Engaging Parents in Inquiry Curriculum

We’ve known, for a long time now, that St Peters teachers regularly go above and beyond for their students but, recently, one of our staff members sought to extend that practice even further. St Peters Indooroopilly teacher, Mrs Miriam Bryan (Year 5), has been teaching at the College since 2018, and in Australia and the UK for 21 years. This year, she joined staff members at five other independent schools across the state to take part in the EPIC research project.

What is EPIC?

The EPIC project is a collaboration between Griffith University, Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) and Queensland Independent Schools Parents Network. As its title implies (‘Engaging Parents in Inquiry Curriculum’), its intent is to add to the body of knowledge about parent engagement in schools.

To assist researchers in their findings, Mrs Bryan experimented with a range of strategies to bring parents closer to what she was teaching in the classroom. She shared more detailed information on the class’s Firefly page, had her students email examples of their work to their parents, and encouraged parents to get more involved in classroom projects.

Mrs Bryan said that the changes she made as part of the EPIC project in turn made a huge difference to the conversations parents were having with their children after school. Instead of vague questions about their child’s day (and simple ‘it was great’ or ‘it was boring’ responses), the parents of her students could instead ask specific questions about a topic they knew was being studied, leading to a more meaningful conversation.

“I always thought of engaging parents as being around Pastoral Care and something you might do when dealing with behavioural issues,” Mrs Bryan told the QIS Parent Network recently.

Now, however, she’s seen a real shift in the relationship between her and the parents of her students.

“It feels to me they are so much happier and so much more connected to me,” she said.

A College-wide approach

Head of College, Mr Tim Kotzur, has observed the changes that have occurred because of Mrs Bryan’s involvement in the EPIC project. It’s been powerful, he said, and something that aligns with the current strategic intent of St Peters Indooroopilly.

“Parent engagement at St Peters is critically important,” Mr Kotzur said, reflecting on the outcomes of EPIC. “We are deliberate and intentional about making sure that each parent is deeply connected to their child’s learning journey…[and] we’ve found the partnership between home and school has been strengthened as a result [of the involvement].”

Watch this space

The EPIC final report is due to be released in late November, 2021. You can read more about what is expected to feature, and how Mrs Bryan has implemented the project in her classroom, here. For now, we couldn’t be happier with our College’s involvement in the project, and the role Mrs Bryan has played. As Griffith University’s Professor Beryl Exley shared, our incredible Year 5 teacher has been a ‘shining light in parent engagement’.

“Miriam was such a stellar appointment to EPIC, she brings so much willingness to learn and extend, and has this amazing capacity to take a kernel of an idea and let it flourish in her context,” Professor Exley said.

We’re extremely lucky to have teachers like Mrs Bryan at our College and can’t wait to see the benefits her involvement in this project will have for future teachers and students around Queensland.