Parental Involvement Impact in Second Language Learning on Pre-School Age Children

Subject: Education
Pages: 17
Words: 4602
Reading time:
17 min
Study level: College


Background and Context

The quality of education usually depends on many factors, particularly on methods that teachers use to provide information for students, background knowledge that children have, and contributions that other caregivers can make. The way how a person is educated defines the possibilities of further professional growth, the choice of a career, and even some financial aspects. Today’s education undergoes a number of changes and modifications due to a variety of factors like globalization, the development of international relationships, and even the COVID-19 pandemic (Al Lily et al., 2020). Millions of students have to replace their face-to-face activities with distance learning, which increases the role of parents in early childhood education. However, parental involvement in education has already been identified as a critical topic even before the pandemic. The global spread of English has made people choose it as a foreign language in demand, and many children are interested in learning it from multiple perspectives.

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However, as soon as students begin to study English, they challenge their understanding of native languages and the importance of cultural beliefs and behavioral norms. Pre-school education is a period when students not only obtain new knowledge but also demonstrate their communication abilities and participation in different socialization processes. According to Alawawda and Razi (2020), cooperation between parents and children during a learning process is necessary to promote language proficiency and choose appropriate motivational factors. Young students are introduced to a new environment where unknown people (educators and other school employees) control their behaviors, explain new material, and give tasks that have to be completed under specific conditions. Children have to feel support from their parents to understand why they need a second language and how to combine their already gained experiences with additional practices. Therefore, the scope of the current project will be related to the impact parents could have on their children in second language learning.

Problem Statement

In this research, the problem is the impossibility of understanding what impact parents can actually have on children in their second language learning. Pre-school education remains a common topic for analysis in many countries for an extended period, and both positive and negative experiences were revealed (Manigo & Allison, 2017). On the one hand, some parents report a number of problems with their pre-school experience because of the lack of professionalism among teachers, poorly chosen activities, and inadequate instructions (Manigo & Allison, 2017). On the other hand, international experiences show that collaboration between parents and teachers is characterized by certain factors in supporting language development in pre-school children (Sawyer et al., 2016). Some parents are not aware of additional benefits like improved brain functioning and additional skills development in their children, which makes them reject the idea of second language learning in pre-school classrooms (Birdsong, 2018). As a result, studies aim at recognizing the benefits and shortages of preschool education in general instead of focusing on the advantages of parental involvement in children’s education in particular.

At this moment, parental involvement may be defined as a problematic area due to the two main reasons: extended research with different positions and a lack of specific recommendations for parents and teachers in preschool second language learning environments. It is expected to connect such factors as motivation for parents and students to study a second language at a young age and to identify the contributions parents have in the field. Current knowledge misses the required connection between the concepts of language education, pre-schooling, motivation, and parental involvement. The main problem is no or poor information for parents to prepare their children for second language learning. Alawawda and Razi (2020) explain that foreign language is appreciated due to the progress of international relationships, business development, and even personal interests. Most parents want to see their children succeed in school and continue making attempts to support their children by any available means (Manigo & Allison, 2017). Therefore, the practice research problem to address in this project is the necessity to prepare parents for participation in their children’s second language learning at a young age.

Research Questions

Regarding the already developed scope of research and the identified problem statements, several research questions should be developed in this project:

  1. How are parents involved in preschool activities of their 4-6-year-old children?
  2. What is the expected impact of parental involvement on early childhood education?
  3. What motivational factors do parents have in promoting second language learning for their children?
  4. What are the outcomes of parental involvement in studying a second language in a pre-school environment?
  5. What recommendations should parents and teachers follow in pre-school settings?

Relevance and Importance of the Research

Parental involvement is a worthy topic for investigation, especially in an early second language learning process. In addition to such well-known insights as bilingualism, international business progress, and the enhancement of communication skills, parents have to understand their role in child development (Alawawda & Razi, 2020). Children usually demonstrate good skills in various pre-school activities due to their linguistic sensitivity, brain plasticity, and poor background knowledge.

The younger a person is, the better chances to learn new material he or she has. However, the choice of a second language is a significant step in the life of any person. Relying on their observations, awareness of the child’s interests, and possible career choices, parents may participate in their children’s lives and give solid pieces of advice. New insights of this research project are related to motivational factors that parents use to influence students’ proficiency in second language learning. As soon as a parent makes a decision to cooperate with a teacher, certain recommendations and guidelines have to be identified.

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Findings of the current study, like the reasons parents have to promote second language learning, the strategies for parental involvement, and the outcomes of pre-school education, will be relevant to several groups of people. First, parents will find this research worth doing to learn what they can do to support their children and create the most favorable learning environments. Second, teachers may use the results to recognize what parents bring to students while being involved in a learning process. Finally, researchers should use this study as a background for future projects to offer effective learning strategies for second language learning in a pre-school classroom based on parental involvement. It is not enough to discuss the ways in which parents contribute to early childhood education but to focus on their motivational factors in relation to second language learning.

Literature Review

Key Concepts, Theories, and Studies

Learning a second language is not a new academic practice, and millions of people have already experienced the benefits of knowing and speaking several languages. Many concepts, theories, and studies have already been developed during the last several decades, and more ideas need to be introduced to define the impact of parental involvement on second language learning in a pre-school setting. The concept of parental involvement is frequently discussed by many researchers from different perspectives. For example, Ahmetoglu et al. (2020) focus on the role of parents in the development of social and academic skills of children during their early years. They prove that parental involvement is a multifaceted construct as it has different outcomes on children and their peer interactions (Ahmetoglu et al., 2020). Van Laere et al. (2018) identify parental involvement as a means to improve educational attainment but create greater inequalities in learning processes. In the study by Alawawda and Razi (2020), parents are defined as more conversant individuals whose decisions play an important role in choosing academic facilities with bilingual curriculums. Thus, parental involvement is a concept that cannot be ignored in this study, with its positive and negative characteristics and relationship to early childhood education.

Another critical concept in this study is the years when children have to be acquainted with a second language, meaning pre-school education. According to Sawyer et al. (2016), pre-school years aim at building the necessary skills for reading, writing, and communication. It was discovered that children who have strong language skills demonstrate high academic success in the future (Saywer et al., 2016). Social-emotional development also determines the possibilities of students as second-language learners, and Magino and Allison (2017) rely on the experience of educators to show that the ages between three and five are necessary to implement preschool programs. Along with academic progress, pre-school age is associated with further life’s success in general (Maleki et al., 2019). However, pre-school education should not be related to teachers’ impact only because this age also means the participation of parents in all stages of personal development. Therefore, it is necessary to learn the concepts of parental involvement and pre-school education separately to find the most effective areas where they can be related.

Second language learning is a final concept for analysis in this review. Its distinctive feature is the presence of positive and negative outcomes for children at the same time. As cited in Sawyer et al. (2016), a second language may be studied easily and effortlessly because children at a young age are able to memorize much information quickly. However, some researchers admit that the same process may provoke language delays, confusion in linguistic aspects, and interference with native language learning (as cited in Sawyer et al., 2016). Parents and teachers must work hard not only to introduce new information and knowledge but to support and optimize child education. It is beneficial to ask questions, give recommendations, and motivate using their beliefs and personal experiences (Magino & Allison, 2017). Alawawda and Razi (2020) state that the choice of the environment also affects the quality of second language learning: the home environment aims at native language training, and the classroom helps combine knowledge and practice. Second language learning is never easy either for adults or children, and its literacy should be properly formed during a preschool period.

Several theoretical frameworks are effective for understanding parental involvement and the application of the necessary skills for second language learning. Ullman proposes the declarative/procedural model to explain how information about language may be stored, and Pienemann and Lenzing introduce processability theory that proves the relationship between the stage of development and second language knowledge (VanPatten et al., 2020). Eisenberg et al.’s heuristic model of parents’ socialization defined parents as the major players in early childhood development as they react to their children’s emotions during a teaching process (as cited in Ahmetoglu et al., 2020). Monitor theory offered by Krashen in the 1970s consists of five hypotheses that contribute to understanding second language acquisition. The theorist underlines that what is taught should not always be what is learned and vice versa (VanPatten et al., 2020). According to Krashen, acquisition and learning are never the same because these processes have different natures; the former occurs spontaneously, while the latter depends on the outside source of knowledge (an educator) (as cited in VanPatten et al., 2020). Second language acquisition is not only the learner’s knowledge but a combination of processes and feelings.

This research will be based on Epstein’s theory of overlapping spheres of influence. The chosen theory indicates the equality of all parents and their responsibility to cooperate with children at home and within the school environment (as cited in Van Laere et al., 2018). There are educational, psychological, and sociological factors that have to be considered in the child’s education process (Yamauchi et al., 2017). As a result, parents, schools, and children have to cooperate and exchange their experiences to strengthen language learning through family engagement. A crucial aspect of this theory is that not only parents or schools independently must demonstrate their initiatives. It has to be a common process where responsibilities are shared equally: schools are open to the participation of parents, and parents visit schools voluntarily (Yamauchi et al., 2017). Effective leadership and motivation, an extended level of knowledge and experience, and communication are the major elements of this theory in the study.

Key Debates and Controversies

The key debates about the role of parents in second language learning between four and six years are based on such factors as the types of involvement, motivational sources, and outcomes. On the one hand, parents are interested in second language acquisition at a young age (Alawawa & Razi, 2020; Manigo & Allison, 2017). On the other hand, it is hard to neglect social inequality in schools and families (Van Laere et al., 2018). Parental involvement may bring both positive and negative outcomes, and the task of educators is to guide parents, assess children, and create an effective learning environment. In their discussions, researchers do not take definite positions and constantly underline that parental involvement has different results (Ahmetoglu et al., 2020; Manigo & Allison, 2017). Alawawda and Razi (2020) admit that if parents are unaware of the second language, they cannot support their children properly. Instead of focusing on the level of knowledge, Maleki et al. (2019) specify the role of parents in preserving safety, relieving stress, and promoting good behaviors. The inability to divide between the advantages and disadvantages of parental involvement impedes the research process.

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Each nation usually demonstrates different attitudes toward learning a second language. The controversies continue emerging due to a variety of outside factors that affect interpersonal relationships and the work of academic facilities. During the last year, some countries forcefully implemented distance education, which increased the role of parental involvement in education (Al Lily et al., 2020). Still, it is wrong to neglect the fact that families have backgrounds that differ from those of educators (Yamauchi et al., 2017). Their contributions to child development (social and academic) are mainly subjective and biased in regard to personal beliefs and the already developed social norms. Consequently, the outcomes of parental involvement are hard to predict due to the conditions and the types of involvement they choose. All these debates are impossible to stop, and people continue choosing between the options, neglecting such factors as motivation for language learning and cooperation.

Gaps in Existing Knowledge

Although second language learning is properly developed and implemented in many modern schools and other academic facilities, the necessity to introduce a new language at an early age and involve parents remains controversial. There are several informative sources about parental involvement and second language learning, including an exploratory study by Alawawda and Razi (2020) and surveys by Sawyer et al. (2016). These researchers indicate the need for improved collaborative partnerships between parents and teachers and explain how motivation affects the child’s learning (Alawawda & Razi, 2020; Sawyer et al., 2016). Birdsong (2018) investigates the biological aspects of language learning but fails to combine them with outside social factors and behavioral norms. Van Laere et al. (2018), on the contrary, discuss parental involvement as a means to improve educational attainment with social inequalities being the main challenge for unprivileged children. In other words, there are many diverse studies about the importance of parental involvement along with the existing problems and concerns.

In this study, the goal is not to continue defining new areas of improvement but understanding the idea of parent-teacher cooperation in acquiring the crucial language skills of 4-6-year-old children. There are two specific independent variables, motivation, and involvement, the type that predicts the progress of a dependent variable, which is an outcome. Communication with parents and teachers will be a solid source of information to understand how parental involvement can be implemented in classrooms. Parents should also clarify what motivates them to choose to learn a second language for their children at an early age. Finally, teachers’ answers will show if the presence of parents in a learning process brings some positive results.

Research Framework

Taking into consideration the already developed problem statement, several research questions, and the gaps in existing literature, a research framework for the current project must be formulated. As shown in Figure 1, there are two main concepts for analysis – parental involvement and second language learning at an early age. Parental involvement may be determined by two major issues, namely motivation and the type of involvement. Classroom activities may be chosen by parents or introduced by a teacher, but in most cases, they include communication, decision-making, learning at home, or collaboration. Regarding the possibility to change activities, the type of parental engagement may influence the outcomes of early childhood development within the frames of this study. On the one hand, attention should be paid to what motivational factors parents prefer when they choose second language learning for their children at an early age. On the other hand, the recognition of the most effective classroom activities is expected.

Second language learning is another element of the current research project. It has to be discussed by defining the stage of child development and the most influential social factors. In the process of gathering information, parents are encouraged to share general information about their education level, income level, and family status. The age of a child is mentioned as well to provide a background for second language learning. Finally, the promotion of second language acquisition at an early stage and parental engagement in child education should result in positive learning outcomes like the creation of the best education opportunities and improved knowledge.

Research framework
Figure 1. Research framework


From Figure 1 and the literature review, several expectations can be identified in this research project. There are several hypotheses to be examined and proved, namely:

  • Hypothesis 1: Parents of children aged between 4-6 years provide strong support at home and in a preschool.
  • Hypothesis 2: Parental engagement activities in a classroom have to be predetermined by teachers.
  • Hypothesis 3: The choice of an appropriate motivational factor improves parent-teacher-child cooperation.
  • Hypothesis 4: Parents with low education levels are poorly engaged in the second language learning of their children.
  • Hypothesis 5: Parental involvement has a positive impact on children in early childhood education.

Research Design and Methods

Research Design

A descriptive, cross-sectional study will be designed to examine the impact of parental involvement on children’s education outcomes. In addition to the analysis of the literature, a quantitative method will be used in this study. Before direct communication with participants, it is necessary to obtain permission from local pre-school facilities to conduct this research. As soon as the goals are identified and delivered to the authority, approval in a written form is required. The main idea of an empirical investigation is to conduct a cross-sectional design that helps identify the differences between the participants in terms of their social statuses and education levels. This information is crucial to understanding the readiness of parents to cooperate with teachers and children. Descriptive elements will be added through an open-ended question at the end of each questionnaire part. It means that some parents could have other reasons for their children to study a second language at an early age.

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Questionnaire Development

Each participant will receive the following questionnaire that can be printed or sent electronically:

Personal Information

  1. Parent’s Gender
    • Male
    • Female
  2. Child’s Age
    • <4 years
    • 4-6 years
    • >4 years
  3. Education level
    • Middle/Secondary
    • High
    • Bachelors
    • Masters
  4. Social level
    • Upper
    • Upper-middle
    • Middle
    • Working
    • Lower
  5. Marital status
    • Single parent
    • Married

Motivational Factors (1 – less important, 5 – extremely important)

Statements: Second language learning is necessary due to… Rating Scale
1 A welcoming school climate 1 2 3 4 5
2 The possibility to improve the child’s skills 1 2 3 4 5
3 The necessity to share experiences 1 2 3 4 5
4 Future employment perspectives 1 2 3 4 5
5 Personal development 1 2 3 4 5

An open-ended question: Do you have additional options for consideration?


Engagement Activities (1 – less important, 5 – extremely important)

Statements: I am more interested in… Rating Scale
1 Communication 1 2 3 4 5
2 Decision-making 1 2 3 4 5
3 Learning at home 1 2 3 4 5
4 Collaboration in a classroom 1 2 3 4 5
5 Control 1 2 3 4 5

An open-ended question: Do you have additional options for consideration?


Expected Outcomes (1 – less important, 5 – extremely important)

Statements: I appreciate second language learning for my child because of Rating Scale
1 Future profession 1 2 3 4 5
2 More options in the future 1 2 3 4 5
3 Individual growth 1 2 3 4 5
4 Modern trends 1 2 3 4 5
5 My child has good skills 1 2 3 4 5

An open-ended question: Do you have additional options for consideration?


Methods and Sources

A quantitative method with a questionnaire as its main method will be applied to this study. The targeted population will be parents of children aged between 4-6 years who are currently enrolled in a school system. It is expected to invite no more than 100 participants, and at least 60 of them have to meet the inclusion criteria like speaking English and having a child between 4 and 6 years who visits a pre-school. Random sampling will be employed by choosing several classes from different schools. This step will allow finding participants with different social and economic backgrounds and avoid biases and prejudiced opinions.

The parent population will receive a letter with informed consent to explain the purposes of this research and participants’ contributions to the future of their children’s education. Then, parents will receive the same questionnaire that is divided into four sections: (1) personal information; (2) motivational factors; (3) engagement activities; and (4) expected outcomes. They have to complete the questionnaire form and answer all the questions. Participants will get one week to complete their questionnaires and send them back to the researcher. Once the questionnaires are returned, the researcher should tally the answers as per the chosen categories. Despite the fact that all forms will be signed, it is important to promote anonymity and confidentiality. Therefore, no names of parents or children will be mentioned in the discussion.

Microsoft Excel program will be used to export data from the questionnaires. The raw numbers will be imported to a statistical analysis software program, SPSS, to code information and merge all the answers into one file. Descriptive tests will be conducted to identify mean score ranges and deviations for each part of the questionnaire. To calculate if there are any significant differences between the participants, an independent t-test will be conducted. Tables will be finally created to share information and explain the findings.

Pilot Study

To answer the research questions, six local schools were chosen randomly, and the parents from three classes agreed to participate. One of the first obstacles was the necessity to contact pre-school directors and explain the importance of inviting parents for participation. During the investigation, it was found out that not all schools had second language programs, thus, only three schools were appropriate for the study. Within those schools, the parents from three classes agreed to participate in a questionnaire. In general, 80 parents got invitation letters, and 58 participants were included because some of them did not meet the inclusion criteria. All the participants rejected the idea of electronic questionnaires, and it was necessary to print questions and provide each parent with the material independently. It took about two weeks to contact, send, and receive the answers. One more obstacle was related to the exchange of material. Some parents did not want to share their replies with teachers or other participants, and they required additional guarantees that all their information remained confidential. An additional requirement was either another personal meeting or a special envelope that kept the questionnaire protected.

Data Analysis

As it was planned, the questionnaires aimed to gather the opinions of parents about the effectiveness of parental involvement in second language learning depending on parents’ background and the chosen engagement activities. The first category of questions allowed gathering personal information about parents and defining their academic and social background. In the next three categories, the highest possible response was 5, while the lowest was 1. Raw scores were mapped to each part of the questionnaire, and a mean score was applied to each statement separately. Descriptive statistics were based on the rule – the higher the mean score, the more effective the category was.

Each hypothesis was tested by means of combing the last three parts of the questionnaire with the first one. The analysis showed that some parents needed additional instructions and recommendations from teachers to understand their contributions to their children’s education process. For example, Hypothesis 1 (“Parents of children aged between 4-6 years provide strong support at home and in a pre-school”) was proved by no low ratings in motivation factors and engagement activities. The correctness of Hypothesis 2 (“Parental engagement activities in a classroom have to be predetermined by teachers”) was related to 45 similar additional options in the “Engagement Activities” section. Most parents admitted that they would listen to their teachers, who know what their children could need.

Hypothesis 3 (The choice of an appropriate motivational factor improves parent-teacher-child cooperation) was not proved because parents demonstrated different replies, and it was impossible to come to one mutual agreement. Parents were guided by different motivation factors and could not explain why they personally preferred second language learning for their children. SPSS demonstrated a relationship between parents’ education levels and their willingness to get involved in pre-school activities. Hypothesis 4 (“Parents with low education levels are poorly engaged in second language learning of their children”) was correct, and many adults mentioned their low awareness of the subject to become a solid contributor to the learning process. Finally, Hypothesis 5 (“Parental involvement has a positive impact on children in early childhood education”) was examined through the answers to Parts 3 and 4 of the questionnaire. Most parents want to support their children with learning a second language to provide them with more options in the future.

Implications and Contributions to Knowledge

The offered project is characterized by a number of solid practical and theoretical implications in terms of which it is possible to improve learning processes and create a basis for future research. Education at an early age has to be supported by parents, and their involvement plays an important role in how children understand the material and use it in life. Teacher-parent cooperation positively affects young students and contributes to their academic progress and personal development.

Practical Implications

The findings of this research will help improve the learning process in several ways. First, as soon as parents are involved in the child’s education, they could understand what support a child needs at home and in the classroom. Second, engagement activities may vary from single decision-making to regular collaboration and communication with teachers. Therefore, it is recommended for parents to ask teachers what activities are preferable for their children in different environments. Finally, this study will facilitate a language learning process for children because they are able to demonstrate and share their thoughts, desires, and skills not with teachers but also with parents.

Theoretical Implications

Regarding the results of the study, it is possible to strengthen Epstein’s theory of factors that affect second language acquisition. The social and educational achievements of parents serve as a solid basis for parents either to participate in learning processes or to neglect their cooperation. However, in most cases, parents are interested in pre-school activities and believe that their presence in their children’s academic lives is necessary. There are many outcomes of parental involvement in relation to second language learning, and children aged between 4-6 years can achieve better education opportunities while being supported by parents and teachers.


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