ERIC Identifier: ED351149 Publication Date: 1992-00-00
Author: Swick, Kevin J. Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education Urbana IL.
Teacher-Parent Partnerships. ERIC Digest.
The partnership construct is based on the premise that collaborating partners
have some common basis for action and a sense of mutuality that supports their
joint ventures. Teachers and parents have a common need for joining together in
partnership: the need to foster positive growth in children and in themselves.
It is their challenge to create a sense of mutuality so that their efforts are
meaningful to all those involved.
PARENT AND TEACHER ATTRIBUTES THAT PROMOTE
Research provides insight on parent attributes that support
meaningful partnerships. These attributes include warmth, sensitivity,
nurturance, the ability to listen, consistency, a positive self-image, a sense
of efficacy, personal competence, and effective interpersonal skills.
Marital happiness, family harmony, success in prior collaborations, and
openness to others' ideas have also been related to parental competence in
promoting partnerships (Swick, 1991). Schaefer (1985) has noted that parents who
are high in self-esteem are more assertive in their family and school
involvement. Not all parents achieve the competence that supports these
attributes. Teachers can provide a setting that encourages the development of
partnership behaviors in parents. Modeling respect and communication skills,
showing a genuine interest in the children, responding constructively to parent
concerns, promoting a teamwork philosophy, and being sensitive to parent and
family needs are some ways to promote this process. Lawler (1991) suggests that
teachers encourage parents to be positive through the example they set in being
supportive, responsive, and dependable.
Teacher attributes that appear to positively influence teachers'
relationships with children and parents include: warmth, openness, sensitivity,
flexibility, reliability, and accessibility (Comer and Haynes, 1991). From the
parents' perspective, these teacher characteristics are desirable: trust,
warmth, closeness, positive self-image, effective classroom management,
child-centeredness, positive discipline, nurturance, and effective teaching
skills. Researchers have cited the following teacher attributes as highly
related to successful parent involvement: positive attitudes, active planning to
involve parents, continuous teacher training, involvement in professional
growth, and personal competence (Epstein, 1984; Galinsky, 1990).
TEACHER-PARENT PARTNERSHIP ROLES: A FRAMEWORK
on parent involvement indicates that parents and teachers can create viable
partnerships by engaging in joint learning activities, supporting each other in
their respective roles, carrying out classroom and school improvement
activities, conducting collaborative curriculum projects in the classroom,
participating together in various decision-making activities, and being
advocates for children (Swick, 1991). Integral to these activities are the
various parent and teacher roles and behaviors that make for successful
- Parenting roles are performed within the family and within family-school
relationships. Roles critical to family growth are nurturing, teaching, and
modeling. Within the larger family-school structure, parents must carry out
learning, doing, supporting, and decision-making roles. Naturally, parents use
these various roles across contexts, but they emphasize particular roles as
family or family-school situations dictate (Schaefer, 1985). For example, recent
findings suggest that when parents sense an inviting school climate, they
emphasize nurturing and supporting behaviors in their interactions with
teachers; their participation in the school environment also increases (Comer
and Haynes, 1991).
- Teacher roles critical to the partnership process include the
family-centered roles of support, education, and guidance. Teacher roles that
focus on family involvement in school and classroom activities include those of
nurturing, supporting, guiding, and decision-making.
- Together, parents and teachers can foster their partnership through such
behaviors as collaborating, planning, communicating and evaluating (Epstein and
Dauber, 1991; Swick, 1991).
A FRAMEWORK AND STRATEGIES: APPLICATIONS FROM RESEARCH
action-oriented philosophy of family-school support and nurturance is a powerful
force in creating a positive learning environment. Teacher actions that promote
such a philosophy include the sensitive involvement of parents from cultural,
ethnic, and racial backgrounds (Lightfoot, 1978). Relating classroom activities
to the varying needs and interests of children and families is another
reflection of a family-centered program.
Since teacher-parent partnerships are developmental in nature and best
realized through a comprehensive approach, a framework for carrying out the
process is essential. The following elements need close scrutiny: teacher and
parent contexts, role understandings, and an appreciation of the partnership
process itself. Further, a sensitivity to each others' needs, situations, and
talents is a requisite basis for a viable program.
Given that each program is and should be unique, particular elements, such as
the following, are essential: needs assessments, goal statements, prioritization
of activities, strategy development, implementation plans, and evaluation tools
(Comer and Haynes, 1991). It has been noted that parents, when given the
opportunity, are quite active in setting program goals (Powell, 1989). Swick
(1992) notes that the availability of teachers and the offering of such services
as transportation and child care to parents increases participation in program
A plethora of strategies have proven effective in promoting strong
partnerships. The degree to which strategies are related to the needs and
interests of parents and to the unique situations of schools and teachers
influences the level of success. Home visits, conferences, parent centers,
telecommunication, involvement in the classroom, participatory decision-making,
parent and adult education programs, home learning activities, and family-school
networking are some of the many strategies that have effectively engaged parents
and teachers in supportive and collaborative roles (Swick, 1991). Creative uses
of technology offer new possibilities for building partnerships with parents
that reach beyond traditional limits (Bauch, 1990).
Early childhood education's
commitment to families is strengthened through the partnership process. True
collaborative efforts are prompting teachers and parents to plan from a
family-centered perspective. Family-centered schools need to be intimately
involved with families in planning and nurturing healthy environments. A
significant part of this effort is the development of a curriculum for caring
that promotes a shared learning process among children, parents, and teachers.
This school-family curriculum should focus on the caring elements of self-image,
prosocial relationships with others, development of multicultural
understandings, sensitive and empathetic relationships, nurturing and positive
discipline, and creative problem-solving strategies.
A family-centered focus must also become a part of the community's fabric. A
human network of family, school, and community learners needs to be part of a
covenant for creating positive human environments. In particular,
intergenerational family wellness needs, the family's and the school's needs for
learning and sharing, and related community partnership needs provide the
foundation for a family-centered effort.
Bauch, J. The Transparent School Model: From
Idea to Implementation. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1990.
Comer, J., and Haynes, M. "Parent Involvement in Schools: An Ecological
Approach." Elementary School Journal 91 (1991): 271-278. EJ 429 059.
Epstein, J. "School Policy and Parent Involvement: Research Results."
Educational Horizons 62 (1984): 70-72. EJ 429 689.
Epstein, J., and Dauber, S. "School Programs and Teacher Practices of Parent
Involvement in Inner-City Elementary and Middle Schools." Elementary School
Journal 91 (1991): 289-306. EJ 429 061.
Galinsky, E. "Why Are Some Parent-Teacher Relationships Clouded with
Difficulties?" Young Children 45 (1990): 2-3, 38-39. EJ 415 403.
Lawler, D. Parent-Teacher Conferencing in Early Childhood Education.
Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1991.
Lightfoot, S. Worlds Apart: Relationships Between Families and School. New
York: Basic Books, 1978.
Powell, D. Families and Early Childhood Programs. Washington, DC: National
Association for the Education of Young Children, 1989. ED 309 872.
Scheafer, E. "Parent and Child Correlates of Parental Modernity." In Sigel,
B., ed. Parental Belief Systems: The Psychological Consequences for Children.
Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1985.
Swick, K. Teacher-Parent Partnerships To Enhance School Success in Early
Childhood Education. Washington, DC: National Education Association, 1991.
Swick, K. An Early Childhood School-Home Learning Design. Champaign, IL:
Stipes Publishing, 1992.
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