Gershwin Professional Development Series: Fostering Family-Professional Relationships

A professional development series created by SERC with Tracy Gershwin, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Professor at the University of Northern Colorado. 

This six-part series addresses important issues related to fostering family-professional partnerships, including conflict prevention and dispute resolution.

Each module includes a presentation PDF, additional resources PDF, and a video to be used to help facilitate groups who may use the series in professional development settings.

Module 1: What Does the Law Have to Do With It? Understanding the Letter and Intent of Partnering with Families through Federal Laws

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) can be overwhelming and challenging to understand and interpret when it comes to family involvement. This module provides a deeper look at understanding the research behind the importance of family-professional partnerships, and how these partnerships are best translated into practice. Both the letter and intent of federal educational laws will be described in a clear and understandable way for families and professionals to develop a set of shared expectations for this intended partnership.

Module 1 – presentation (pdf)

Module 1 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 1 Video (YouTube)

Module 2: Just Keep Meeting: Individualized Education Program Meeting Strategies

Are you tired of long IEP meetings that feel like an adult read aloud? IEP meetings can sometimes become an initial source of conflict between families and professionals simply because they are challenged by time, paperwork, communication, and there is no real process. During the meeting there are several key areas to discuss that can be overwhelming without using meaningful collaborative meeting strategies. This module will present guidelines to successfully participate in an IEP meeting through all stages, before, during and after the meeting.

Module 2 – presentation (pdf)

Module 2 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 2 Video (YouTube) 

Module 3: Why Use IEP Facilitation: Understanding the Usability, Credibility, and Versatility of the Process

This module will provide a detailed overview about IEP facilitation, including understanding the research about the usability and versatility of the process. The module will describe and apply the IEP facilitation framework and process through a conflict prevention and resolution lens.

Module 3 – presentation (pdf)

Module 3 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 3 Video (YouTube)

Module 4: Moving Research to Practice: Lessons Learned and Applied for Building Equitable and Trusting Family-Professional Partnerships

This module will define equitable and trusting family-professional partnerships, including reviewing research about barriers and strategies used to address them and promote meaningful partnerships. The content is presented to bridge research to practice aimed to promote partnerships with families so that students can grow academically, socially, emotionally, and behaviorally.

Module 4 – presentation (pdf)

Module 4 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 4 Video (YouTube)

Module 5: One Size Does Not Fit All: Understanding and Applying Culturally Responsive Considerations for Families

Not surprisingly, the field of special education has been described as having its own culture due its jargon, language, unique procedures, and processes that are new and, in many cases confusing, for most families and professionals to understand. This challenge is ever further heightened for families who are culturally, linguistically, and economically diverse. This session presents culturally responsive strategies aimed to actively include families and students to participate throughout the educational process, including IEP meetings.

Module 5 – presentation (pdf)

Module 5 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 5 Video (YouTube)

Module 6: Ally Versus Adversary Behaviors: The Utility of a Special Education Advocate During Conflict Between Families and Professionals

Navigating the special education system can leave many families confused, overwhelmed, and struggling to find information, particularly when in conflict with professionals. One source of solace for such families is the support of an advocate. This module presents research about the utility of an advocate during conflict. Specifically, you will learn about two distinct advocate behaviors, the ally, and the adversary, described as either helpful or unhelpful supports during issues of conflict between families and professionals. The actions and behavioral characteristics of the ally and adversary will be described in detail, including guidelines for supportive advocate behaviors that promote equitable and trusting family-professional partnerships.

Module 6 – presentation (pdf)

Module 6 – related materials (pdf)

Watch the Module 6 Video (YouTube)