Engage Families, Help Learning
From family engagement to Authentic collaboration
For early learning services, keeping parents engaged and informed is not just good business practice, it has high educational value also.
Family engagement is receiving a lot of attention these days for that very reason, because of its potential to raise the quality of learning in early childhood education, because:
- It creates follow-on learning opportunities
- It helps teachers individualize instruction
LAYERS Of Engagement
There are three layers:
- Keeping families informed
- Inspiring engagement
- Collaborating around learning
Inform -- Not Always Easy
There is of course real value in keeping families informed about activities at your childcare or preschool. The more they feel part of your school, the more confidence they will have in the job you are doing for their child.
However, to inform you need to reach. And reaching parents is not that easy. So much sent home in back-packs ends up not being read, and email is losing its effectiveness as parents contend with spam-filled inboxes and virus hazards.
In addition, younger parents are digital natives, more likely to communicate via a phone app rather than email.
And so preschools are under pressure to add new forms of communication to meet the increasingly diverse needs of their family clients. That all takes time.
Inspire and Engage
Beyond informing, sending out the information, preschools need families to respond, to interact. When they send messages about their child, they want to inspire a response. Invites to fund raisers or children's events, signing of health forms or travel permission slips. Whatever it is, they need parents to engage and respond.
Also, if there is a problem at home related to school, if a child is struggling in some way or is unhappy, the school would want to know.
Again, there are challenges due to the busy lives parents lead and the multiplying communication channels. Engaging parents, building and growing a connection, is easier said than done.
Collaborate Around Learning
The aspect of family engagement that has made it a focal point for rating and compliance agencies the world over is "authentic collaboration" -- the forming of a partnership between the teacher and parent, school and home, that creates continuity in learning.
Family collaboration multiplies the learning opportunities, inevitably improving learning outcomes. For instance, if the school is working on the letter B, parents can play Eye Spy with B at home.
If a child takes to cooking at school, which helps fine motor and executive function skills, parents in the loop will know to encourage cooking at home.
Most parents will love the suggestion of something to do with their child.
Authentic collaboration is a two-way channel. By sharing cultural traditions, child history, information about the home environment and feedback from the child about activity at the school, families are able to help teachers understand their children.
This allows the teacher to individualize instruction in a way that would not be possible without collaboration.
HOW EDUCA PROMOTES Engagement & COLLABORATION
Educa is family engagement software designed for preschool. Teachers share learning -- group and individual stories -- with families and extended families in a secure and private channel. Family members are able to view and respond on a phone, iPad or computer.
Educa meets all education needs for a preschool -- it has a planning module, a repository for policies, parent resources, curriculum-linking, milestones, tracking of learning outcomes, activity reports.
However, the reason it is so loved by teachers and parents is the connectedness it creates around learning. Every communication creates a new learning opportunity, another growth step for the child.
Every group or individual observation made or curriculum item shared creates new learning opportunities at home as parents reinforce the learning or even take it one step further. A child who loved playing a ukulele at school might be encouraged to engage more in music at home.
Effective communication is essential to building partnerships between educators and parents. Parents need confidence that their child's needs are being well served. A private and open communication two-way communication channel that promotes honest and constructive exchanges achieves that goals.
Educa provides that channel for 150,000+ educators and families world-wide.
While this is an extreme example, where preschool children are transported to a school for special needs, the reality that parents are less and less likely to have time at drop-off to build a connection to teachers. In fact, many children are dropped off by care-givers, not parents.
This puts enormous pressure on the communication tools used by a preschool, given rise to new preschool communication apps like Educa.
The Value of Shared Learning
At the heart of a parent collaboration is the shared learning. While there are the benefits of parents reinforcing the learning at home, creating new learning opportunities, and from being able to individualize instruction based on a better understanding of a child, there are unexpected benefits also.
For instance, the sharing leads to a lot of positive feedback, something teachers don't get enough of. Read more unexpected benefits from shared learning here.