Innovator Series: Engaging Parents in Personalized Learning Environments

Camp Creek Middle School’s Dr. Saundra Dawson is not only a Teach to One Math Director, but she’s also a parent of a child in the program. The dual roles give her a unique perspective into how parents and teachers can work together to support students both at home and in the classroom. We spoke to Dr. Dawson about engaging parents in personalized learning environments, communication tools, and her own strategies for helping her son when the school day ends.

What does parent engagement mean to you?

SD: Parents play a major role in guiding their children successfully through school. In my opinion, parent engagement entails the involvement and commitment parents have with the school that will actively support their child’s learning.

Research states that students with involved parents earn better grades, test scores and attend school on a regular basis. My experience with students of involved parents is that they have a positive attitude towards school which results in higher aspirations and motivation to learn.

As a parent, how do you support your child in Teach to One: Math?

SD: One way I support my child in Teach to One is by utilizing his dashboard to access the math problems he answers incorrectly on his exit slip. We revisit the exit slip to address any careless errors or misunderstanding of the concepts.

I also use this time as a teachable moment to cultivate his mindset. I do not want him to give up when he receives a “Room for Growth” score or an “Almost There” score. I want him to learn that challenges are our best chances to learn and grow.

Lastly, and most importantly, his skill library  tells me the skills that he hasn’t mastered, in, and we are able to spend time at home addressing those skill gaps to help him advance his learning in math.

As a teacher, what new parent engagement strategies have you learned as part of your school’s shift to personalized learning? What’s been the biggest challenge?

SD: The text messaging app called Remind is a parent engagement strategy I utilize as part of my school’s shift to personalized learning. Remind allows me to communicate faster with my parents by sending text messages directly to their cell phones.

For my Spanish speaking parents, Remind translates my messages for them. I send weekly text reminders of the weekly math homework due date and let them know when students will take their Playlist Demo (visible from student dashboard as well).

A student's playlist on his portal homepage. 

What’s one element of Teach to One that parents are most interested in learning about?

SD: In a traditional classroom, many of the lessons are led by teachers in which students passively receive the instruction through lectures. . In Teach to One, teachers are not providers of all the knowledge. They are facilitators of learning which pushes students to take greater ownership in the learning process.

In the role of facilitator, teachers are more equipped with information about students’ learning, interests, needs, and abilities--all of which allows them to plan and scaffold their instruction for the students.  

How has technology affected your ability to engage with parents?

SD: Keeping parents informed about what is happening in their child’s classroom is not only crucial in helping students succeed. It is also the most challenging component to teaching.

However, technology has provided me with tools to support parent-teacher-student communication. Because of technology I no longer spend as much time responding to parent phone calls.

Technology has allowed me to proactively keep my parents in the loop which has fostered better communication and understanding between classroom and home hereby creating a positive educational experience for my students.

New Classrooms