I’m nearing the end of this portion of the KAM and these last few sections will be more brief. Below is my cursory treatment of the necessity of involving parents and the community in professional learning communities and other school change initiatives…
Integrating Organizational Change with Society
A thorough review was conducted of theories about professional learning communities published by DuFour & DuFour, Wald & Castlebury, Huffman & Hipp, Roberts & Pruit, Hord, and Stone & Cuper. This review has revealed ten elements of school change that can be used to guide the process of integrating video games and simulations as educational technologies in a constructivist learning environment. The final two of these elements relate to integrating organizational change with society: include the family and community, and effect positive social change.
9. Include the Family and Community
As with any school change, professional learning communities are not formed in isolation. Families of the students (and faculty) and the surrounding community influence and are influenced by the changes in the school. Professional learning community theorists recommend taking advantage of this symbiotic relationship rather than ignoring it.
DuFour and Eaker (1998) look at parents as partners (p. 238), and they offer a framework for school-parent partnerships that consists of six standards. The first is that “communication between the home and school is regular, two-way, and meaningful” (p. 241). The second standard is to promote and support the development of parenting skills in the community (p. 244). Third, they recommend that schools encourage parents to “play an integral role in assisting student learning” (p. 245). Fourth is the requirement that parents be welcome in the school, and that their support and assistance are sought (p. 246). The fifth standard is that parents be made “full partners in the decisions that affect their children” (p. 248). Finally, they recommend collaboration with the community such that “community resources are used to strengthen schools, families and student learning” (p. 249). DuFour and Eaker also include “representatives of parents” (p. 67) in the process of developing shared mission, vision, values, and goals. Later, Eaker, DuFour, and DuFour (2002) include involving parents among their strategies for responding to students who are not learning (p. 71). DuFour, DuFour, Eaker, and Karhanek (2004) then recommended parent workshops organized by grade level (p. 108).
Roberts and Pruitt (2003) also explore ways to “collaborate with parents in learning communities” (p. 153). Like the DuFours, they offer tips for home-school communication, parenting, parent involvement in student learning, parent volunteering, parent-inclusive decision making, and collaboration with the community (p. 153-155). In short, Roberts and Pruitt believed that “students, parents, and teachers benefit when parents assume the role of learners” (p. 15) and that parents, too, can be school leaders (p. 176). Similarly, Huffman and Hipp (2003) viewed “a united effort from school staff, parents, and community members [as being] critical to embed effective practices and values into the culture of the school” (p. 64). Hord (2004) also included parents and other citizens as part of external support in her model of professional learning communities (p. 12). Stone and Cuper (2006) also include community among their three C’s of education: a classroom, a community, and collaboration (p. 46). This framework, too, is accompanied by numerous tips that might help aspiring change agents to leverage parents and the community for successful school change.
In order to draw on all available resources and to maximize the chances of success and sustainability for their change initiatives, change agents should involve parents and community members in all phases of the change process from planning to implementation and on into assessment and re-evaluation. This is true even of efforts to incorporate new educational technologies such as video games and simulations. Parents and community members may poses valuable expertise and at the very least will be able to understand a broader perspective on the influence of new technologies on the lives of students. Many obstacles, challenges, and barriers may be avoided or more easily dealt with on account of parent and community input into a change process.