EDUCATE is the process of building relationships with participants to help them more effectively solve problems, resolve conflicts, set goals, and gain knowledge and skills to guide and nurture their child(ren). EDUCATE involves knowing and using a variety of effective teaching strategies, skills, techniques, and methods. It includes adapting these teaching tools to meet specific learner needs.

Critical EDUCATE Practices

To EDUCATE, a parenting educator will

  • Learn and then use effective teaching strategies, techniques, and methods with parents.
  • Understand learning styles and incorporate appropriate educational approaches into programs.
  • Know and use a variety of educational methods (e.g., lecture, discussion, role-playing, videotaping, and interactive skill-building activities) to accommodate the diverse learning styles of program participants.
  • Build relationships with participants to understand their individual, familial, and educational strengths, needs, and preferences.
  • Use a variety of instructional experiences to challenge parents to learn and maintain newly acquired knowledge and skills.
  • Expect and prepare to meet differing levels of knowledge, skills, expectations, and parenting goals with each new audience.

Examples of Specific Professional Objectives for EDUCATE

The following parenting educator behaviors serve as examples of more specific objectives based on the critical practices for EDUCATE:

The parenting educator should be able to

  • Study different theories and models of adult education and apply the principles to educational programs for parents.
  • Match teaching techniques, class activities, and teaching aids to the learning styles and preferences of parent participants.
  • Use formal and informal assessments of adult learning styles and preferences to plan for a parenting education program.
  • Develop a repertoire of proven adult teaching techniques, continually adding new techniques to classes and in-service training programs.
  • Observe and then model the relationship-building activities that experienced parenting educators use to better understand the educational strengths and challenges of the target audiences.
  • Use alternate delivery strategies as appropriate.
  • Learn how to use a variety of instructional activities and teaching aids to reinforce critical parenting concepts and skills.
  • Learn to recognize learner needs and build the educational program using available curricula and other resources while individualizing content and teaching.

What We Know About EDUCATE

The individual participants within each audience may bring different knowledge, skills, expectations, and goals to the program. Participants do not exist in a vacuum; they bring with them a variety of psychosocial experiences that influence their perceptions of learning as well as their abilities to understand and utilize the content and skills taught (Hilgard, 1967).

One should expect a great deal of variability within a given audience because of the multiple dimensions of adult personality (Hilgard, 1967). These dimensions include temperament, intellectual ability, interests and values, social attitudes, motivations, expressive and stylistic traits, and mental health.

When one considers the experiential characteristics of adults, there is an assumption that individuals with more and/or richer life experiences will be better able to reflect on their learning activities. It is believed that different life events, transitions, roles, and crises that are experienced by adults motivate them to reappraise their lives and thus open them to the value of exploring new ideas and actions (Long, 1991). However, this openness to new ideas and activities is greatly influenced by the degree of conflict the adult experiences in his/her roles as spouse, parent, or employee.

Parenting educators must take many factors of individual learning into consideration when planning, implementing, evaluating, and reflecting upon any parenting education experience. The diversity of a parent group’s background, skills, and knowledge requires the parenting educator to spend significant amounts of time and energy developing a teaching plan that will ensure an optimal learning experience for most participants.

Individuals have specific learning styles that may differ from those of their peers. It is important to understand these learning styles and be able to incorporate specific strategies into programs to meet these specific needs. Learning styles are the ways that individuals prefer to engage and process information in learning activities (Galbraith, 1991). Parenting educators must consider the various learning preferences of parents and choose strategies and techniques that will allow the best learning experiences for all learners.

Parenting skills and knowledge are best learned through a variety of educational methods. Utilizing a range of educational methods, such as lecture, role-playing, group discussions, games, video, and skill-building activities enhances the likelihood that information will be processed more successfully.

When only one educational method is used, there is less opportunity for multiple cognitive processes to occur. In other words, when fewer methods are employed, participants have fewer mechanisms for processing the content and are less likely to be able to translate their knowledge into action and behavior change.

When determining the specific teaching method to be used, it is critical that the parenting educator keep in mind the goals and objectives of both the educator and the learner.

For example, if knowledge is the goal, then the best teaching methods are lecture and oral presentations, panel discussions, symposia, talks by subject-matter experts, and visuals such as films and slides.

If understanding is the objective, the best teaching methods are group discussion, demonstration, case studies, and problem-solving.

If skill attainment is the goal, the best teaching methods are demonstrations, simulations, computer-assisted instruction, role-playing, practica, and similar exercises.

Although group instruction is a popular and effective method for providing information to parents, it is not the only way. Today’s parents require alternative methods for receiving parenting information. Newsletters, radio programs, web sites, and home visits are additional methods for meeting the educational needs of some hard-to-reach audiences. Many parents have obstacles to attending traditional parent education classes (e.g., inflexible schedules, lack of transportation or child care, classes held at inconvenient locations or times). For this reason, it is important to take the information to them, reaching them where they are, rather than making them come to you.

Instructors will be more likely to provide appropriate content and learning experiences if they have developed a relationship with participants, can identify their strengths and challenges, and can modify the program to fit the specific needs of the audience. Two factors are critical in establishing a positive climate for adult learning and behavioral change: (1) the teacher and students have an opportunity to spend sustained periods of time together in order to forge a sense of community and mutual trust, and (2) the teacher is trained to build rapport with the group and to demonstrate the skills taught (Mace, 1981). Other variables that contribute to success are the relationship among the learners, rapport and communication, opportunities for participation, value and belief systems that hold meaning for the learners, and clearly stated expectations and goals (Galbraith, 1991).

Perhaps the most specific recommendations for engaging adult learners have been outlined by Powell and Cassidy (2001) in their text on family life education. They suggest that a successful educational program will

  • Be sustained and comprehensive (over time and over life experiences).
  • Build in levels of learning that encourage personal transformation and behavioral and attitudinal changes.
  • Include at least 15-18 hours of learning experiences followed by options for long-term reinforcement.
  • Incorporate activities for all learning styles.
  • Engage the learner in praxis (action with reflection).
  • Apply information to personal life experience and demonstrate immediate usefulness.
  • Respect learners’ experiences, cultures, and value orientations.
  • Show learning skills that invite discussion and commentary.
  • Use small group discussion formats.
  • Involve short lectures followed by prepared learning activities and discussion.
  • Be based on the assessed needs of the group of learners or individual learners.
Year published or updated
References & Resources

Barbe, W. B. (1985). Growing up learning. Washington, DC: Acropolis Books.

Galbraith, M. W. (1991). Adult learning methods and techniques. In M. W. Galbraith (ed.). Facilitating adult learning: A transactional process, (pp. 103-134). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company.

Hilgard, E. (1967). A basic reference shelf on learning theory. Stanford, CA: Clearinghouse on Educational Media and Technology.

Long, H. B. (1991). Understanding adult learners. In M. W. Galbraith (ed.). Adult learning methods: A guide for effective instruction, (pp. 23-38). Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company.

Mace, D. (1981). The long, long trail from information-giving to behavioral change. Family Relations, 30, 599-606.

Powell, L. H. & Cassidy, D. (2001). Family life education: An introduction. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Author(s), Presenter(s)
DeBord, K., Bower, D., Goddard, W. H., Kirby, J., Kobbe, A. M., Myers-Walls, J. A., Mulroy, M., and Ozretich, R. A.