Using collaborative action research to support adoptive parents in their communications with school staff

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Joanne Lyons


To address a gap in the empirical literature on Educational Psychology (EP) practice and on adoption, and to gain perspectives from the Local Authority (LA), this thesis describes collaborative action research conducted by an Educational Psychologist (EP) with adoptive parents to support their communications with school staff. Participants were members of an Adoption Support Group and colleagues in Social Care. Information was gathered via focus groups and semi-structured questionnaires to ascertain the types of difficulties expressed by adoptive parents and inform the processes of communication systems. Participatory action research empowered participants to engage in meaningful and purposeful actions of planning, designing and evaluating information. The research narrative reports on first person inquiry through personal reflection and learning. Second person inquiry was generated in the course of research interactions with participants and the data that emerged from their realities to inform practical learning in action. Third person inquiry moved towards thinking around explanations for issues and the generation of knowledge. Knowledge was developed about parents' perspectives on the barriers and enabling factors involved in their communications with school staff. The action research approach captured the potential of the insider position to generate rich data in situ while promoting a collaborative response to the social situation faced by the adopters when communicating with school staff. My insider position as researcher, holding multiple roles as an adoptive parent, as an EP and LA officer, is actively acknowledged as influencing understanding and the conceptualisations of the findings. The participants collaborated in the generation of a resource that provided opportunities for insight into issues to improve working practice and may provide a tool to allow parents to communicate effectively with school staff. The resource supported two main recognised functions: practical structure and emotional support. Empowering approaches were those that respected their knowledge, used their language and meanings in an emancipatory way that removed barriers, and were inclusive of them and their children. Communication is enhanced by and depends on systems that are empowering for parents and staff to co-construct shared understandings.


Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date3 Jan 2017