Source: European Journal of Teacher Education, Vol. 37, No. 4, 409–425, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
In this explorative study, preparation of pre-service teachers for family–school partnerships (FSP) was examined within three teacher education institutions.
Explorative studies including curriculum analysis and focus groups of 65 primary and secondary teacher candidates and 32 teacher educators were conducted in three universities, one each in the Netherlands, Belgium and the USA.
Data collection was designed to identify opinions towards FSP and perceived preparation for FSP.
Findings indicate that preparation for FSP is integrated in other courses. Attention is mainly focused on communication, there is no attention to models of FSP or to address underlying power relationships or barriers and there is no assessment on this topic. In primary programmes, more attention is paid to FSP then in secondary progammes. In addition, secondary respondents articulated fewer positive opinions than primary respondents. Moreover, differences were found between the formal curriculum and the curriculum as performed. Preparation for FSP seemed to depend on concepts and (unplanned) teaching practices of individual educators. Educators and candidates considered FSP important, but difficult to establish, often describing parents as frightening.
Finally, all respondents felt preparation was inadequate. They called for more and less noncommittal attention to FSP and more actual experience.
This study reveals that limited concepts concerning FSP are included in the formal curricula and expressed by candidates and their educators. Two examples might illustrate this.
First FSP is merely regarded as communication with parents. In fact candidates and educators requested even more training of communication skills, role playing and field experiences with opportunities to meet parents.
Secondly, another limited concept is expressed by secondary respondents emphasising that FSP is above all meant for primary education. The university curricula mirrored that view, and concomitantly FSP was hardly a topic in secondary programmes.
Teacher education institutions should provide opportunities for candidates to meet parents within and outside the schools, coached by educators, who can prepare them for these encounters and encourage them to reflect on these experiences afterwards, in order to relate these experiences to their role as (prospective) teacher. Real-life experiences, taking place in authentic situations, were one of the improvements suggested by nearly all respondents. preconceived notions confirmed.
Although educators in this study emphasised the need for more attention to FSP, they also mentioned a loaded curriculum and suggested integrating FSP in other subjects.
Moreover, integration in other courses and addressing FSP sufficiently needs educators who are convinced of the importance of FSP and know how to combine and integrate their own subject with FSP. In this study, educators who are not that engaged to this subject might struggle even more or simply omit FSP in their teaching practises, in particular when, as emphasised by the participating educators, a shared vision on preparing for FSP is lacking.
These findings show that teaching about FSP appears partly unplanned and unconscious, depending on the educators’ individual experiences.
In this study, educators emphasised there is hardly any time for collaboration and development of shared visions. This may lead to individual unplanned and unconscious practices of educators as found in this study. The critical role of individual educators and the lack of collaborative exchange about educators’ visions and practices refer to a bigger issue.