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Better Parent-Teacher Engagement Can Improve K-12 Learning

Patricia Edwards

In her latest book—“New Ways to Engage Parents: Strategies and Tools for Teachers and Leaders, K-12,” published in May 2016 through Teachers College Press— Michigan State University’s Patricia Edwards says the family of the child can be a cornerstone for learning.

Edwards, professor, Department of Teacher Education in the College of Education, explains how the power of data, demographics and parent-teacher engagement can be harnessed together to create a better learning environment for all students.

“Teaching focuses a lot on subject matter, but we need to study who our subjects are,” Edwards argues—and that ties into one of the first steps in her book. “If you go into a school with what you think is going to happen, it’s not going to work. You need to create demographic profiles of your students and their community, then analyze it.”

How involved are the parents in their student’s learning? What does the parent know about the child that might help the teacher in the classroom? These questions can help in the way a teacher approaches a student, and in the book, Edwards gives some ideas on how to best reach out to, and continue to connect with, parents.

She believes that many schools rely too heavily on traditional, one-way communications, like handbooks, report cards and newsletters that the student brings home—and that the parent may never even see or read. Instead, Edwards encourages educators and parents to tap into the modern benefits of technology and use two-way communication tools, such as email, texting and Skype or Google Hangouts. In this way, parents and teachers can converse not only about what is going on with the student, both in school and at home, but what can help inform decisions on how to move forward with the student.

In the end, Edwards believes understanding more about the student’s home environment and connecting with their family can make all the difference and is a vital solution in creating an individualized learning environment.

“You would try every possible medicine to help get a child well, why would you not try every method to get the child to learn?”

– excerpted from College of Education, New Educator, Spring-Summer 21016 Edition, by Lauren Ebelt

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