Iowa Curriculum Strengthens Core Competencies of Parenting Educators

Article excerpt

In response to the growing demand for parenting educators, and the need to ensure that educators have basic knowledge and skills relevant to designing, implementing, and evaluating parenting education, Partnering with Parents, an outreach academy was developed. Analysis of data gathered via a follow-up survey, online discussion board, and focus group interviews revealed that participants increased their knowledge and developed skills after participating in the academy. Ninety-five percent of the participants reported being competent or very competent in facilitating parenting education after the academy as compared to 32% before the academy.

Parenting education has 100 years of rich history in the U.S. and has keen shaped by diverse disciplines such as education, public health, medicine, social work, and psychology as well as by institutions including government and non-profit agencies, universities, and education and professional organizations (Palm, 1999). Parenting education has been defined as programs and resources offered to parents and caregivers that support them or increase their capacity and confidence in raising healthy children (DeBord, 2000) and often is delivered in one-to-one and group settings, as well as through media such as magazines, newsletters, and television.

Some states, such as Minnesota, have statewide legislative support for parenting education programs and licensure is required for many positions in parenting education. The license ensures, through scholarly preparation, that all parenting educators are well-prepared professionals who are qualified to deliver educational programs with parents (Parent Education Licensure, 2004). Nationally, there are no consistent standards or requirements for preparing parenting educators. Thus, the disposition, knowledge, and skill of parenting educators varies greatly. However, research and theory reveal common themes, information, and skills that promote effective parenting, positive parent/child relationships, and positive development of children (Smith, Cudaback, Goddard, & Myers-Walls, 1994).

University faculty and practitioners in various states including Utah, North Carolina, Minnesota, and Texas, and Cooperative Extension nationally (DeBord et al., 2002), have each identified core competencies for parenting educators. There is great similarity among these sets of core competencies such as knowledge of life span development, parenting from a systems perspective, dynamics of family relationships, cultural competence, parenting issues within various family types, nurturing and guiding children of different ages/stages, adult learning, group process, and evaluating parenting education resources and outcomes.


In response to the growing demand for parenting educators in Iowa, and the need to ensure that educators have basic knowledge and skills relevant to designing, implementing, and evaluating parenting education, Iowa State University Extension Service developed Partnering with Parents, an outreach academy in 2002. The academy consists of 11 modules that are delivered in 50 hours of face-toface learning and 20 hours of online learning using WebCT, a courseware program. The academy is held in various locations across the state during a 5- to 6month period. Participants come together every 2 to 3 weeks for a total of 10 days of face-to-face learning. Before and after each face-to-face module, participants complete readings and participate in an online discussion board and activities to apply what they have learned to their work with families. Beginning June, 2004, Partnering with Parents was offered completely online to reach additional participants. Since September of 2002, more than 50 parenting educators participated in Partnering with Parents. Fifteen participants earned university course credit and several participants earned a parenting education certificate of completion. …