“If the school system worked for me, why can’t it work for my child?”
In many districts that are moving to personalized learning, parents can be apprehensive around change in their child’s classroom.
“There’s great trepidation around changing education in a system that worked for them 23 years ago,” one superintendent said. “There’s a fear about treating kids like guinea pigs.”
And who can blame them? Without clear, transparent communication around how personalized learning works for each individual student, parents are bound to be nervous about this transformation.
In talking with district leaders throughout the country, we’ve sought to better understand their roles, goals, motivations and challenges. Through these conversations, we’ve learned that districts are facing similar barriers to personalized learning.
One common challenge is clearly and articulately explaining personalized learning, while encouraging parents to become advocates.
Districts have taken various approaches to remedy this challenge. Whether through a community survey or classroom visit, all approaches depend on intentional communication and parent engagement to build public will.
Here are some ideas for how to better engage your parent community around personalized learning:
Be upfront and transparent about personalized learning from the very beginning.
Attend other, non-district events in the community. By being involved in local events, parents will become familiar and comfortable with you and your staff.
Plan community focus groups to have honest conversation and gain insight.
Meet parents where they are. Schedule meetings outside the school walls where parents are comfortable.
Allow time for parents to visit classrooms to see personalized learning in action.
Conduct a community survey to learn about common concerns and consider how to address those concerns.
Ask parents for their insight. Value that insight by using it in future communications plans or processes.
Continually use common language to create better understanding. Once you choose a term for personalized learning, stick with it. Inconsistent language can result in confusion, which can cause apprehension.
Host informal principal chats where parents can come discuss and learn about personalized learning in individual schools.
Invite higher education partners to dispel myths about the transition from a personalized learning environment to postsecondary institutions.
Focus on strong, strategic online and virtual communication. Use the website and social media sites to your advantage.
Sit down with a family and understand from where they’re coming. Build relationships with them.
While parents can be a barrier to some personalized learning paths, they can also be the biggest advocates for the school community. By carefully (and strategically) communicating, schools can build support throughout the parent population.