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Family as Learning Coach: Preparing Preservice Teachers for Effective Collaboration

Author: Samantha Goldman

As we continue to dive deeper into how we are preparing pre-service teachers for the online and hybrid classroom in our monthly Affinity group meetings, the common theme of the family as a partner in learning continues to come up. When supporting teachers to succeed in this environment, teacher preparation programs need to focus on providing explicit strategies and tools to not only build confidence when working with families but an understanding of the added responsibilities taken on by the family as the learning coach in the home.

Learning Coach Vs. Online Teacher

The Learning Coach is the role assigned to the parent or family member of the student who is attending school online. Their role includes structuring their student’s day, acting as a motivation, prompting the student to ask for help, and making sure the student is completing assigned tasks. The online teacher is responsible for presenting new material, answering questions and providing clarification, and maintaining and analyzing data.

The Learning Coach is expected to make a certain level of commitment to working with their child on school tasks. Some of these responsibilities include making sure the student attends live sessions, effectively communicating with the teacher and providing attendance records as needed, and providing opportunities for social experiences outside of the online classroom. The time commitment varies with the age of the student, with the expectation of 4-6 hours for grades K-2 down to 1-3 hours for students in high school.

Tips to Support Communications

In our break-out groups, members discussed and created a padlet of resources to provide teacher candidates with skills to address complex relationships with parents. Some of the suggestions from the groups included explicitly discussing work life boundaries with pre-service teachers and teaching them to protect their out-of-work time. To implement these strategies, teachers can silence notifications and create a separate contact number for parents using apps like Google Voice.

Other suggestions that were brought up during the breakout sessions were to ensure that classes dedicate time to exploring how diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds impact the family/teacher relationship and ensuring that families have the necessary technology in their homes in order to participate, communicate, and collaborate.

Opportunity to Practice

Just like practicum experiences exist to give pre-service teachers an opportunity to practice teaching in a variety of settings, so should they be given the opportunity to test out and practice collaboration and communication skills with parents. Practicum and student teaching programs often require participation in Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings; however, there is so much more to relationship building than just that one meeting a year. One break-out group discussed a project where they have their pre-service teachers connect with families using an online platform of their choosing. Other ideas include using simulated learning, similar to the ideas shared in our past blog, “Integrate Scenario-Based Learning Into Teacher Preparation”, which allow pre-service teachers to practice these skills in a strategic way.

Tell Us Your Thoughts!

As we continue to grow and develop in the area of collaboration between pre-service teachers and families, what other suggestions, courses, or tools have you used in your experiences in order to help pre-service teachers navigate collaboration with families? We would love to hear your thoughts in our community! Pop on over and share with us!