Academic journal article School Community Journal

Bringing Together School and Family: Lessons from a Brazilian Experience

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Bringing Together School and Family: Lessons from a Brazilian Experience

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines the results of a methodology used with teachers for an inservice continuing education program aimed at strengthening school-family connections. The question guiding this research was, "Did the adoption of a constructive-collaborative model involving a university-school partnership and based on strengthening school-family relations promote the professional education of teachers, and if so, how?" An investigative and formative model was adopted based on practical rationality. Termed "constructive-collaborative," it was chosen to promote and analyze interactions established between the university and school communities. Teaching conditions, school organization and functioning characteristics, and school practices were taken into consideration. It was assumed that teachers construct a knowledge base in the course of their professional development. In analyzed situations, we observed broad parental support for initiatives carried out by the school, as evidenced by large-scale participation in program activities. This response, in turn, generated great enthusiasm among the teachers, resulting in the continuation, improvement, and expansion of successful practices and programs. However, frequent changes in some local educational policies, implementation of new objectives in the schools, as well as the school district policy by which teachers are annually relocated (at present) were some of the observed difficulties in solidifying school-family connections.

Key Words: school-family relationships, university-school partnerships, teachers' professional development, collaboration

Introduction

This paper examines the results of a set of three projects carried out by researchers from a Brazilian public institution (Universidade Federal de São Carlos) and teachers from public elementary schools situated in lower-income communities in a medium-sized city in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. A research and intervention methodology was used in an inservice continuing teacher education program aimed at strengthening school-family relationships.

The goals of the projects were twofold: to generate knowledge about the professional development processes of teachers, and to collaboratively construct strategies to bring together schools and the families of their students in order to foster learning. The basic research question guiding this study was: Does the adoption of a constructive-collaborative model involving a university-school partnership and based on strengthening school-family relationships promote the professional education of teachers, and, if so, how?

The objectives of the three projects involved the following:

1. Understanding how schools and families perceive their mutual relationship and how this can be improved,

2. Discovering how families, especially those with underachieving children, perceive schools and the work carried on in them,

3. Analyzing how the professional development of teachers is affected by situations in which school-family relations are improving, and

4. Analyzing university-school partnerships.

The research and intervention model adopted demands learning about the reality in which teachers work, identifying what they think about students and their families, understanding school-family interactions, and why teachers do what they do. Based on such of information, researchers and teachers can reflect collaboratively and, if necessary, construct strategies to deal with real situations, taking into consideration both school and community characteristics.

This model makes various assumptions (Mizukami et al., 2002), among them that learning to teach and actually becoming a teacher are processes based on multiple experiences and knowledge modes. These processes begin prior to formal teacher education and continue throughout the training period and, subsequently, develop throughout all the experience comprising a teacher's professional practice. …

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