Leveraging Resources: Exploring Communication Practices Between Elementary Educators and Black Caregivers

Lawrence, Portia, Curriculum and Instruction - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Hayes, Latisha, ED-CISE, University of Virginia

Early literacy education supports the academic and social development of children, and caregivers play a critical role in this development. (Brown, 2013; National Early Literacy Panel, 2008). However, regardless of the vital role caregivers play in early literacy, many educators reported caregiver-educator collaboration and communication centering literacy. Research shows that bilateral communication acts as one of the most effective actions educators take to improve Black caregiver-educator collaboration and partnership (Baker & Rimm, 2014; Sheldon & Jung, 2015). This study is situated in a suburban, Title 1 elementary school in Virginia where anecdotal evidence identified marginal improvements in their literacy screener for students and persistent strained communication efforts between caregivers and educators. This qualitative case study sought to address this challenge by prioritizing the perspectives and needs of caregivers. Data analyzed included semi-structured interviews with diverse Black caregivers to gain insight into their experiences and perceptions regarding literacy communication. Additionally, literacy communication documents were analyzed to triangulate data and comprehend the nature and quality of communication. Major findings include:
1. A trusting relationship is essential for effective educator-caregiver communication.
2. Caregiver’s perception of the educator’s dedication impacted their communication.
3. Even though educator communication was often positively received by caregivers, this process was complex with a number of elements that could hinder or support communication efforts.
4. Attention to the interactions between caregivers and educators positively impacts communication and relationships.
5. Limited practical application of asset-based beliefs and collaborative decision-making in communication practices had detrimental effects on communication outcomes.
The findings informed recommendations for improving future communication practices, emphasizing the importance of maintaining relational trust through intentional, collaborative efforts integrating anti-deficit communication components.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
parent-teacher collaboration, communication, Black caregivers and students, literacy
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