Quality improvement involves reflecting on your practice, developing plans for improvement, taking action toward your goals and making adaptations along the way.
Whether you are a business owner, program director, classroom teacher or caregiver, how you involve families in your improvement efforts can make a big difference in your success.
Here are four ideas to involve families in your quality improvement efforts.
1. Seek feedback from families
You may already ask families for information about their child upon enrollment, as this sets the foundation of a strong partnership. It’s a good idea to regularly ask families for insight on their child’s development to deepen your understanding of how to connect with each child. This parental insight will help you understand what makes each child excited about learning and how to provide care that is responsive to the family’s needs.
Just as it is essential to seek family input on children’s individual learning needs, it’s also important to seek family perspectives on your program’s quality. Families see your program through a different lens, so gathering their feedback gives you a new viewpoint on your practices.
A few ideas for gathering family feedback:
- Send a survey to gather family perspectives. This can take place once a year or more often, depending on your goals and the information you want to learn. You can use a free online survey platform or a paper survey with a drop-off box that allows families to share anonymously. Each kind of survey will work well as long as you ask the right questions.
- In the survey, ask families to share what they like and what they would change about the program.
- Whether you are reviewing the feedback by yourself or with your team, this information will help you decide which changes to make. If you work with a coach or consultant, involve them in the process.
- Let families know that you value their input and share what changes you are making as a result of their feedback.
2. Connect families with their child’s learning environment
Everyone benefits when families are connected to the early learning environment. If your program has implemented modified drop-off or pick-up procedures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, keep in mind that families should still have access to children’s classrooms, although this may look different than it typically would.
Accommodations may include;
- Inviting families to access the classroom upon request,
- Allowing families and children moving to new classrooms to visit the space,
- Providing prospective families with tours during off-hours, or
- Providing virtual tours of the environment.
Limit the potential spread of illness by using preventive strategies such as health screenings, hand hygiene and personal protective equipment. To learn more, view Arizona’s Recommendations for Safe Child Care Operations During COVID-19 guide. To access the guide, visit QualityFirstAZ.com/providers and open the English or Spanish version of the guide at the bottom of the page.
In addition to letting families see their child’s learning environment, you can also connect families with your program by sharing newsletters, lesson plans and activities. Create a “meet the teacher“ video for a brief introduction, and share updates to generate excitement and interest when new materials are added.
3. Communicate with families about quality
You’re making improvements to your program and that takes a lot of work. Why not share your accomplishments with your families and community? You’ll be building up the reputation of your program and educating more people about the importance of quality early care and education.
- Visit the QualityFirstAZ.com FAQ page for ideas on how to talk with families about quality early learning and Quality First.
- Share the Quality Child Care Checklist with prospective families as a guide for what to look for in a quality program. This checklist can be a great tool to start conversations with families about how this looks in action at your program.
- Share social media content from First Things First on your program’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. FTF’s posts are entertaining information that help inform families about early brain development, parenting and interviews with experts.
4. Share your quality improvement efforts with families
Share your goals for quality improvement, whether these are program-wide or specific to a classroom or care group. Teachers who are sharpening their instructional methods can multiply their impact by involving families. Mechelle Wiesenthal of Serendipity Preschool, a Quality First participant in the Phoenix North region, shares how she does this at her program:
“To help engage parents, I have been sharing video clips that I recorded with my Quality First coach. When I started sharing the clips on my program’s private social media, I explained the intention to parents. For example, when my coach and I were working on CLASS components, we did a video about language modeling. I explained to the parents what they were looking at, and how they would be able to recognize this language modeling and subsequently the children’s understanding of the concept.
I realized that if I shared these clips with parents and helped them understand how these seemingly cute videos showed the basis of early learning, they would have a better understanding and appreciation of their child’s development. They look forward to the video clips now and ask when the next ones will be posted. Several parents have told me that they used the modeling from the videos to continue the practices at home. They share them with grandparents, aunts and uncles who normally don’t have that bird’s-eye view into the classroom. Consistency means that the children are being exposed to twice as much quality interaction so they are benefitting from tools and practices that I have learned through Quality First.
If a colleague were interested in incorporating something similar, I would encourage them to talk with their families first. Always get a written permission form, giving or declining permission, to use the child’s likeness on social media. I learned from one of my families that they were comfortable with me using the child’s first name on written pieces like their portfolio, but they were not comfortable showing the last name. Communication is critical; respect your families’ boundaries and keep it positive.”
As you work on involving families in your quality process, remember that even one small step can make a big difference toward a stronger partnership with families. Every action you take can contribute to how families understand and participate in their children’s early learning.
At Quality First, we love to hear from you! What changes are you working on in your program? How are you involving families in your process? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.