Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Working Together: What Teachers Can Learn from Parents

Effective strategies for communication between teachers and families often begin with questions regarding the parent and student perspectives on strengths, areas for growth, and goals. Within college-level coursework, pre-service teachers learn what questions to ask, but don’t have the opportunity to hear actual responses. In order to offer such an opportunity to pre-service teachers, the College of Education, in collaboration with the Jones Center for Special Education Excellence, sponsors an event each semester focused on promoting teacher communication and collaboration with students with differing abilities and their families.

The event, Navigating Life with Differing Abilities: A family and student perspective, includes a panel made up of individuals and families with diagnoses including Spina Bifida, Asperger’s Syndrome, Chromosomal Abnormality, and Intellectual Disability. Pre-service teachers taking SPECED 358: Methods of Instruction will learn about the families' perspectives as the panelists answer questions including:

  1. How has the presence of a disability affected your family dynamic? 
  2. How do teachers and school staff communicate with you? What methods/strategies are most effective? 
  3. During IEP meetings, what was done/what do you wish was done to make you feel like part of the team? 
  4. What role do you think teachers can play in encouraging peer interactions? 

Following the questions, the audience of pre-service teachers may ask additional questions or follow up on previous statements. In a questionnaire provided before and after the fall semester event, the pre-service teachers indicated they felt more confident about their ability to communicate with parents and students after participating in the event. Student comments included, “[I need to be] always communicating with parents and treating them as equals” and “This panel discussion really helped [me] understand how much an educator can affect the student, parents, and family members.”
— Brooke Lylo, Assistant Professor Exceptionality Programs


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