Beyond the Methods Classes: Family Interaction in Learning

Susan Payne, Ohio University, The Patton College of Education, PDS Faculty, payne@ohio.edu
Elizabeth Hoisington, The Plains Elementary, First Grade Teacher/ Faculty Liaison lhoisington@athenscsd.org

As teacher candidates in The Patton College of Education at Ohio University, junior level Early Childhood majors work in a partnership school by investing two full days each week becoming part of a K- 3 classroom.  The Plains Elementary is considered a “high needs” school located in the Southern Ohio Appalachian area. Many of the students in the school are from a lower socioeconomic background with approximately 80% deemed as living in poverty.  Experiences and resources to support and challenge their education are often unavailable or unattainable.  The school population includes many students with an individual educational plan 20%); living in a single parent home (25%); having a primary caregiver that is not their parent (being raised by grandparents, aunts, family friends, foster parents – 14%); or having have no contact with one or both of their biological parents due to death, incarceration, abandonment, or drug addiction (35%).  These situations are often very different from most candidates’ backgrounds.

To understand the diversity of the community and build connections family engagement evenings were developed by the cohort of candidates.  Building upon their methods coursework candidates developed an opportunity for families to engage in integrated and differentiated activities in math and science. During the evening activity candidates created and supervised stations, centered upon learning standards, in which students and adults interacted with materials in a hands-on, low risk, enjoyable and family friendly environment.  With grant support from the Patton College and donations from the community, materials in recreating the activity at home were able to be given to each family to continue the learning experience.  With the success of the first “Math Mania Night” in 2014, families have looked forward to each semester’s offering for the past 3 years.

Families built relationships with the candidates realizing their contributions to their child’s learning.  “OU students are so patient.” They provided “great activities” where “I learned too.”  Candidates continued to grow in meeting the NAEYC standard of creating “respectful, reciprocal relationships that support and empower families, as they involve families in their child’s development and learning.”

 “I got to learn more about my students’ families and what their background is like. I was also able to see how they interact with their families and what kind of relationships they have. It gave me some insight as to how my students are outside of school.”

“I learned about the importance of bringing the community together to be involved in children’s learning. Children feel more confident in taking initiative in their learning when they are being supported by their community.”

 Realizing the need for increasing opportunities for community interactions, additional partnership schools are infusing family activities into the seminar curriculum. These efforts are assisting students in developing as an educator embracing the Patton College’s Core Values – Change.

Sources:
Ferguson, C. (2008). The school-family connection: Looking into the larger picture. Austin, TX: National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools.

The Professional Standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) (Standard 3: Building Family and Community Relationships

The Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education; Ohio University https://www.ohio.edu/education/about/conceptual-core.cfm

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