Family engagement benefits children and youth in multiple ways. However, educators often find engaging families the most difficult part of their work, and are rarely trained or prepared to do so. The case method is a valuable teaching technique to prepare educators to effectively engage with families. The case method helps educators build competencies that equip them with tools and skills in family engagement practices.
An interactive case is designed to help you engage and reflect on a difficult situation, independently or with a group, without the explicit input of a facilitator or instructor. The interactive case allows you to take a close-up view of the people involved in various situations, reflect on their perspectives, take a step back and think about the larger organizational issues influencing each person’s behavior. This encourages a broadened perspective on behavior and apply that to current situation to better understand people, specifically in the context of the family.
When you zoom out, using the interactive cases tool, you will be given an opportunity to take a step back and reflect on the bigger picture. You can think about the assumptions people in the case make, where people disagree, where opportunities to connect are missed, and how institutions might become better aligned to support everyone involved. Tools such as this equip educators to effectively and responsively communicate with all diversely represented families connected to learning at school. Pedagogues and practitioners will benefit from exercises that facilitate empowerment, and encourage life-long learning.
From Global Family Research Project[GFRP], there is an entire website devoted to the cases approach. Vignettes are provided, and each presents background information and insights into the persons involved, as well. Often, when engaging others, we tend to make assumptions[‘immaculate perceptions’], based on our own limited experiences, viewed through our own cultural lens, and then interject them while making determinations based upon that narrow perspective. We project our views onto others and it is then that our judgements and decisions may go wrong. Minimally informed, we run the risk of creating more distance, and potentially cause more harm in situations, rather than being of help. Interactive cases challenges our existing skills and competencies, and offer virtual opportunities to build upon them.
From preschool to high school to college matriculation, there are learning and growth opportunities for educators who work with families and their children. If increased cultural sensitivity and greater appreciation for diversity is your desired competency, mastery can be achieved, even though cultural proficiency is an ongoing process. GFRP offers diverse family vignettes among the cases, with associated skills and tools for effective partnering and fostering meaningful relationships.
Working with families in educational settings will be challenging, but can be quite rewarding, as will family work in other settings, as well. The key to positive outcomes is the ability to actively listen, assume a strengths-based, solution-focused approach and engage in all other indicators of effective communication. Unconditional positive regard, acceptance, warmth, and demonstrate all of these via positive feedback within your attending skills. Always reflect back to others what is being said to ensure you understand what’s being said, clarify, and be mindful of the difference between messages sent and what’s received. Remember to distinguish intent from impact, too. Cultural responsiveness must be embedded within all practice principles, methodologies, interventions and strategies utilized in family work. Knowledge of family theories, child and youth development and group dynamics are also key insights to possess when working with families.
For the best possible educational outcomes, partnerships between schools and families, teachers and parents must be priority #1 for both the educators at school and the parents and/or adult caregivers at home. If neither sees it as important, then they aren’t likely to work as effectively to ensure the educational and comprehensive needs of children are met. Building on what is working already and learning and implementing new and innovative approaches to engagement practices will foster long-term collaborative partnerships that best promote the total wellness of families and support academic achievement for ALL children. You engage families to empower them in the end and partnering collaboratively and being supportive assists in that aim. Cases offer the opportunity to practice what we know and tend to preach and challenges us to do so responsively.
Examine Family Cases by following the link below: