Classroom Technology

Want to Make Virtual Learning Work? Get Parents Involved in Meaningful Ways

By Alyson Klein — July 27, 2021 2 min read
Student Maddi Dale focuses on her remote French class in her bedroom in Lake Oswego, Ore., Oct. 30, 2020.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

For years, the biggest players in teaching and learning were students, teachers, and instructional materials. But with the pandemic and the resulting explosion in online learning, another key group has emerged: Parents.

In fact, students can learn just as much virtually—if not more—than they would have in a typical, in-person school year, if they are given access to high-quality content and have support from a parent or caregiver, according to a report released July 27 by the Center for Public Research and Leadership at Columbia University.

Those conclusions were based on nearly 300 interviews with students, families, and educators from nine school districts and charter school organizations across seven states during the 2020-21 school year.

“We heard teachers speak at length about how having curriculum that helps coordinate the collaboration between teachers and families actually helps teachers do their jobs better and connect better with kids,” said Elizabeth Chu, the executive director of the Center for Public Research and Leadership, and an author of the report, in an interview.

Districts should make it a priority to find instructional materials that are driven by technology, responsive to students’ cultural contexts, and designed to help families support curriculum and instruction, the researchers suggest.

For instance, at least one site included in the study provided families with “Homework Helpers,” short informational summaries that helped families assist their children with schoolwork. Video-recorded lessons were another useful feature.

Other good tools and approaches, the report noted, included programs that allowed educators and students to set weekly goals and provided regular reports, so that families and teachers could monitor students’ progress; and tech tools with features that pinged families with information about where their students were excelling or struggling.

What about children whose parents or guardians don’t have the time or inclination to help with schoolwork, or those who come from non-English speaking households? Chu emphasized that the term “family member” referenced in the report was a broad one and could include older siblings, aunts and uncles, neighbors, and more. And in some cases technology can help overcome barriers, such as when materials are translated into students’ home languages, she said.

The findings jibe with those of a survey released by Rutgers University earlier this summer, which found a major uptick during the pandemic in parents’ involvement in their children’s education, likely because so many parents and guardians helped with online learning. The survey was based on interviews with 1,000 parents of children age 3 to 13, all with household incomes below the national median for families in the United States. (That’s about $75,000 a year.)

Two-thirds of parents reported that they now know more about their child’s strengths and weaknesses when it comes to learning than they did before the pandemic. And 43 percent said they were more confident in communicating with their child’s teachers than they were before the crisis.

Chu, the Columbia University researcher, said her report underscores the importance of making sure there’s “cross functional collaboration” between families and schools. “One of the things that became really, really clear over the course of this study is just the extent to which family engagement has historically been siloed from teaching and learning,” she said in an interview.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Classroom Technology Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Online Student Engagement?
How is your district doing with online student engagement?
Classroom Technology The Future of Blended Learning: What Educators Need to Know
More than two-thirds of educators expect their use of blended learning to increase during the 2021-22 school year.
8 min read
onsr edtech blended
Getty
Classroom Technology Why School Districts Are Unprepared for COVID-19 Disruptions, Again
Bad state policy, misplaced optimism, and a focus on full-time virtual schools left districts scrambling to educate quarantined students.
11 min read
onsr edtech hybrid
Getty
Classroom Technology Opinion Some Teachers Are New to Laptop Integration. Here’s How to Manage It
Let students help set expectations and make sure both you and they know how to use the tools are just a couple suggestions educators offer.
15 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty