- The Question Formulation Technique — an exercise sometimes used to teach students how to ask, categorize, and reflect on questions — can be used to better engage parents in parent-teacher conferences as well, KQED News reports.
- The technique was developed by Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, authors of "Partnering with Parents to Ask the Right Questions," in the 1990s as a way to help low-income parents overcome their feelings of intimidation, become more engaged in the process of their child’s education, and understand their three most important roles: supporting, monitoring and advocating for their child’s needs.
- Though teaching parents to question aspects of their child’s education and the process that goes into decisions affecting their child may seem counter-productive, these informed parents tend to accept more responsibility, encourage other parents to participate, push for needed change, and be more accepting of new ideas.
Most educators understand the need for good parental involvement in education. Students generally perform better when they have a strong support system at home, but a lack of this support can negatively impact learning.
Some parents, however, don’t feel comfortable talking to teachers and administrators, either, because they are intimidated by differences in education levels or bad experiences they had at school.
Educators sometimes add to this intimidation by using terms and acronyms that they assume all people understand. Teachers can help by avoiding “educationese” and speaking to parents in terms they will understand without being condescending. They can prepare for parent-teacher conferences in other ways, as well. Finding ways to communicate with parents, even the tough ones, can help build stronger working relationships and better support for new initiatives in the classroom or in the school.
However, parent education is another important part of the process. Parent University workshops are a great way to help educate parents about the process. But not all parents have the time or interest in these measures. Smaller techniques such as the Question Formulation Technique may be easier to start with. Such techniques, especially if introduced by their children, may be less intimidating.
Teachers should also strive to maintain as much regular, personal contact with parents as possible through email or school communication systems so parents feel comfortable about asking questions. Building these relationships and educating parents will pay off in the long run with stronger partnerships in the education process.