studies (opinion papers, program descriptions, theoretical papers, and literature reviews), and empirical studies (descriptive studies and inferential studies). In addition to describing the parent involvement literature, this article provides a helpful overview of research methods, their purpose and use, and common limitations that should serve as a caution for consumers of research. Although the main audience for this article is researchers, this is an important article for practitioners that may be looking at research studies for guidance in designing effective parent involvement programs. One caution about this review is that the authors seemed to have set out to look for evidence of the four methodological limitations, which may have resulted in an unbalanced and more negative assessment of the body of research than necessary.

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