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Engaging families in Teaching Practices

Family engagement is an important component of student-centered teaching. Families can inform educators about student strengths, learning preferences, and barriers to learning. Educators can apply family insights to create inclusive learning communities. Read on to learn more about how educators can include families in teaching practices.

Engage Families in the Learning Community

Educators consider families part of the learning community and engage in frequent, direct communication with families.

Actions to engage families in the learning community:

  • Engage in regular communication with families that is bi-directional through familiar means (i.e., text message, email, etc.). 
  • Get to know families’ cultural perspectives and unique abilities to develop personalized and culturally relevant learning experiences. 
  • Use family volunteers to facilitate inclusive digital learning activities.
  • Allow families to be part of the planning process to help inform classroom accommodations and supports.

Support Families Shifting Role

Educators support the shifting role of parents in the learning process from parent advocate to student self-advocacy coach.

Actions to support the shifting role:

  • Encourage families to advocate for the learning supports their learners require.
  • Provide families and students with a variety of resources and training to guide their transition to become a self-advocate and be self-determined young adults.

Check out all of the CITES Family Engagement practices.


Chris's Story

Chris is a first-grade teacher at an elementary school in a South Atlantic state. One of Chris’ students, Alex, has Autism and fine motor difficulties. Alex uses a voice-output device to communicate because he struggles with verbal communication.  

Chris emails Alex’s parents when they cannot figure out how to best meet Alex’s needs on an upcoming assignment or class activity. Chris provides the parents with a copy of the assignment and asks for their feedback on options for modifications and accommodations. Upon receiving parent feedback, Chris updates the assignment or activity instructions to include the accommodations and modifications as choices for all students, not just Alex.

Chris also emails Alex’s parents and the school speech therapist weekly with new vocabulary related to what students will be learning the following week in class. The speech therapist and Alex’s parents add the new words to Alex’s voice-output device and teach him how to access and use those words so that he can participate in class fully.


Hamilton, M.B., Stansberry, L., & Pearson, J.N. (2021). Culturally Competent Educational Practices to Support Children with Disabilities and their Families. DADD Online Journal. 8, 114-128

Harvard Family Research Project. (2013). Tips for administrators, teachers, and families: How to share data effectively. Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) Newsletter, 6(3).

Kiger, D., & Herro, D. (2015). Bring your own device: Parental guidance (PG) suggested. TechTrends, 59(5), 51–61.

Laho, N.S. (2019). Enhancing school-home communication through learning management system adoption: Parent and teacher perceptions and practices. School Community Journal, 29, 117-142.

Valerie, L. M., & Foss-Swanson, S. (2012). Using family message journals to improve student writing and strengthen the school–home partnership. TEACHING Exceptional Children, 44(3), 40–48.

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