By: Claire Jacobson, Ph.D.

CAEP, with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), has created three free modules to improve communication between families and teachers and encourage future teachers to engage families as integral partners in students’ education. The course is designed around three modules:

  • the importance of family engagement;
  • making an initial contact with a parent through a phone call home, including making a live phone call to a “practice parent”; and
  • conducting an initial parent-teacher conference.

Parent-teacher conferences and phone calls are activities that all teachers are involved in, however these are topics that are almost never addressed in teacher preparation programs. Did you know that family engagement is the number one area in which new teachers say they are the least prepared?  That’s right, it’s ranked even higher than classroom management!  Further, in schools with mostly low-income students the number of teachers who say family engagement is their biggest challenge rises from 31% to 40% (MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, 2005). 

The good news is family engagement matters to both teachers and students.  98% of teachers said they believed that teachers need to be able to work with families and 76% of students who said a K-5 teacher made a difference in their life said this teacher knew about their life outside of school.

Given the importance of family engagement for P-12 students (and their families) and teacher candidates’ general lack of skill-based preparation in this area—specifically opportunities to practice situations they will encounter as new teachers—CAEP began working in 2015 with seven educator preparation providers (EPPs) to develop and test strategies to better prepare candidates to involve families. 

Based on the success of the pilot, the CAEP Family Engagement Mini Course is now available to provide all EPPs with research- and candidate-vetted content about family engagement.

The modules are designed as a cohesive unit but can also be used independently.  Assessments are built-in at each stage. 

All three modules emphasize 1) proactive positive communication to build strong relationships and 2) teaching candidates to view families as assets and partners.  These are foundational skills designed to be flexibly integrated into your existing curriculum, upon which more advanced content may be scaffolded.

Accompanying the course is companion guidance for faculty that includes a faculty handbook, which walks professors through administering the course, and a slide document that can be used to train practice parents for the phone call module.

Now, any professor, anywhere can incorporate this critical content about family engagement – content both EPPs and candidates say they need to teach confidently on day one.