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October 24, 2014
| by Terry Pickeral
Educators are familiar with differentiated instruction concepts and strategies; basically it refers to teacher’s understanding of students’ experiences, preferences and best options for learning and developing. Corresponding strategies include observations, frequent assessments, recognition of each student’s attributes, creating active learning environments and providing choices.
Given the keen interest most schools have to effectively engage parents I propose that we can use this concept of differentiation to achieve this goal.
Often when we talk about parent engagement we do so assuming there is one “set of parents” that we can easily define and engage. But like the diversity of our students, parents come in with many different experiences, attributes, concerns and challenges. Thus, one specific parent engagement strategy will not be effective for all parents.
Here are several strategies we can use to effectively engage parents building on the concepts and principles of differentiated instruction.
Recognize the diversity of parent characteristics so that we connect with parents where they are.
Differentiated instruction offers us concepts, principles and strategies that can be adopted and/or adapted to effectively engage parents by recognizing that no two parents are identical and each brings a set of experiences, attributes and challenges that should be addressed to effectively engage them in their child’s education experience.
- Identify parents’ talents, gifts and strengths by asking students to share their feelings and asking parents directly during Parent Nights, Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences and responses to surveys.
- Provide choices for parents to be engaged by offering multiple in-school and after-school opportunities to allow parents to be engaged at times they are available.
- Seek and respond to feedback from parents frequently to better understand parents’ experiences, preferred ways of being engaged and how to respond to the challenges they face.
- Create groups of parents, similar to differentiated instruction group work strategies, to work together for the benefit of each student and the school.
- Create a safe engaging school climate so that parents feel safe, comfortable and motivated to contribute to their child’s education experiences, the classroom and the school.
About the author: Terry Pickeral, president Cascade Educational Consultants has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.