The Community for Learning Partnership Program: Building cultural and social capital through a school-family-community partnership

Year: 2019

Author: Tour, Katrina, Barnes, Melissa

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In Victorian government schools, students from language backgrounds other than English (LBOTE) account for 32 percent of the student population (DET, 2019). Schools often struggle to address the literacy needs of LBOTE students, especially those from refugee backgrounds, due to a lack of time and resources available during the school day (Windle & Miller, 2012). This issue highlights the need for schools with high percentages of LBOTE students to explore new ways to assist and support this disadvantaged and vulnerable group of learners. In recent years, there has been an increased interest in exploring how school-family-community partnerships can bring together knowledge, experiences, resources, and connections existing outside of schools and lead to higher student achievement (Epstein, 2018). However, the use of partnerships in schools is generally fragmented and examples of partnership programs that specifically focus on literacy are limited. Therefore, this in-progress project aimed to address this issue by piloting a literacy-focused The Community for Learning Partnership Program.

Partnering with a Victorian primary school with 55% LBOTE students and below the average Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage (ACARA, 2018), The Community for Learning Partnership Programbrings together LBOTE children, their families, and pre-service teachers. The partnership program consists of three components: (1) after-school multiliteracies workshops for LBOTE children taught by pre-service teachers, (2) interactive workshops for LBOTE parents and (3) planning sessions with pre-service teachers. Drawing on Bourdieu’s concepts of cultural and social capital,The Community for Learning Partnership Program was conceptualised as a partnership that promotes reciprocal learning for all participants by: 1) extending LBOTE children’s literacy capabilities through engagement with digital literacies; 2) equipping families with strategies to support literacy learning at home using family resources (e.g. home language); 3) developing pre-teachers’ capacity to scaffold LBOTE students’ learning and work with their families; and 4) empowering all participants by acknowledging their existing knowledge and experiences.

This single case study provides a detailed and holistic understanding of the potential of this partnership program. Data is collected and analysed during the program through 1) interviews with parents, children and pre-service teachers, 2) observations and photographs taken during the after-school workshops, and 3) the collection of student artefacts created during the program. The presentation reports some preliminary findings related to the participants’ learning as well as the partnership model that fosters Community for Learning.