Authentic Learning leading to authentic parent engagement

What if parents were engaged in parent-teacher conferences in ways that allowed them to be vital and ongoing parts of student and teacher work?

Written By dperkins

On October 10, 2013

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engagementWith fall and the school year well underway many teachers and students are closing in on the end of marking periods and scheduling of parent-teacher conferences. These isolated meetings often bring nervousness from all parties involved because they are about introductions and accountability in a way that can result in uncomfortable situations. But what if parents were engaged in ways that allowed them to be vital and ongoing parts of student and teacher work?

Parents want the best for their children but often find it difficult to be a part of their school life outside of sports and other extra-curricular activities. Teachers want the best for their students and with traditional teaching it can be very difficult to engage parents who may be very busy and/or may have had negative experiences in their schooling. But if students are doing authentic, adult-like work think about how that conversation might change when using parents as experts and participants?

As we explored this topic in a recent Google Hangout panel discussion on Authentic Learning via our YouTube channel the importance of using parents for more than copying and stapling was emphasized.

That doesn’t mean you have to hope for chemist and mathematician parents, sure they might be great experts, but parents from all walks of life can add value to your classroom. They might serve as givers of technical knowledge but perhaps more likely you’ll find they’ll be happy to serve as part of authentic audience that can be used to give feedback and thinking throughout a project, not just at the end. Andrew Miller’s post about Bringing Parents and Guardians into your PBL projects offers a few additional strategies and thinking.

The concept of parent-teacher conferences also becomes much different the more authentic the learning environment. Notice how powerful the narrative and discourse is in this video from this Year at Mission Hill series. Authentic learning lends itself to more authentic assessment and those discussions with parents who have been involved in the process, not just the product, can be tremendously rich and provide the basis for growth in areas that traditional work and report cards don’t allow.

For more visit Authentic and Project based Learning.