How can you build better parent-teacher partnerships?
As teachers we understand that we can only do so much for a student's learning in the few hours a day we have with them. While we are essential to both the education and socialisation of children, it is arguably the parents that have the most influence over how well their child performs.
Too often parent-teacher relationships turn sour due to a lack of effort on either party's front. However, when parents become involved in their child's learning experience, everybody can benefit.
So how can we make this relationship work, rather than write them off as inevitable difficulties? Can we co-create our student's education with support from their parents?
Creating an positive parent-teacher dialogue
Professor of Psychology and school psychologist Susan Graham-Clay wrote a foundational paper on this idea of parent and teach collaboration for School Community Journal in 2005. Her argument stemmed around the notion that strong communication is pivotal in building a teacher-parent partnership that bridges the gap between home and school. However, she observes that many teachers are not trained in communicating effectively with parents.
Based on her research, she argues that a balance of one-way written communication and face-to-face interactions is essential to maintaining an avenue of support that will enhance the student's learning. However, while written communication is both more convenient and efficient, teachers must be careful when composing such articles. Ms Graham-Clay opines, "The goal is to organise concise, accurate information so that parents will read and understand it."
But while this may seem simple, sometimes a mark, a comment and the odd parent-teacher night is not enough.
Making student performance data meaningful
Teacher Marueen Holt spoke to EduTopia about a data-driven parent engagement at her school Humbolt Elementary School. She explained that by converting student performance information into a package that parents could both understand and use increase the chance of parents continuing the teachers education objectives at home.
"Sometimes grades don't show progress," says Ms Holt, "but data shows even the little progress that is being made."
Parents want to see their children achieving. And they want to know how they can help. Thus, at her school, they share every performance indicators and test in a carefully composed report that simply and visually demonstrates performance over a period of time.
"This not only helps parents understand the data report, but also aids in getting everyone speaking the same language around the child's learning," she suggested.
Involve parents in their children's education by creating a data-driven dialogue.
Effectively sharing data with parents
The Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) published a comprehensive guide for administrators, teachers and families on how to share data effectively. It explains that traditional periodic communication between parents and teachers does not fit in today's connected world. According to the document, parents are demanding deeper insights and continuous updates about student performance to develop a better picture of their child's progress. Moreover, parents are actually asking how they can use this information to build on their child's strengths, weaknesses and interests.
The best practice defined by the HFRP explains the importance of creating a culture of data sharing among teachers, but also suggest the need to up-skill in data management proficiency and communication excellence. The suggestions include:
- Looking at student data in the context of the whole child, not just the sum of their academic performance.
- Encompassing a range of data and reducing jargon as much as possible.
- Understanding cultural and socio-economic differences, and ensuring you give families a voice.
- Empowering the families by emphasising growth and improvement.
- Collaborating on student goals and providing parents with additional resources.
Involving parents in their children's education by creating a data-driven dialogue is important to ensure the objectives you set for each student are achieved. By using a tool such as DataHub, you can enhance your ability to monitor, assess, and communicate student performance with parents. Find out more in the video below.