“If the school system worked for me, why can’t it work for my child?”
Many districts moving toward personalized learning find that parents are apprehensive about proposed changes — viewing the approach as experimental, untested and unstructured.
And who can blame them? Without clear, transparent communication around how personalized, competency-based learning works, parents are bound to be nervous about a system that is unfamiliar and diverts from the system that has been operating untouched for centuries.
In talking with district leaders throughout the country, one challenge persists for those working to implement personalized, competency-based learning: explaining the many benefits of this new teaching and learning approach to skeptical parents.
Here are 10 ideas to build public will among parents:
- Attend non-district events in the community. Being involved in non-school related events, helps parents to view you and your staff as people beyond school context.
- Plan community focus groups to have conversations and gain insight. Use those insights in communications plans and processes.
- Meet parents where they are. Schedule meetings outside of school where parents feel most comfortable.
- Allow time for parents to visit classrooms to see personalized learning in action.
- Conduct a survey to learn about common concerns and consider ways to address those concerns.
- Use common and consistent language to create better understanding. Adaptive learning, customized learning, individualized learning, customized learning all terms that have been used to describe student-centered approaches to learning. Once you choose a term for personalized learning, stick with it. Inconsistent language results in confusion and apprehension.
- Host informal principal chats where parents can come talk directly to administrators and discuss personalized learning.
- Invite higher education partners to dispel myths about the transition from a personalized learning environment to postsecondary institutions.
- Use your website and social media platforms to your advantage. These platforms provide opportunities for ongoing and regular communications about personalized learning efforts and its benefits.
- Be honest about the role of continuous improvement in the personalized learning implementation process.
While parents can be a barrier to personalized learning implementation, when given the opportunity to participate and witness the many benefits firsthand, they can also become your best advocates. By intentionally and strategically communicating with parents, schools can focus on building parental buy in, which is crucial for the success.
When parents embrace personalized competency-based learning, they become valuable allies, providing encouragement, motivation and a nurturing environment that reinforces the skills and knowledge their child is acquiring. Ultimately, parental buy-in ensures that personalized learning is holistically supported, enhancing student engagement, achievement and overall educational outcomes.