Innovative Curricula: Involving the Community in Novel Ways

Article excerpt

This paper discusses a broad array of types of community involvement in innovative curricula that involve a three-way partnership among the educators, the parents, and the community. The aim is to demonstrate that the community can be involved in novel ways with innovative curricula when the needs of all the parties involved are met. Specifically, the paper emphasises the role of (1) parents, when given the school support, in turning out smarter students, (2) the business community in promoting education while promoting itself, (3) the university in teaching new skills and knowledge of work processes to both employees and employers, and (4) the nation as a whole in fuelling and sustaining this totally new partnership that is needed for the next century.

It has long been known that effective education in the schools includes a three-way partnership among the educators, the parents, and the community. Teaching in isolation from the family and community accomplishes only short-term aims, at best, and can even result in frustration for those who wish to serve favourably the interests of the students. Community involvement in the classroom and school can take many forms. Here are some examples of community involvement programs that have been used for different age levels and in different types of schools. The aim is to demonstrate that the community can be involved in novel ways with innovative curricula.

Often, most community involvement efforts take place at the elementary or primary school level. Perhaps this is because of the recognition that attitudes formed in the younger years are very important in terms of long-term learning and success. A variety of activities can successfully include parents and community at this school level.

Collaboration Between Parents/Children and the School

Parents can help to turn out smarter students. In Missouri, one innovative program called "Parents as Teachers (PAT)" helps parents to interpret their babies' different developmental stages and explain how the behaviour may affect later learning (Caminiti, 1990). This kind of home-school partnership can help educate parents in supporting their children who struggle with education and literacy. Often, parents want to help but are at a loss because they are not trained in educational methods. Therefore, parents depend totally on teachers and educators and this creates stress and unnecessary demands on the educational system.

Getting Parents to Share Their Knowledge of Their Children's Literacy

As parents bring up their children, they should know their children best. One study by Lazar and Weisberg (1996) demonstrated the significance of inviting parents to share their knowledge of their children's literacy with teachers. This kind of sharing helps teachers to design appropriate classroom instruction to meet the needs of their students.

The study involved a group of children in Grades 1 through 6 who were referred to the Beaver College Reading-Language Arts Centre (Glenside, Pennsylvania, USA) for a program of literacy instruction on the basis of their poor school performance. The children were African American, Asian American, and Caucasian youths of different economic backgrounds.

The teachers in the program only communicated with parents through newsletters, report cards, narrative progress reports, weekly work folders, letters, notices, conferences, back-to-school presentations, meetings, and telephone conversations. Parent feedback was hardly asked for. However, today's parents are better educated. Hence, two-way communication between parents and teachers becomes necessary. Although some parents do volunteer to help out in schools where their children are studying, this is at most a small scale involvement. Schools do need parents' involvement on a much larger scale.

The study involved teachers in the program initiating a relationship with parents by:

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