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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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Tom Drummond
North Seattle Community College

Course Description
The concept of “parent-teacher partnership” or “parent involvement,” although generally accepted as a desirable goal, has no precise definition, has vague underlying assumptions, and so far has been found to have little measurable effect on children. Research studies show that the level of children's development (especially their cognitive and language development) depends more directly upon their family structure, socioeconomic status, home stimulation, and parental values rather than how much time they spend in a child care or preschool environment, good or poor, and whether their parents are involved or not.

The potential may be there, however, to improve child competence and personal adjustment, to promote the parent's self-development, and to increase resources for early childhood programs if teachers take the effort to develop strategies to work cooperatively with the child's family. What are those strategies? How can this be done?

On the other hand, evidence suggests that the parent-teacher relationship may be one of the most tension-filled aspects of work with young children. After all there is enough work to be done just with the kids .... Welcome. We are going to figure this out—how to really be great with parents and how to be a leader of a learning community—together.

Goal of this Course
To make the most effective use of ourselves as early childhood teachers in working together with parents to optimize the experiences of the children for whom we share responsibility.

NSCC General Education Learning Outcomes
Courses at this college provide opportunity to develop each class member's ability to think critically, to write well, to work productively in groups, and deal constructively with emotions and values.

Outcome 1: Think critically. Courses intend to support problem solving and the reasoning process: to recognize the roles of truth versus personal bias, to recognize the value of divergent views, to tolerate ambiguity, to develop intellectual skepticism, to demonstrate intellectual honesty, to recognize assumptions, inferences, and biases, and to distinguish between knowledge and beliefs, and to generalize, classify, and interpret.

Outcome 3: Discover, develop, and communicate one's own creative and critical ideas in writing and to respond in effective writing to the spoken, written, and visual ideas of others. Courses intend to support communication skills in writing: to inform: to explain, to present and support a thesis, to record events and phenomena, to develop a text with sufficient detail, example, argument, to give necessary form and structure to a text, to write sentences and paragraphs which flow smoothly and clearly from one to the other, and to use words and sentences effectively.

Outcome 6: Work and communicate effectively in groups. Courses intend to support group skills: to demonstrate effective listening skills, to demonstrate effective speaking skills, to facilitate the effectiveness of others in working together.

Respect for diversity is a core value of NSCC. Our college community fosters an optimal learning climate in an environment of mutual respect. We, the college community, recognize and celebrate individual differences. We invite all of us to add our voices to our collective wisdom with the explicit responsibility to monitor our contributions to ensure we are open, authentic, and caring of others. If you need course adaptations or accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with your instructor, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please make an appointment with your instructor as soon as possible.

Course Objectives

  1. Describe the seven ages and stages in the growth of children and their effect upon parents.
  2. Differentiate negotiable and non-negotiable rules as applied to school-home problems.
  3. Write examples of how to provide both supportive or assertive care to parents in need.
  4. Describe how teachers and parents can apply: Affirmations, Structure, and Nurture.
  5. Synthesize a statement of the goals for an ideal early childhood program, in inclusive language that builds participation in a democratic community.
  6. Compile a list of measures teachers can take to ensure each interface between teachers and parents maximizes parental involvement in the life of the school.
  7. Summarize the effects of selected traumatic life events upon children and the local resources available for the child, the parent, and yourself.

Course Requirements

  1. Class participation. All class members are expected to come to class, be fully prepared as assigned, and work cooperatively on the tasks presented.
  2. Support interview. Conduct an interview with 4 parents to investigate the problems they face in raising their children and the source of their own support.
  3. Tough topics presentation. Cooperatively design and present to class what would most help teachers deal with tough home situations that affect children at school.
  4. Parent connections contract. The central work in this class, is the development of one major aspect of parent-school connections. Select one of a set of parent-school connections, develop it fully in cooperation with others either by research or actually implementing it in your school, and present the results to the class at the end of the term.
  5. Examination. The material presented in the text Growing Up Again will be tested in an open-book examination.
  6. Parent development contract. Using the distinctions presented in the text, Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children, conduct an investigation of the attitudes and competence of people who are parents or will be parents. Fulfill the agreements specified on a signed contract with the instructor. Present the information informally to the class.
  7. Partnership paper. Write a letter to parents that conveys to them your views about how parents and teachers can relate most productively for the benefit of the children.

Required Texts
Jean Illsley Clark and Connie Dawson, Growing Up Again: Parenting Ourselves, Parenting Our Children, Second Edition. Hazelden, Center City, MN, 1989, 1998. ISBN 1-56838-190-5.

Karen Miller, The Crisis Manual for Early Childhood Teachers. Gryphon House, Beltsville, Maryland, 1996. ISBN: 0-87659-176-4.

In addition, a packet, costing around $3, is available in the copy center.

Each requirement is assigned these weights in determining a final grade:

  1. Class participation, 10%, 8 points
  2. Support interview, 10%, 8 points
  3. Tough topics presentation, 10%, 8 points
  4. Connections project, 30%, 24 points
  5. Examination, 10%, 8 points
  6. Parent development contract, 15%, 12 points
  7. Partnership paper, 15%, 12 points

    Total: 80 grading points

Each requirement point equals 0.1 grade point beyond a base expectation of 40. To figure your grade, add up all your points and subtract the base 40, then divide that by 10. For example, 73 requirement points minus 40 = 33, divided by 10 results in a grade of 3.3 for the class.

Class Participation
All class members have the responsibility to contribute to this learning community.
Due dates – 4 points
Two points for meeting the due dates associated with Requirement #2 Support Interview and Requirement #6 Parent Development Contract, as specified in class.
Self-evaluation – 4 points
Each class member knows best how to evaluate his or her own participation. As a part of your grade each makes a yes/no judgment on each of these four dimensions of action. Only if you can honestly say you have done this fully, should you give yourself each point.
01 Regularly contributed my thoughts and ideas to others in the group discussion times.
01 Intentionally responded warmly and supportively to the contributions of others.
01 Intentionally took steps to draw out contributions from other class members.
01 Taken risks at times to share with others things that were personally important, hazy but significant, or emotionally difficult.
Attendance bonus – 3 points
Points awarded above and beyond the others for perfect attendance.

Support Interview
In order to better understand how parents get support for the trials they face in meeting the demands of parenting, interview one parent in four families that have a child at the age level you currently work with or would like to work with.

Gather information on these topics any way that seems comfortable for you:

  • Single/dual raising responsibilities or how parents cope with morning routines
  • Difficult problems they currently face with their child(ren)
  • Resources for help when illness or work interferes with normal routines
  • Resources for help when can't cope effectively with their children's actions
  • What teachers can do to help at drop off in the morning and at pick up time

Written Summary 8 points
Write a short paper summarizing (not detailing) what you discovered:

  1. Describe the four parents you interviewed. Who are these people?
  2. Summarize what you learned. Don't include transcripts of all they said. Taken together as a group, what are the key ideas?
  3. Reflect on how these interviews affected you personally. What did you learn that can be beneficial to yourself in the future?
  4. Imagine you did this with every family you ever will have in the future as a standard policy. What are the positives and negatives of doing interviews about these topics with parents?

Tough Topics Presentation
Groups of class members investigate one of the topics chosen from the set in the Crisis Manual text. Each group is assigned a presentation date to use 50 minutes of class time to lead the class in a discussion of this topic. The goal for the session is to make the topic come alive for the rest of the class and offer guidelines for acting assertively and providing support effectively to the children and to the families involved in these difficulties.
Real Experiences – 4 points
Offer the class first hand experiences people have had with this topic. If members of the class have not had direct experience, invite guests or bring video clips to show living dimensions of this tough topic area.
Selected Books – 2 points
The class will not have a chance to read every possible book in each tough topic area. It is the group's responsibility to investigate: (1) books for children, (2) books for teachers, and (3) books for parents in this area. Bring the key books to class, only what you most recommend. Read to the class the best children's book about this topic.
Group Contribution – 2 points
Each person will rate the others on a 02 point scale as to the level of contribution each made to the group's effort.

Connections Contracts
In general, parents and teachers communicate in these ways:

  1. Talk: Informal oral conversations usually at drop-off and pick-up times
  2. Paper: Routine communication in notes, logs, or notebooks
  3. Newsletters: Written educational material distributed to each family
  4. Architecture: Physical setting where parents can be made to feel comfortable to linger, do what they need to do, and be informed
  5. History: Documentation of the school in previous years and the experiences in the current year.
  6. Meetings: Regular parent-teacher gatherings at scheduled intervals throughout the year
  7. Orientation: Beginning the year with community spirit-building activities
  8. Being positive: Getting parents recognized and rewarded for their contributions.

The class members select one of these interface points and join others (in groups of at least two) in investigating them. By the end of the quarter the group will construct a poster or wall display and discuss it with the rest of the class.

The work on this project will proceed behind the scenes all term long. Some sessions will offer opportunity to work together in class, but most of the work on this requirement occurs outside of class time.

Group Presentation – 20 points
Instructor Evaluation – 4 points
Instructor rates the group on the level of expertise shown by the group in relation to what is generally known in textbooks on parent involvment. 0 inadequate, 1 adequate, 2 less than what is in a textbook, 3 matches what is in a textbook, 4 exceeds what is in a textbook.

The material presented in Growing Up Again will be tested in an open book examination. You will be given scenarios of classroom events involving parents. Your task will be to describe how you would help the parent in the situation and place the parent and the child in the correct developmental age and stage.
Examination – 8 points

Parent Development Contact
This is an individual contract between each student and the instructor to investigate one of the distinctions in the text Growing Up Again, by Jean Illsley Clarke and Connie Dawson. Each class member does fieldwork to collect information about the attitudes and competence of people who are parents or will be parents. Each selects the distinctions to investigate, specifies how the investigation will be done (who to see/what information will be gathered) and how the results will be reported (classifications, charts, summary, and diagrams). Each presents his or her results informally in small groups with other class members on an assigned day.

Concept Areas to Select:

  1. Nurture, Section II, Chapters 3 to 7
  2. Structure, Section III. Chapters 8 to 15
  3. Ages and Stages, Section VII, Chapters 25 and 25

Examples of Contracts
Observe parents interacting with their children in a public place. Record behaviors observed that represent the concepts.

Talk to people outside your family who are parents. Inquire about an example of a problem (e.g., household chores) and how different families handle it, or by different parents, or by different generations.

Study your own family's behavior. Concentrate on a problem of power or support (money, grades, customs, etc.) or a time of the day when the family communicates with each other. Record and analyze what occurs regularly. Interview one or both of your parents or grandparents.

Study professionals working in parent education, religious orders, or school support services and find out how their work relates to these concept areas. With permission, attend meetings of support or therapy groups, church groups, self-esteem groups.

Visit parent cooperative preschool parent meetings and relate what you see to the concept area.

Interview teenagers about parents to get their views about these areas relate to their lives or their predictions of themselves as parents.

Complete Project as Specified – 12 points

Partnership Paper
Write a letter to parents that conveys your understanding of the purpose of school. The intent of this letter is to invite them into contributing to the school voluntarily. Schools are not inexpensive places to hold children and keep them safe while adults are at work. Schools are designed to develop the character and personal characteristics most useful to citizens of a democracy.

Much of the groundwork for this paper will be developed in class discussions and readings in your packet. The task here is for each class member to produce a clear, concise, beautifully expressive statement that is fully in accord with his or her values. Original work is not necessary. One can copy or steal anything from anybody to put in this letter. But it HAS to meet standards for effective writing. The intention here is to write something that you actually use in the future.

Generally the paper should address these topics in order:

  1. Background of relatedness: Express, from your personal point of view, what you and the parents have in common, why you are here, and what brings all the people in this community together.
  2. Conversation about possibility: Clearly state the dream you hold of the future for the children and for this school. This is a statement of aspirations, the ideal, the great vision for the future for the children, what just might be possible if everything were perfect.
  3. Conversation about opportunity: The here-and-now actions the community of the school faces in the operation: specific problems to address, decisions that the community ought to address, what can be done right away.
  4. Invitation to commit: Invite the parents to help the school, just as you would to a party you were having.

Content Points – 6 points

Multiple ideas expressed showing deep understanding 6 - 1 Ideas expressed with understanding 5 - 2 All areas addressed but with ECE jargon 4 - 3 Ideas show some confusion in explanations 3 - 4 Content sketchy 2 - 5 Significant content missing 1

Community Points – 3 points

Consistent with democratic values of chance and opportunity 3 - 1 Mostly inclusive, but includes some authoritarian tone 2 - 2 Authoritarian tone 1

Editing Points – 3 points

Meets all these criteria for good writing: 3 - 1 Meets all but one 2 - 2 Meets all but two 1 Free of errors in spelling and punctuation. Omits needless words. Conveys each topic in a unitary paragraph of two or more sentences. Places emphasized idea at the end of each paragraph.

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project