Rethinking and Transforming ECEC Spaces: Improving the Quality of Communication with Parents
Inspired by the results from the focus groups organized with parents and professionals within the EDUCAS project, the Lithuanian team (UIC Center for Innovative Education and ECEC Centers,1 Vaikystes Sodas and Aukštelkės mokykla-daugiafunkcis centras) continues its activities to transform ECEC environments within an ‘educare’ approach. This article shares how in practice professionals from the Aukštelkės mokykla-daugiafunkcis centras are changing the way they communicate with the parents.
Understanding the importance of parent ‘s involvement, teachers from Aukštelkės mokykla-daugiafunkcis centras conducted a questionnaire survey in the institution, aiming to learn how to improve the cooperation between parents and teachers. Survey and semi-structured interview revealed that first of all we need to improve the quality of our communication with parents.
More positive information when communicating with parents
Quality communication does not mean just exchange of information, it is much more: an exchange of beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and expectations.
The results of our survey helped to indicate the main obstacles for cooperation with parents. One of the obstacles, according to parents, is that teachers talk to them mostly when there are problems with their child. If parents are mainly getting negative information from teachers, they start avoiding further communication with educators.
“There is no specific information about our child, it’s just in general, that's all.” – A father
“We are mostly receiving negative information about our child, it's never positive.” – A mother
At the same time, teachers were complaining that some parents deliberately withhold information that would help teachers better respond to children’s needs.
“It is difficult when parents are hiding some problems and do not want to share information with us. More information about the children would make our job much easier.” – An educator
Actions taken to change the situation
Teachers actively engaged in various methods of communication in an effort to reach out to parents and win their trust by using specific strategies, including weekly emails to parents, and up-to-date online information about classroom activities.
- Teachers invited parents to participate in pre-school activities as often as possible. Parents were able to observe their children participating in a different activities and Parents also had possibility to see child‘s interactions with the teacher and other children.
- Proactive communication, balancing reports with both student problems and positive feedback, promote active parent involvement in pre-school activities as often as possible.
- Teachers make observations on each child throughout the day and create detailed reports that track development over time. Teachers spend more time talking to parents about their children. These reports are shared with parents, opening the lines of communication and putting them both parents and teachers on the same page. It helps to involve parents in the desition making process about their child‘s education.
- Teachers set a goal for each week to communicate three positive observations to parents whose children don’t generally receive them.
- Parents and teachers identified proactive, regular parent–school communication about student problems both at home and at school as an effective way to intervene early when issues arise.
- Both parents and teachers identified the need for school to more regularly communicate with parents about their child’s strengths and positive behaviors at school - an increased focus on what children are doing well.
We reached our goal
‘Regular, predictable communication with school decreased parent stress‘. This is what parents reported when teachers reached out to them: they felt like the teachers cared about their family. Parents reported greater overall satisfaction with the method and tone of communication from the school, they felt informed about their child’s progress and felt included in planning and decision making. Parents feel happy that their opinion is valued.
“I’m happy to be involved in my son's classroom remodelling, this is important to me. He has some allergies so it‘s good to let designers and teachers know what materials are hypoallergic.” – A mother
“When you realize that parents and teachers all want the best for kids, there must be some common ground to start quality communication. We asked parents if someone would love to join us to help organize educational activities. I am very proud to say, that we have two parents teaching the Italian language to preschoolers and other parent teaching art. This is useful not only to kids but for teachers too“ – A teacher
As conclusion, rethinking regular practices and approaches within the EDUCAS project is certainly helping us to create child and family friendly learning spaces in our ECEC center.
Photos: Interactive Italian language lesson with two parents. Roberta Plekaviciene. Aukštelkės mokykla-daugiafunkcis centras.
1 UIC Center for Innovative Education and ECEC Centers is an ISSA Member organization