NPP Projects

Equipping Parents to Support their Children’s Aspirations: What Works?

Lead University: University of Tasmania

Lead Researcher: Sue Kilpatrick

Research Team: Sue Kilpatrick, Robin Katersky Barnes and Sarah Fischer

Year Funded: 2015

Funding Received: $56,620


This project identified features of parent engagement and information resources that are cost-efficient and effective in supporting low SES parents’ aspirations for their children to participate in higher education. A web resource was produced for institutions to use when designing resources to engage and inform parents, and recommendations from the project included a call for improved coordination among organisations aiming to engage parents.

Project outline

  • The project had two objectives:
    1. Identify features of parent engagement and information programs and resources that are cost-efficient and effective in supporting low socioeconomic status (SES) parents’ aspirations for their children’s participation in higher education.
    2. Produce a web resource for institutions’ use in design of parent engagement and information programs and resources to support low SES parents’ aspirations for their children’s participation in higher education.
  • The implementation of the project had the following components:
    • A literature review provided an overview of the current state of parent engagement research and informed the development of recommendations for improving parent engagement efforts. The literature review was presented to workshops in Tasmania and Wollongong to provide context and stimulate discussion.
    • Two workshops brought together a variety of organisations working on parent engagement. The workshops had two goals:
      • to explore understanding of characteristics of successful parent engagement initiatives
      • to enhance parent engagement initiatives.
    • A website was developed to provide access to the literature review and the adapted evaluation matrix to facilitate reflection on, and modification of, parent engagement programs.
  • The workshops allowed for the collection of data about parent engagement efforts while creating an opportunity for participants to reflect on, and modify, their current parent engagement efforts.
  • Two presentations were delivered on the research project: to the third Aspirations Matter Symposium (2017); and the 2016 Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) Conference. A journal article has been published in Educational Review: Fischer, S., Katersky Barnes, R. and Kilpatrick, S. (2017). “Equipping parents to support their children’s higher education aspirations: A design and evaluation tool”. Educational Review.

Key findings

  • There was a call for greater coordination among organisations which aim to engage parents in developing and supporting their children’s educational aspirations, particularly parents of secondary school children. As a result, the University of Tasmania (UTas) is developing a parental engagement strategy that will include a suite of programs, and is working with multiple schools and community organisations, as well as industry partners with the aim of better coordinating efforts to engage parents in their children’s educational aspiration and career decisions. The Parents Matter project has brought together schools the University and not-for-profit organisations working with parents and schools in disadvantaged communities to “lead” parents and community to organise events that inform other parents of post- Year 10 options for their children. See The Launceston City Deal between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, the City of Launceston and the University of Tasmania includes a goal of expanding career aspirations, jobs and education pathways, particularly in the disadvantaged northern suburbs of Launceston.
  • Workshop participants identified aspects of their current parent engagement projects that they would like to modify in future, and described possible modifications. UTas followed up with participants in April 2017 to see if any of the proposed modifications were implemented.
  • The web resource for institutions design of parent engagement and information can be found at

Summary prepared by the NCSEHE.


Posted 1 October 2018