Home/School: Research Imperatives, Learning Settings and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has made home settings an essential and, in many cases, the only place of formal learning for students. This shift has pulled parents, caretakers, and other family members even closer to the education of young people as they assume the work of schooling that has been substantially reconfigured by both the pandemic and online platforms. However, in faculties of education, homeschooling is often marginalized with limited funded research (Howell, 2013). Additionally, as Kennedy and Archambault (2012) argue, teacher education programs should have been taking a more proactive role in terms of K-12 online learning with a focus not simply on the technology (Ko & Rossen, 2017), but on the unique aspects of the pedagogy associated with this mode of instruction. Teachers may be ill-prepared to deliver online content, and many families are overwhelmed by the shift in the learning environment. The long-term impacts of this shift are unknown. Yet this uncertainty reasserts opportunities to both (1) leverage home and community settings as reservoirs of knowledge deserving greater attention for teachers and teacher educators and (2) consider how educational technology can be used to support pedagogies that are more centered on students’ interests, assets, and needs (Means et al, 2013).

Traditionally, knowledge and knowing in schools are manifested through the ideologies valued by society, and taught and learned through the established curriculum (Apple, 2018). Culturally sustaining pedagogies (Paris, 2012) call for the broadening of this limited curriculum in which teachers and teacher educators foster pluralism, including the multiple ways of knowing in communities. The pandemic is affording the opportunity for teachers and teacher educators to regather themselves around homes and communities as to address the needs and challenges of students in K-12 schooling. 

Engaging teacher candidates to learn with and from families and communities has always been an important goal in teacher education (e.g. Richmond, 2017; Zeichner, 2010). University-school-community partnerships have been established to cultivate hybrid spaces that cross institutional boundaries (e.g. Brayko, 2013; Guillen & Zeichner, 2018; Lee, 2018; Zeichner et al., 2016). Situating teacher education efforts within community-centered practices positions university-based teacher educators, educators in local schools, and families and community experts as partners in teacher preparation to leverage community cultural wealth (Yosso, 2005) and funds of knowledge (González et al, 2005; Moll et al., 1992). Through community-engaged efforts, teacher educators have revised coursework to integrate community-centered projects (Lee, 2018), engaged local community members as mentors of teacher candidates (Zeichner et al., 2016), and reported the impact of the caring relationship between teacher candidates and the volunteer community mentors as candidates are prepared to engage in culturally responsive ways with their students (Zygmunt et al., 2018).

With respect to the dependence upon distance learning resources and/or technologies, it is critical to understand how students, teachers, and families alike are experiencing the blurring of traditional boundaries between home and school. It is also important to investigate carefully which practices build on students’ assets as opposed to furthering inequities. While several scholars have studied issues of equity and access with respect to educational technology and the preparation of teachers to make use of these tools (e.g., Gomez et al., 2008.\; Kennedy & Archambault, 2012), it is our sense that there is a dearth of sustained work in this area, particularly around the role of the learning context and the shape and relevance of the pedagogy itself. We have an opportunity to consider how technology, broadly defined, and home settings might together redefine teacher relationships with families and communities toward more equitable instruction. 

As scholars intimately involved in teacher education work and who represent some of the editorial leadership of the Journal of Teacher Education, we advocate for research moving forward which a) highlights and leverages the voices and experiences of individuals and groups such as parents and guardians, community groups closest to the human and educational impacts of this health crisis and who have funds of knowledge valuable to the teacher education enterprise; and b) pays deeper attention to the kinds of work being done in these non-school learning environments. To what extent are teachers communicating more and in different ways with parents? To what extent are teachers serving less as direct providers of information and more as facilitators of learning? How are student and family funds of knowledge visible? How are schools and teachers able to learn from and with families and communities about their strengths and needs? Perhaps somewhat ironically, this pandemic has provided opportunities to bring home and school closer, to break down boundaries, and to establish non-voyeuristic, non-deficit, teacher-as-learner relationships with families and communities. 

 This article was co-authored by Gail Richmond, Tonya Bartell (JTE co-editors), Christine Cho, Alix Gallagher, Ye He, and Emery Petchauer (JTE associate editors) and Lucia Cardenas Curiel (JTE assistant editor),



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