Date of Award

Fall 2023

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Yasha Becton


The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent learning disruptions have had an impact on standardized test scores, with schools in low-income communities falling further behind. Since parental engagement has been identified as a high-impact strategy to improve the academic success of students, school communities should explore ways to increase engagement and develop new strategies to problem solve academic challenges. In this mixed methods study, 10 teachers and 10 parents with students in schools classified as Title I learned asset-based approaches to problem-solving and used design thinking processes to address school-based problems. Human-centered design is one approach to problem-solving. This design places people at the heart of issues by engaging participants in problem-solving utilizing empathy-inducing activities first before attempting to develop a solution. Using Epstein’s Model for Parental Involvement (Epstein, 2013) as a baseline, parents and teachers examined their core beliefs on the parent-teacher relationship and learned how to use human-centered design tools such as empathy and asset mapping to improve parent-teacher relationships. Interviews, surveys, and reflection prompts were used to evaluate the effectiveness of design thinking tools in changing the perceptions of parents and teachers. The findings showed that empathy and asset-based approaches used during problem-solving were positively accepted by parents and teachers, and the intervention improved the perceptions of groups on common parent-school conflicts. Also, study findings revealed that the design thinking process helped to generate stories and counter-stories that could be used to help parents and teachers better understand their thoughts, fears, and hopes for students post-pandemic.


© 2024, Andrea Lynn Lance