The Importance of Parent-Teacher Collaboration in Supporting Early Childhood Learners

Apr 28 2022

Key Takeaway:

In order to support early childhood learners, parents and teachers have to work hand-in-hand to ensure that the child is receiving the care they need to be successful in school. Having a teacher that focuses on care is more important for parents than any academic focus. —Shekufeh Monadjem

In the early childhood education community, the importance of working with families and forming relationships with them is a longstanding pillar. This qualitative study by Luke, Vail, Roulston and Clees (University of Georgia, 2021) examined parents’ expectations of their “journey into special education and their relationships with special education preschool teachers.”

Student-Teacher Relationships for Students with Disabilities 

“Researchers in the field of early childhood emphasize the importance of parents and teachers working together”1 and “early childhood professional organizations have made this relationship a matter of ethical responsibility.”2,3 Ultimately, there appears to be “better outcomes for all young children when their parents and teachers work together.”1,2 

Family-centered practice has been the cornerstone for educating young children for the past few decades1 and some of the strategies used to build caring and trusting relationships with families of children have been “identifying families’ strengths, valuing diversity in the classroom environment, learning about what families like to do, respecting parents’ knowledge, and using parents’ ideas and feedback.” 

However, this is not the case with families of children with disabilities. Despite the emphasis on family-centered practice in the “literature, legislation, and professional associations, practitioners continue to struggle to build these partnerships with the families of children with disabilities.”4 

Parent Values in a Student-Teacher Relationship

Although findings from studies related to family-centered practices for young children without disabilities are certainly applicable to working with young children in general, young children with disabilities have exceptional factors that ought to be scrutinized more closely.5 For example, many have limited communication skills, and their families must rely on teachers for more specific information about what takes place at school rather than hearing about it from their children. 

Over the years, researchers have identified family-centered parent-teacher relationships as relationships characterized by “mutual respect, flexibility and responsive interactions,”6 ”trust,”7 and “collaborative problem solving.”8 Furthermore, teachers’ professional competence, skill, and communication are of great concern to families and “contribute to parents’ positive perceptions of parent-teacher relationships.”9 

Recently, in the field of early childhood education, Rattenborg et al. (2019)10 found that “parents of typically developing children desired bidirectional communication rather than task-oriented advice.” According to the authors, participants in this study did not “emphasize an expressed desire for their children’s teachers to give them lists of things to do or homework to complete, but rather participants focused on the caring nature of the communication between themselves and their children’s teachers.” They also “focused on their expectations for how teachers should show care to them as parents within the parent-teacher relationships” as well as how to care for their children.

Summarized Article:

Luke, S. E., Vail, C. O., Roulston, K., & Clees, T. J. (2021). Examining the Expectations of Parents of Young Children with Disabilities from a “Care” Perspective. Exceptionality, 29(5), 344-358.

Summary by: Shekufeh – Shekufeh believes that the MARIO Framework builds relationships that enable students to view the world in a positive light as well as empowering them to create plans that ultimately lead to their success.

Additional References:

  1. Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.). (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 (3rd ed.). NAEYC.
  2. Division for Early Childhood. (2014). DEC recommended practices in early intervention/early childhood special education 2014. Author.
  3. National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Author.
  4. Buren, M. K., Maggin, D. M., & Brown, C. (2018). Meta-synthesis on the experiences of families from nondominant communities and special education collaboration. Exceptionality, 1–20.
  5. Bredekamp, S. (1993). The relationship between early childhood education and early childhood special education: Healthy marriage or family feud? Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 13(3), 258–273.
  6. Dunst, C. J. (2002). Family-centered practices: Birth through high school. The Journal of Special Education, 36(3), 139–147.
  7. Angell, M. E., Stoner, J. B., & Shelden, D. L. (2009). Trust in education professionals: Perspectives of mothers of children with disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 30(3), 160–176.
  8. Kuhn, M., Marvin, C. A., & Knoche, L. L. (2017). In it for the long haul: Parent–teacher partnerships for addressing preschool children’s challenging behaviors. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 37(2), 81–93.
  9. Blue-Banning, M., Summers, J. A., Frankland, H. C., Nelson, L. L., & Beegle, G. (2004). Dimensions of family and professional partnerships: Constructive guidelines for collaboration. Exceptional Children, 70(2), 167–184.
  10. Rattenborg, K., Macphee, D., Walker, A. K., & Miller-Heyl, J. (2019). Pathways to parent engagement: Understanding the contributions of parents, teachers, and schools in cultural context. Early Education and Development, 30(3), 315–336.
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