I’m Sondra Stegenga, an occupational therapist, home visitor, educational administrator, and Ph.D. student at the University of Oregon. Evidence has shown that meaningful family involvement is key to long-term outcomes for children. In early intervention and early childhood (EC) systems we are charged with basing services, supports, and goals on family needs and priorities. Given the varied learning needs and contextual and cultural values of families, and the lack of research on involving families in data practices, this process may be unintentionally overlooked or underutilized. In a recent study, Brawley and Stormont found that although 82% of EC teachers identified sharing data with families as important, only 42% reported regularly doing so. Data collection in EC programs can become a rote task, completed without much meaning or family involvement. Failing to include families in data processes not only violates foundational tenets of early intervention and early childhood but more importantly deprives families of valuable learning and reflection, greater involvement in their child’s plan, and improved chances of successful outcomes.
- In 20+ years of working with children and families I learned the impact of involving families in data practices. This lines up with what researchers and evaluators have noted that involving families in data processes leads to increased communication and better outcomes.
- To engage parents in data practices we must first engage families in the whole educational process. Consider cultural, contextual, and family needs. Engagement may look different to each family, but should be conveyed thorough mission, goals, and formal practices explicitly outlining the importance of and practices supporting family involvement. Gathering input from through a variety of methods (via smartphone, in-person, and times convenient for the family) is imperative to meaningful family engagement.
- Involve families from the beginning as “partners” in data collection, reflection, and use. This will demystify the process and support full, meaningful family engagement. Explain reasoning for data, timelines, and gathering data. Take time to understand parents’ prior experience, fears, and questions related to data. Ask parents what is meaningful to them and discuss how they would like to measure their child’s progress.
- Use various modes of data presentation. Graphs and visualizations are shown to be powerful communicators of data. In addition, telling the story of the data and linking to family’s needs, priorities, and contexts is key to understanding.
- Tips on Culturally Responsive Parental Involvement
- IES Toolkit on Engaging families in data conversations
- Ideas for presenting data meaningfully to families
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