Partnering with families and communities

by Joyce L. Epstein and Karen Clark Salinas


In this article the writers discuss the difference between a professional learning community and a school learning community.

A professional learning community, with its focus on professional interactions between school staff, certainly builds a sense of professional teamwork, they suggest, but falls short of contributing to a true community of learners.

A true learning community also needs to include parents, students and community organisations as partners. When all of these groups are included schools have a chance of becoming really effective learning communities.

The writers discuss how engaging parents, in particular, in the life of the school can really enhance learning for students. The writers describe a number of practical approaches to making this happen, including an explanation of Epstein’s Six Types of Involvement.

The article contains wide-ranging tips and school stories. It has a strong research base and good references for follow-up.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • This article provides many helpful ways to engage parents to build children’s positive learning experiences. How have you tried to do this at your school?
  • Do you think your school could be defined as a learning community? In what ways?
  • What goals would you set for maintaining parent and community involvement in your school to build a school learning community?
  • Look at the six types of involvement described in the article. How would you rate your school on each?


Epstein, L., & Salinas, K. Clark (2004). Partnering with families and communities [Electronic version]. Educational Leadership, 61(8).

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