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Environmental management & caring


Environmental managment is everything leaders consider to create an environment conducive to assist learners as they strive to acheive their goals. It is the setting and everything that happens within it; where teaching and learning happens.

However, it is hard to communicate the complex density of history, backgrounds, personalities, context, materials, space, and information that need to combine to create an environment for a positive teaching and learning relationships that creates life long learners.

The diagram below suggests the complexity of learning environments. And this article considers possible interactions of structures, atmosphere, groups and grouping, materials and space, transitions, parent involvement, and community influences; to consider when making decisions to facilitate learning. It also includes suggestions, releated to a learning environment, to consider that assist learners, individually and in groups, to choose mastery oriented behaviors to achieve their goals.

Other information to consider that affects learning is at


Learning environment model

Learners thoughts about people who care abou them

A person feels a person cares for them when they:

  • Feel the person knows them personally,
  • Care for them as an individual,
  • Inquire about their interests in a positive manner,
  • Help them learn,
  • Care about their success,
  • Encourage their accountability, and
  • Feel the caring person is passionate, committed, hardworking, and knowledgeable themself.


Environmental Structure

Structure sets limits. Examples of these limits include: furniture, room size, temperature, sound, rewards, reinforcement, and consequences for behavior. All meant to direct, control, manipulate, organize, schedule, and maintain standards of behavior. On a bigger scale school organization or grammar is also included as environmental management.

Interventions must be exercised cautiously. However, when a child needs help, intervention is necessary, but in all situations, the goal is for the child to exercise self-control. Therefore, the big goal is to reduce teacher intervention and support learners so they can personally make good decision as they create and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment.

Systems to help children organize:

Break down tasks into steps and combine steps into procedures. Set priorities, structure and organize the environment, organize time, pair stimuli - use concrete objects or visual images with text, auditory, and tactile signals for messages to provide information and feedback in the form of encouragement, praise, and reinforcement.

Parents and teachers have to change from a verbal and reaction-oriented form of discipline to a positive sructured intervening form of discipline. That means not waiting until something happens, but reacting before something undesireable happens, and to do or say something proactively to ensure what happens is positive.


  • Suzie, you need to be nice to Jenny when she comes to play with you. She doesn't like it when you grab her Play-Doh. She wants you to share and talk to her about what you want instead of grabbing. Okay?
  • Develop a sixth sense to know when to jump in and provide structure. Usually, it is at the first sign of trouble. When Suzie grabs Jenny's Play-Doh the first time, stop what you are doing and go over and sit with Suzie and Jenny for a few minutes. If more Play-Doh is available, you could say, "Suzie, if you need more, get some from the box. Don't take Jenny's. Jenny needs her Play-Doh to make her creation." If there is not any extra, convince Suzie she has all she needs: "You don't need much to make a cookie", or, "Here, use the little cookie cutter to make a cookie."
  • Stick around a little longer, and when the play is going smoothly make sure Suzie knows it: "Suzie, you and Jenny are playing nicely together. Doesn't it feel good to share? Tell me how it feels good."
  • Or if Suzie continues to be uncooperative.
    • "Suzie, I am sorry, but you can't take Jenny's Play-Doh because you want more. You seem to be having trouble sharing the Play-Doh, so you'll have to stop playing with it for a while. Sit in the chair for awhile and I can help you decide what else to do."
    • Anyone who has worked with a hyperactive child might say two things: "The child would throw a fit," and, "What makes you think she will stay in that chair?"
    • All hyperactive children would get out of the chair, so how do you keep her in the chair without physically restraining her?
    • It is helpful to teach stress management and relaxation techniques: breathing, calming down techniques.
    • You may have to physically guide her back to the chair a couple of times, but eventually she will make the cause and effect connection. Try to help her calm down and change the subject to something else as soon as possible. Hyperactive students need to know what is going to happen, both if they cooperate and if they do not. Teaching
  • Hyperactive children often have difficulty understanding how other people see them or their actions. The use of role play and role reversal could be used, to allow them to pretend they are you and that you are them.
  • Allow children to take responsibility for their actions. This accomplishes two very important goals:
    • It teaches responsibility and allows children to make amends for their actions, and
    • it relieves others of some of the anger and hostility they feel when the person responsible cleans up their mess.
    • additionally. It is easier to remain calm if you know they will clean up the milk they spilled or scrub the wall they wrote on. Even if the child isn't able to clean the area to your specifications, let them start and do the best they can, then step in to help with the finishing touches. Or offer to clean it up together if they will cooperate after.
  • Keep things positive, step in before it gets out of hand, redirect immediately, give specific, positive statements. For example,
    • Keep your feet on the floor.
    • Walk. Instead of saying - don't tun.
    • Color on the paper.
    • That ball is used outside.
    • Paints stay in the paint area.
    • Scissors go in the scissor caddy when we are done using them.
  • When a learner has a temper tantrum, stop and think before you act, what does the student want?
  • Use Post-its as a visual reminder to give that one second it takes to stop an impulsive act to hesitate, think, and stop. Because you want the child to stop, red or bright pink might work well. Cut the corners off to make them look like a stop sign.
  • Help learners gain respect of classmates by focusing on what they can do. Encourage them in areas they do well. Make sure classmates observe their success.
  • Activities, like catching a tadpole, can be unstructured, and hyperactive children do fairly well in activities with variety. Other activities may require more planning, like building with Legos or blocks, class projects, cooking projects, or playing a computer game.
  • Have learners talk about the rules. You may want to write them down as a visual reminder. Include when turns are to be taken and how to decide who goes first.
  • Having learners plan is a way to reduce impulsive behavior that causes problems. Consider the fair pair rule.


Proactive means creating or controlling a situation by causing something to happen, rather than responding to it after it has happened. Usually not waiting until something undesireable happens, but reacting to ensure what happens is positive.

Suggestions to to think proactively

  • Plan ahead as much as possible.
  • One-on-one games offer more structure than team games, which are heavy on chaos and light on structure.
  • Swinging, jumping rope, and playing hopscotch are all better for a hyperactive child than playing tag or dodge ball.
  • Problems arise with a rigid schedule, for example, every child rotates through one center each day: Monday - painting, Tuesday - blocks, Wednesday - an art project, Thursday - Play-Doh and Friday free center. It may be better to allow the child to choose when to do the activities, but require the child to do each activity every day and for no more than ten minutes a day, unless the child gets engrossed in an activity.
  • Ten minutes of outside play is not always enough for some learners.
  • Ten minutes of time-out is usually nine minutes too much.
  • Group time has many distractions that make the development of listening skills difficult for some children. These children do better in smaller groups and respond better when they have a specific task to do, so assigned tasks can be helpful.
  • What would you do if a child knocked over another child's block building while running through the block corner?
    • A well-educated teacher will use redirection: Tell the children they may run outside, but not in the block corner, and we ask them to help rebuild the structure with the child who created it. Make sure the child who knocked over the blocks understands the problem is because of his or her actions and created a problem for the other child and they should work to remedy them. Try to build understanding for the feelings of other children, a concept some children have a hard time learning.
  • Some children need supervision and visual reminders of tasks and rules.
  • While physical activity is important to children, the chaos of large team sports can be very difficult for some, especially the primary grade child. Some children will have difficulty with transitions or coming down from a high level of physical activity to a quieter indoor activity.
  • Junior high and high school students can learn to reduce impulsive behaviors with the reporter technique. Before you do something, think about the five w's and one h: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
    1. Who? is going to do this? Me, Kara.
    2. What? I am going to cook Chinese food for my world studies class and get an A.
    3. When? Tomorrow.
    4. Where? In my second period class in world studies.
    5. Why? So I can get an A by showing the teacher how much I know about what people in China grow and eat.
    6. How? Here the learner needs to show some planning: "Mom is going to buy the food. I am going to take a pan and a hot plate..."

Tools that affect environmental structure

  • A computer for writing, spell and grammar checker, a video/ audio players and recorders for less teacher directed of print oriented learning.
  • Use media with visual images to support learning with visual input. Big books, large screens, projection equipment, boards, posters, ...
  • A quiet area or learning centers for children to elect to work, small group interactions, to work independently, or one-on-one with a teacher.
  • Books with important facts highlighted by the teacher or to be highlighted by the student or two sets of books, one for home and one for school.

Instructional suggestions

Suggestions to relate instruction to the learning environment. See additional ideas in pedagogy for instruction, instructional methodology, strategies, syntax, and how to plan.

  • Never pass-up a chance to help students develop self discipline, a positive self-image, and self-efficacy.
  • Keep formal teacher instruction time to a minimal.
  • Communicate expectations.
  • Use teachable moments.
  • Keep instruction learner centered.
  • Make the curriculum interesting an relevant.
  • Child centered learning activities.
  • Creative activities.
  • Good pace of lesson.
  • Developmentally appropriate activities.
  • Consistent routines.
  • Motivational activities and tasks.
  • Provide for choices.
  • Good teacher movement around the space.
  • Have appropriate expectations.
  • Maintain with-it-ness.
  • Good teacher monitoring of learners.
  • Use overlapping.
  • Consistent interpretation of code of conduct and/or rule enforcement.
  • Maintain high expectations.
  • Create a risk free environment.
  • Create a positive environment.
  • Communicate caring.
  • Maintain hope.
  • Keep instruction interesting.
  • Include hands-on activities and exploration.
  • Allow time for completion of activities.
  • Use anticipatory set to focus learner's attention and closure to finish the lesson.
  • Lesson must be interesting and meaningful to learners.
  • Keep everyone on task.
  • New exciting and challenging.
  • Use themes and subjects that interest the learners.
  • Encourage and give specific praise and feedforward for accomplishments often.
  • Let the learners choose how they want to do a lesson.
  • Let learners teach part of a lesson.
  • Make communication learner centered when possible.
  • Move around a lot from various places in the room and school.
  • Variety.
  • Group work.
  • Avoid unnecessary interruptions.
  • Plan lessons with the different levels of learners and your expectations for those groups in mind.
  • Enrich activities to go along with the lesson.
  • Introduce the lesson, try to get learners excited, tell them the things they will be looking for and expecting to see from them.
  • Offer enough variety to keep them on task, give them different options within the activity.
  • Encourage learners to talk about other places, besides school, where what they are doing can occur.
  • Get the learners to tell you what is expected of them.
  • Use motivational activities, smarty tickets,
  • Use clothespins or Popsicle sticks to choose who to call on or assign groups.
  • Focus attention with, 1, 2, 3 eyes on ...
  • Rhythm clapping... then, student respond.
  • Use peer help.
  • Ask questions overhead
  • Raise hand for attention and wait for response.
  • Put notes on blackboard.
  • Move about the space and use proximity control.
  • Make eye contact, name in discussion,
  • Use thumbs up for group response.
  • Wait till all stop talking and are focused on
  • Use wait-time
  • Make mistakes on purpose.
  • You model and then have learners model.
  • Use manipulatives
  • Do not repeat answers.
  • Have conversations.
  • Use overhead projector, chalk board, pictures, diagrams, models...
  • Ask divergent questions to get more learners involved.

Creating a risk free productive environment as part of the classroom atmosphere


For a risk free environment, learners must feel comfortable that if they take a risk, they will not be put-down or experience distress so they can be productive with their endeavors. To be productive the classroom atmosphere must also be conducive to thinking, decision making, and problem solving for setting and achieving educational goals.

To achieve a productive risk free environment, teachers must create a caring collaborative scholarly learning environment. Where learners have the resources they need, are hopeful and confident they will be successful as learners and supported by everyone in the learning community. Where everyone is motivated by all the positive emotions and well being generated from everyone who believe learning is possible and there is power gained from supporting and nurturing each other, which is necessary if people are to actualize the deep concern they have for everyone's well being, and the preservation and sustainability of the natural world and its creatures.

Caring is not in opposition to high standards of behavior and academic achievement, rather caring helps learners develop confidence, courage, courtesy, compassion, competence, hope, trust, warmth, intimacy, unity, continuity, safety, security, … and the skills and knowledge necessary to make positive contributions, regardless of their life choices and the occupations they may choose.

Educators and learners express genuine care when they attempt to assist themselves and collaborate with others to achieve their goals as they all strive to reach their full potential. Which requires social skills, self-worth, hope, emotional resilience, self-efficacy, and academic abilities to achieve literacy to be life long learners.

Caring acts must be recognized as caring, for care to truly occur.

Helping can be a caring act, but not all learners seek help or know how they need help. One way to investigate what they might need is to use I wish ... to find what student's feel or need. I wish ... I had more time! I wish ... I will not fail!

When collaboration and caring are in play, a risk free environment is possible.

Suggestions to encourage:

Teachers Create a Risk Free Environment when they

Validate learner's feelings with statements like.

  • You’ve worked hard on ...
  • I know you are having difficulty doing this. It takes time to learn how to do ...
  • It takes effort to concentrate with so much happening.
  • Good, you chose to finish this before ...

Give students credit for learning and

Encourage them to reflect on the strategies and habits of mind they used.

  • That’s a creative idea. How did you think ...
  • Remember what Kelly thought of earlier? Could you use it?
  • Good idea, now you can describe how it might play out? How did you think of it?
  • Use that process and find a solution. Why did you select that process?
  • Why would you want to try that?
  • Good! You almost have the answer. What made you choose that strategy?
  • That is a very good strategy. What made you choose that strategy?

Give statements of information.

  • Give clues for information they have overlooked.
  • Give learners clues for information they do not seem to know.
  • Give clues on how to organize.
  • Give clues on strategies to solve problems.
  • Give clues on strategies to answer questions.
  • Give learners information they do not seem to know.
  • Give information they have overlooked.
  • Give information on how to organize.
  • Give strategies to solve problems.
  • Give strategies to answer questions.
  • You know, I wonder how people can ... (Complete with information on how to do something or on emotions people have.)
  • Give clues on habits of mind that are useful for success (open minded, curious, persistent...)
  • Give clues on process that might be successful (problem solving heuristics, observation, classification, inferences, sketches, lists...).

Use reflective listening to summarize & clarify what learners say or mean

  • What I hear you saying is ...
  • I get from what you say that ...
  • So you think that ...
  • Let me put what I think you said in my words.
  • So you feel that ...
  • Can you write that on the board for all to see?

Assorted ideas

  • Avoid public praise for learners who get anxious with attention
  • Use sticky notes for private praise and feedback
  • Give private feedback
  • Avoid an authoritative tone
  • Start with interests and successes
  • Don’t interpret not answering or failure to follow directions as disrespectful
  • Emphasize share collaborative and
  • Solve problems with a detective approach
  • Replace inaccurate thoughts, put downs with statements that are accurate and focus on success.
  • Use hurdle help.


Kinds of groups

Groups can be as small as pairs and as large as what makes sense for a task or activity. They can be formed randomly, assigned, or a combination of the two. When students are assigned to a group for a long period of time, it can become tracking.

Suggestions and considerations:

  • Change groups every time a new activity is started, or after one complete rotation of tasks in a group, and make them heterogeneous as often as possible.
  • Teacher chooses who will be in each group.
    • Randomly with a check on one or two students that need to be placed with certain students.
    • Mix learners with expertise or those who are motivated for the topic with those who may not be motivated or need assistance. Groupings of this nature should be temporary and for only a particular skill.
  • Randomly assign learners. Computer generated groups, drawing student names from a hat, drawing topic assignments from a hat.
  • Number learners or give colored cards. If you want five groups, then assign numbers 1-5, and group ones, twos, ... in groups. If want pairs could assign 1&2, 3&4, and pair 5's. This system can be used to: dismiss for lunch, recess, go to the restroom, get drinks, Ones do everything first, then 2s and ... Then next time start with 2s ...
  • Let a student select groups.
  • Group according to interest and friendship for certain occasions, with very careful teacher supervision.
  • Group according to top three choices:
    • Display a list of topics. Ask learners to raise their hand when you name a topic and if there are the number of hands that you would like in the group, then pick them for that group. If the number of hands in the air is less, then assign them to the topic for now and move to the next topic. Continue naming topics and assigning learners until all topics have been named. When you reach the end of topics, return to the remaining topics that still need group members and see if there are others that want to join those groups. If so, assign them. If a friendly impasse is reached, then have the remaining students flip a coin to decide or use rock, paper, scissors.
    • Display a list of topics. Ask learners to write, on a slip of paper, their top three choices. Collect the slips, randomly arrange them, then go through the slips one at a time and assign each person to their first choice as long as group membership is below the desired level. If the maximum group membership is reached, then set their slip aside and continue with the rest of the slips and assign the first choices as possible. When you have gone through all the slips and the first choices are assigned, as possible, then return to the unassigned slips and assign them to groups as possible by their second choice. When all second choices are assigned, as possible, do the same with the third choice. If after the third time through there are students who haven't been assigned to a group, then ask students in the order of the slips which of the remaining groups they would like to join.

Considerations for heterogenous or homogenous groups & tracking

Groups can be a productive way to provide information and skill to multiple individuals who are in need of the same information or skill. However, such needs must be on a specific short term focused skill. With groups formed for specific needs, they meet for instruction and practice, achieve the need, and disband. Groups that are formed long term, are often considered as tracking.

An analogy often used to support tracking is an assembly line approach where children are compared to cars and education as building a functional smooth running machine. However, the anaolgy breaks down, as it is student who are building their knowledge, not teachers. The result is they don't all build Cadillacs.

  • Tracking helps the most powerful voices and harms the unheard voices.
  • Tracking is a labor saving device.
  • Parents believe it insures advantages for their child, but in actuality limits their experiences.
  • Easier to focus learner's attention and to communicate with them about skills and tasks, since they are literally on the same page.
  • Does not require customized instruction to meet the needs of the learner.

Research has repeatedly shown that tracking and ability grouping of student is profoundly harmful to the educational interests and outcomes of students placed on or in the lower tracks and simultaneously, provides little or no academic benefits to students on the upper tracks. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr & Douglas S. Reed.

  • Tracking systems can produce significant educational harm. Professional educators should work to ensure no student is locked into a path that limits their options.
  • Tracking and special education, gifted, and talented programs have resulted in segregation of students.
  • All teachers should differentiate instruction and motivate rigorous course work that is personalized to accomodate each learners strengths to maximaize their achievement.
  • Tracking creates greater inequality without greater productivity.
  • Tracking maintains a system of inequitable access that provides little benefit to those at the top and much harm to those at the bottom.
  • Tracking creates competition not a shared experience.

Procedure for grouping

Forming groups is a frequent class procedure.

It is simplified when teachers assign groups or when teachers lead or guide participants in a selection process. Either way if learners have not experienced forming groups and are not familiar with a group selection processes, it can be an inefficient and time consuming procedure.

Therefore, it is good to invest time, teaching participants a procedure to form groups. Doing so will generally result in reducing the time it takes to get into groups and to become more tolerant of a process that will reduce conflict.

As learners become familiar with different procedures to form groups, they will become good at suggesting an efficient procedure to form groups, as they will want to get started on a project.

I have had classes, that sometimes, from groups and are ready to get to work as the last bits of information for the groups are being reported.

  • Limit the number of participants in each group:
    • pairs
    • triads
    • primary grades 2-3, unless the activity requires more.
    • upper 3-4, unless the activity requires more.
  • Assign a specific task to be accomplished. Display or give diretions to all members of the groups.
  • Plan for all members to be active. May assign roles or tasks (time keeper, scribe, materials manager or getter, guide) until student know what tasks need to be done, then an optimal group will have members moving into and out of roles as needed.
  • Plan a need for group interdependency. Giving different materials or tasks to each group member. However, all members should have the overall directions and complete any summary sheets for the overall task.
  • Select a group leader or allow a natural leader to assume the role. A leader(s) will:
    • focus the group,
    • facilitate discussions,
    • move the group along,
    • help get back on task as necessary,
    • help record necessary information (write answers, report, notes, ...)
  • Limit the amount of time, 6-8 minutes for brainstorming activities, 10-15 for most primary activities and 15-20 upper elementary, unless the assigned task is intrinsically motivating for the learners.
  • Model voice levels that are acceptable and not acceptable. When you are talking to one group lower your body to their level and talk quietly so that other groups aren't interrupted.
  • When necessary, select the groups, or discuss with learners options for forming groups. If allow learners to select the groups, place a time limit and give frequent updates as to time left. If time runs out, step in and assign. Like: Chris go over there and that will finish that group. Mary ...
  • If groups are to work together for more than one day, then make sure you have a list of the members of each group in case some groupmembers decide to switch groups. Which may be okay, but you need to know that you know what they are up to.
  • Remember to put learners, who are absent, in a group so when they return, they will be included.
  • Walk around (cruise) to collect assessment data that can be used to process group activity later. Collect both information for their group team's social skills and their group content work.
  • If there are many small groups, consider joining the small groups to share and consolidate their information before all groups come together for a general class discussion. This saves presentation time, helps learners gain self-assurance, and improves the quality of information shared with the class.
  • When groups share, allow each group to voice its ideas and others to listen attentively.
  • Require some type of individual accountability. A written answer or report from each learner.
  • Decide on a presentation order. A random selection order or one based on a logical development of students' ideas from novice to expert.
  • Draw attention to novel ideas or ways to think about ideas that are new and might not have been presented.
  • Include instruction of social skills as they need to be taught.
  • Practice getting into groups and different arrangements.
  • If necessary devise and explain consequences for disruption and non-participation. For some students, particularly social students, moving them away from the group until they agree to try to cooperate for the rest of the day is suffient.
  • Group work should never go home with one person. It needs to remain in the classroom so it is available for all members of the group in case a member is absent.

Materials & space

Suggestions for quiet reflective spaces

A quiet corner in the room with a tent or book shelving to set it off. Should consider if there is a necessity of being able to view learners in the quiet center.


  • carpet
  • soft chairs
  • bean bag
  • sofa
  • pillows
  • head sets with soft relaxing music or nature sounds (bubbling water, chirping crickets, ...)
  • Salt lamp
  • Fairy lights
  • cards with cues for relaxing
  • sand table
  • Play Doh or clay
  • Pencils, crayons, markers and paper
  • water
  • snacks

Suggestions to manage:


  • Keep supplies in an area and keep it organized.
  • Scrap box for paper. manipulatives and junk boxes in tubs or boxes.
  • Always store things in the same place.
  • Classroom library: comfortable area pillows, many books, variety of difficulty and types.
  • Set rules about the use of materials.
  • Put materials that you do not want students to have away and set it off limits.
  • Always have enough supplies for your planned activity.
  • Provide free play when introducing materials.
  • Provide instruction on how to use materials. Can provide guidelines without inhibiting students creativity or exploration.
  • Provide information on safety concerns.
  • Model proper use and discuss.


  • Use window sills, bulletin boards, closet, space for clothes and shoes
  • Custodian altered desks
  • Mobiles from ceiling
  • Teacher is accessible to students
  • Arrange desks in cluster with a maximum of 4.
  • Be aware of the lighting, sound, ventilation quiet areas, temperature.
  • Groups should have space separating for movement and help communication.
  • Each student should have a personal space.
  • Use carpet squares to separate students.


  • Use more integration to reduce the need for transitions. The more integrated the subjects the less the number of transitions.
  • Use show and tell or bracketing to get started.
  • Teach the students how to get ready for class.
  • Learners need to be responsible for getting to their own special classes and returning to the classroom appropriately.
  • Be flexible.
  • Have materials ready.
  • Put a Brain Teaser or problem on the board for students to work on until all are ready.
  • Put a note on the board so when students enter the room they know what to do.
  • The teacher can put a schedule on the board or have the learners create one.
  • Start routine on the very first day, discuss schedule and procedures.
  • Use specific praise and encouragement.
  • Use good closure.
  • Integrate by tying subjects together.
  • Dismiss in a creative way.
  • Teach being first isn't always a big deal.

Parent & Community Involvement

Parents have the most significant impact on their children's education than any other factor. The genes they inherit, their shared socio-economic status, and their daily interactions combine for a foundation and continual environmental influence on their education.

Therefore, it is sensible to combine efforts with parents and other community members to provide adequate resources to educate all of our children. Resources such as: after school programs (arts, craft, athletics, music) child care, elder care, job training, language development, breakfast, lunch, health care, adult education, food pantry, ...

Communities who have recognized the importance supporting children's learning and development beyond content and skills are creating a full-service community school approach.

To be effective it must be a reciprocal relationship among families, educators, and supporting organizations.

Some considerations include:

Six ways for parents and communities to be involved in children's education.

  1. Parenting, where families establish home environments to support their children as learners. Be careful to know what parents are capable of providing before requesting something they are unable to provide. Something, which may seem doable, such as reading to young children, may not be, for nonreaders. Providing read aloud videos may be.
  2. Communicating, design effective school-to-home and home-to-school communication about events and student assessment and evaluation.
  3. Volunteering, recruiting and organizing parent help and support.
  4. Learning at home, provide care givers with information and ideas on how to help their children at home with curriculum related activities, decisions, and planning.
  5. Decision making, include parents and community members in decisions made by the school and develop parent and community leaders and representatives.
  6. Collaborate with community, identify and integrate resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.

Source: Joyce L. Epstein, in Phi Delta Kappan May 1995 article School/Family/Community Partnerships Caring for the Children We Share


Suggestion for decision making & implementation for parent & community involvement

Research suggestions when making decisions and implementing actions related to trust, parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaboration:

For parents and communities to be positively involved in their child's education, and supporting education in general, there needs to be trust between educators, parents, and community members that everyone is committed and working to achieve what is best for students.


  • Trust depends on honesty and openness.
  • Lack of clarity and straightforwardness gives parents more reasons to distrust the educators and schools. Distrust makes more distrust.
  • Parents who trust their children’s teachers tend to be more engaged.
  • Trust among members of the school community is positively related to student outcomes.
  • Trust teachers have in students and parents is an even stronger predictor of student’s outcomes than parent’s level of trust in teachers.
  • Teachers tend to be less trusting of parents whom they regard as dissimilar from themselves.
  • Teachers tend to be less trusting of low-income patents and parents of color.

Know parents and community

  • Be careful to know what parents are capable of providing before requesting something they are unable to provide. Something, which may seem doable, such as reading to young children, may not be, for nonreaders. Providing read aloud videos may be.
  • Make sure parents understand how to create a supportive learning environment.
  • Know what resources parents need to create a supportive environment and make recommendations as appropriate.
  • Consider well-resourced parents and community members who might exercise undue influence on public schools. Often at the expense of minorities and other marginalized students.


  • The quality of communication matters more than the quantity.

    Consider how easy it is to stoke fear and turn parents and communities against one another in education, by tapping into the most basic human emotion:
    survival and control of ones children’s fate.

    Need to repeatedly emphasis that everyone wants what’s best for our children and we are here to work together to achieve it.

  • The clearer and more detailed the communication, the more successful educators tend to be in fostering trust with parents.
  • Explain how to parents how their engagement will help their child increase their participation.
  • Consider small miscommunications can result in large problems, which will require large efforts to repair.
  • Ask. Why would a parent disagree or not follow a recommendation?
  • Many parent’s negative responses are probably closer to disappointment, resignation, or frustration, than anger.
  • When you think parents might be disinterest in their children’s education. Consider they might not want to interfere with teacher’s work.
  • Economic class is a strong indicator of misunderstandings among communication of parents and educators.
  • Economic class was a much stronger factor than race when it came to communication and misunderstanding among parents and educators.
  • Parents of lower socio-economic class or marginalized backgrounds, of children with learning disabilities, and immigrants report more challenges in communicating with educators.
  • Be careful not to down play or sugar-coat critical messages as parents might conclude there is no need for alarm or action.

Parent and community involvement as volunteers, decision making, and collaboration.

  • Engagement is greater when teachers extend invitations to parents.
  • The more specific the invitation, the more likely parents are to participate.
  • Learning at home, provides care givers with information and ideas on how to help their children at home with curriculum related activities, decisions, and planning.
  • Make sure parents understand how to create a supportive learning environment.
  • Know what resources parents need to support their children.
  • Communicate about networks for support.

Source White educators working with Black Parents: Resistance and trust. Pamela D. Brown. Kappan March 2022.


Parental rights and responsibilities


  • Parents have the right to be treated by teachers, principals, administrators, and other parents as concerned, intelligent people.


  • Encourage their children to be involved in activities that are beneficial for them or others.
  • Assisting them, as is age appropriate, in getting them to school or online on time.
  • Provide time and quiet space to study and work.
  • Respond to communications from school and other educational related organizations in a respectful and timely manner.
  • Participate in school activities that support their children and their classmates.
  • Respect other parents as concerned intelligent people.

Effective partnership programs

Effective partnerships require a continual commitment to the idea that education is a shared responsibility of home, school, and community. And to be successful beyond a local oasis requires leadership at state, regional, district, and school levels. No one leader can accomplish the depth and scale of change required to create a sustainable successful program. A program that becomes well embedded in schools missions with significant links of partnerships in their goals and improvement plans and with six types of involvement: parent, communication, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community.

Source The Ohio Statewide Family Engagement Center (OhSFEC).


A framework to use to cultivate, enact, and sustain change for community wellbeing and educational justice is an iterative process made up of cycles in which people:

  1. Build relationships & theorize around shared issues
  2. Design and develop tools, practices, processes, and other solutions that push beyond the status quo
  3. Enact or pilot these solutions and collect data on what happens
  4. Analyze & reflect on what was learned, in order to revise theories and designs


Eight essential elements of effective partnership programs

  1. Leadership
  2. Teamwork
  3. Annual written plans for partnerships
  4. Implementation
  5. Evaluation
  6. Adequate, not extraordianry, funds
  7. Collegial support
  8. Networking

Source: Joyce L. Epstein & Barbara J. Boone, in Phi Delta Kappan April 2022. article State leadership to strengthen family engagement programs: A leadership ladder model helps, state, regional, district, & school leaders understand their roles in partnering with families to improve learning for students.





Pedagogy - Curriculum, teaching, learning, human development, planning

Management - Self Development & Individual, Group, & Classroom Management