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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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FINE Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 3
Issue Topic: Blended Professional Learning: Preparing and Supporting Educators to Engage Families

Voices From the Field

The School Psychology Specialist Program at Texas State University is committed to preparing graduate students to promote effective family‒school partnering practices. The case studies in Preparing Educators to Engage Families have been valuable as teaching tools that provide vivid, realistic examples of challenges that learners, educators, and families face. I use many of the cases in the book to facilitate classroom discussion about the importance of family‒school partnering, the need to view student concerns in the context of an ecological systems framework, and the potential to promote positive school experiences by facilitating collaborative relationships.

Bridging Worlds is no exception. The case revolves around 5-year-old Maya’s transition from preschool to kindergarten and includes her mother, her preschool teacher at a Head Start program, the educational director of her Head Start program, and her kindergarten teacher.

A Mock Team Meeting

Because the lack of coordination among systems emerges as a central concern, this particular case is well suited for a “mock team meeting” that brings together families, the Head Start program, and the elementary school personnel. To prepare my students for the mock meeting, I asked them to read the case as a homework assignment, and encouraged them to think about the transition from the perspective of each of the key players.

When my students arrived in class, I assigned them roles from the case (e.g., mother, preschool teacher, kindergarten teacher.) as well as some supplemental roles that I created (e.g., school psychologist, elementary school parent liaison) and gave them the following instructions: “You have an opportunity to go back in time before Maya enters kindergarten to coordinate her transition. Do your best to be collaborative and give each member of the team the opportunity to be involved.”

My graduate students easily settled into their roles and were able to sustain an improvised meeting for almost 30 minutes, staying in character and doing their best to promote a successful transition, not only for Maya but for all students moving from the Head Start program to Maya’s elementary school. Following the mock meeting, we had a debriefing to discuss the case and the mock team experience. Students reported that the activity helped them “take the case to a whole new level by acting it out.” They also reported that participating in a mock meeting “made it seem real, like something we could actually do.” Perhaps the most significant observation came from a student who had little experience with public education: “The problem as presented in the case seemed so big, but with a little bit of collaboration we were able to erase it.”


The mock team meeting is just one of a number of ways that the cases can be used to promote discussion and deeper understanding. What I like about this approach is the way in which students immerse themselves in the case and bring it to life. Even though they’re role-playing, they’re treating it with the seriousness that a real case would command, and that’s great practice for future school psychologists and other professional educators.

Read the rest of the faculty reflections.

About Jon Lasser:

Jon Lasser, professor of school psychology, Texas State University, Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education, & School Psychology

This resource is part of the August FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

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