Preservice Teacher Preparation for Family Engagement: Implications for EC-6 Urban Teacher Education
Family engagement in children’s education is one of the key factors for student success in school, yet little attention has been paid in teacher preparation programs to enhance the knowledge, skills, and understanding of preservice teachers to involve families in their children’s learning. Research shows that most teachers require more experience-based training in developing collaborative, relational, and reciprocal practices to build family partnerships. The purpose of the study was to examine preservice teacher preparation for working with diverse families in urban settings from an EC-6 teacher preparation program at a large urban university in the southwestern United States. Using a mixed-method design of preservice teacher surveys, faculty interviews, and document analysis of course syllabi, the study explored the experiences of preservice teachers regarding family engagement, their perspective on their preparedness, and how research-based best practices and national standards regarding family engagement were incorporated in the program. The results indicated that only 29% of preservice teachers felt prepared to effectively partner with diverse families in an urban school environment. Research also revealed that of the six types of family involvement practices suggested in the literature review, promoting learning activities at home was the most frequently observed or participated during field experiences. Results showed that preservice teachers learned about family engagement primarily in early childhood courses taken in the beginning of the program and through the integration of related knowledge into existing courses, which were most commonly presented through assignments and classroom discussion. The study also found that the program incorporates the national standards on family engagement, but limited best practices are included in the coursework. These findings could be used as a platform for changes providing a more comprehensive teacher education program which prepares preservice teachers for family engagement thereby providing better learning outcomes for children.