Karen Elizabeth Pohio has spent 30 years teaching in low decile New Zealand primary and intermediate schools. During this time, she has worked as a classroom teacher, facilitated special needs programmes, completed Reading Recovery training and held leadership roles.
About her research: Her teaching experience highlighted to her a concern regarding the difficulties some low decile schools have connecting with their families and the families with school. Her current study investigates deliberate acts of communication and connection being made in three case study schools. Each of the schools involved selected the programme to be investigated themselves as it represents their efforts to improve their family-school relationships. All programmes have been in existence in their respective schools for five years or more.
The intention of Karen’s research is to develop a set of principles that may help to guide some of the decisions being made around family-school partnerships. It expands on the notion that positive communication between families and school has the potential to contribute much to student motivation for learning because students are greatly influenced by the connections being made between their family members and school personnel. Her study provides detail that helps to reinforce the important role parents can play when they are involved, not necessarily through having a physical presence at school, but by reinforcing their children to build their identity as a learner, a concept that has multidimensional meanings. Her research incorporates some ideas regarding how this may be achieved.
Why Waikato? Despite the learning curve and challenge of switching from being a teaching practitioner to a full-time research student, Karen says the University of Waikato has provided the necessary resources to enable her to focus on her study. She has been particularly appreciative of the supervisory expertise she has received.