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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

During the fall 2013 semester, students enrolled in the course Child, Family, and Community Relationships (Early Childhood-Primary program at Chicago State University) participated in the pilot for Harvard Family Research Project’s Family Engagement Teaching Case Series—Bridging Worlds: Family Engagement in the Transition to Kindergarten. The teaching case focused on the transition to kindergarten and the challenges experienced by children and their families as they negotiate this important milestone. 

Students received the case study in advance to review, and groups were assigned to present different perspectives (e.g., the mother, preschool teacher, kindergarten teacher). The teaching case was presented using the facilitated “Fishbowl” method. Using this process, students were able to explore the depth of considerations related to kindergarten transitions from diverse perspectives. At the conclusion of the case study, students participated in a debriefing and completed an evaluation that covered several areas related to the case. For instance, what they liked most about the case; what they found challenging about the case; what they learned from the case and discussion; and whether their participation helped them think differently about their experiences or coursework and the use of the Fishbowl method.

Students Learned About the Importance of Transition Practices
Students responded to questions about how they would use what they have learned from the case in their own work. The students’ responses centered on four areas related to transition practices and/or practice shifts (1) relationships, (2) communication, (3) family support, and (4) collaboration.

Relationships. Student participants learned there are many factors that need to be considered as part of transition planning that impact a child’s transition to kindergarten—factors that can enable a smooth transition versus those that can make the process more challenging. The case was challenging for the students because it surfaced how difficult the process can be for a child and the family. As a result, participants noted they will increase their efforts and be more intentional about strengthening their relationships with families and provide more support during the transition process. In addition, they will use strategies that will increase their knowledge about each child who is enrolled in their program. They will develop relationships with individuals who have previously worked with the family to ensure continuity. Students noted they will learn more about the resources that are available related to transitions to kindergarten so they can be more effective in supporting children and their families. 

Collaboration. What surfaced for students that was related to this area was the need to develop and sustain a relationship with the child’s previous teacher. They stated they would make efforts to introduce themselves to school personnel within the school community using various methods. Finally, they noted the importance of collaboration with stakeholders to ensure a smooth transition for every child and family.

Communication. Student participants noted the importance of teamwork and the need to work together in the best interest of the child and family. Students mentioned the need to work more closely with their teaching teams. Members of the team have information they can share that is beneficial in supporting the family. Increased communication with families using varied approaches (e.g., mail, phone calls, email) was an important shift many want to address. They expressed the need to communicate “as soon as possible and often” to ensure a smooth transition, and the importance of being attentive listeners in order to “hear” the challenges that parents are experiencing. It was noted that individuals need to learn how to listen at many levels to be effective.

Family Support. The need to understand the challenges faced by families and provide support was an important practice shift that was noted. Several students mentioned the need to identify resources and provide families with resources related to the transition process or develop workshops that inform family members about the important role they play in the process. As a result of participating in the pilot, one student contacted a parent who had a child transitioning to kindergarten. She asked the parent if she was familiar with the term kindergarten transition. The student stated that the parent told her that she was not familiar with the term or the process. The student encouraged the parent to research information about the topic. In addition, a student contacted her local library and started exploratory discussions about providing family workshops on kindergarten transitions. Students indicated they want to learn more about the community resources that are available within their school community in order to provide more support for families.

While the case study was challenging for the student participants due to the obstacles faced by Maya and her family, overall, they found the case study enlightening. They felt it was a great experience to hear the topic of kindergarten transitions discussed from different perspectives. In addition, students felt the use of the case study and the Fishbowl were effective methods in helping them understand the challenges of kindergarten transitions.

Students in the course Child, Family, and Community Relationships at Chicago State University who participated in the pilot of the Bridging Worlds: Family Engagement in the Transition to Kindergarten case came to understand the importance of nurturing relationships during the transition to kindergarten.
Students in the course Child, Family, and Community Relationships at Chicago State University who participated in the pilot of the
Bridging Worlds: Family Engagement in the Transition to Kindergarten case came to understand the importance of nurturing
relationships during the transition to kindergarten. 

Read the rest of the faculty reflections.

About Jamilah R. Jor’dan:

photo of Jamilah Jor'dan Jamilah R. Jor’dan, interim assistant dean of academic affairs and associate professor, Chicago State University, College of Education, Department of Early Childhood-Primary and Bilingual Education

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

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project