CONNECT Module 3: Communication - it’s more than just words

by Hatice Dogan

Hatice Dogan discusses teaching with CONNECT Module 3 on Communication and Collaboration. She currently co-teaches the course Families and Teams in Early Childhood Intervention: Interdisciplinary and Sociocultural Perspectives at UNC Chapel Hill.

I was excited to see the 3rd CONNECT Module on Communication for Collaboration as this had always been a topic that was much needed but often times challenging to address.  As professionals in early childhood education, being able to communicate effectively with children, parents, and coworkers is critical to our work.

But how do we teach about effective communication practices to collaborate with families and other professionals? As someone who is relatively new to teaching at the college level, I did not have the inventory of materials that the more seasoned professor may have. Therefore, this module was a great help in enhancing my lessons.  Additionally, it was also a perfect match for the interdisciplinary course. These are the people who have to learn to communicate and collaborate with each other!

The course, Families and Teams, is a master’s level class with early childhood professionals, early interventionists, and allied health professionals.  In this course we discuss the role of families in early education and intervention and how to collaborate with teams, specifically teachers, therapists, and administrators.  I used the CONNECT module when we discussed what teaming was and the positive outcomes of teaming.  We also discussed some of the barriers to teaming; lack of effective communication was one of those. Students used the dilemmas with the teacher’s and therapist’s perspectives to come up with strategies for communication that would work for everyone, including the parents and child.  Students were also provided with the handouts and checklists for effective communication, and they found these to be particularly useful.  These are resources students can use to evaluate any scenario if they want to focus on how professionals and parents are communicating effectively.

About the Author: Hatice Dogan is a Doctoral student in Early Childhood, Intervention and Literacy and works with the Early Childhood Intervention and Family Support program at UNC Chapel Hill. She currently co-teaches the course Families and Teams in Early Childhood Intervention: Interdisciplinary and Sociocultural Perspectives.

COMMUNITY QUESTIONS

  • How do you currently work with learners to develop communication skills?
  • Are you using any online resources or activities to teach communication practices or collaboration?

Comments

Embedding CONNECT Modules in course work

I had participated in the pilot of Module 1, which was a good learning experience to build on when I decided to participate in Module 3. I am using Module 3 currently with my ECE Internship class at a 2-year college. I like the module for its focus on Active Listening. This is s very helpful skill to develop not only for professional communication, but for carrying on successful dialogues with all people.
My students are working on one activity each week, using the related videos and handouts. When we meet for seminar, they discuss what they learned from the activity of the week. I have them write a weekly journal, making connections between this activity and their field work experiences with children, families, and cooperating teachers. They are learning to pay attention to the non-verbal communication a lot more than they used to, which is a really good outcome, for learning to listen at Level 4, right?
What are some of the outcomes that your students have met, as a result of participating in this module, besides the ones set forth by the module?
Bina Patel,
Northampton Community College

Inclusionary Practices

Hi. My name is Diana Valle-Riestra, and I am an assistant professor of special education at Florida International University. I am currently using CONNECT Module 3 in my undergraduate course on inclusion. This is a required course of all education majors so I have a diverse group of undergraduate students from early childhood, elementary, secondary, art, and so forth. I selected a few aspects of the module to focus on during the semester especially how critical it is for general and education teachers to communicate and collaborate when providing services to students with disabilities in inclusive settings. My undergraduate students have used handout 3.1 in a group activity to discuss communication strategies that focus on active lisening or attending, seeking and verifying, or joining and supporting. Each group was required to meet to view the video as a group, discuss and identify communication strategies, and complete the checklist.

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Inclusionary Practices

Hi Diana:
I agree with you about the activity on Active Listening. I think that this is a very helpful handout with examples of each skill and the checklist provides an opportunity to practice each skill. I am using the entire module with my Internship group, completing one activity each week. My students viewed the video individually and completed the checklist, and then during seminar, they discussed their checklist responses. We also discussed observing people during field work and using the checklist to record when a particular skill was observed. Tally marks were helpful to see which skill was observed more often (how do people generally tend to interact?). This personal observation was helpful in transferring the skills from the video (a common scenario for all) to actual observation (different scenarios for each student).
What are your thoughts on this activity? Which other parts have you used from this module?
Bina Patel,
Assistant Professor of ECE,
Northampton Community College

observations of communication practices

Hi Bina, Thank you for sharing all the ways you are using the checklist. I'm wondering if anyone out there has tried having students record themselves implementing the practices using a flip camera so they can do some self-assessment? or peer coaching? Very exciting to hear what is happening.
pam

Thank you!

Thanks to all of you who participated in this blog and the CONNECT Module on Communication for Collaboration. It has been a great opportunity for me to be able to reflect on how I incorporate evidence-based practices in teaching students skills for communicating with colleagues and families. Now that the course has ended, my co-instructor and I were able to get student evaluations on the course, and more specifically on using the module as part of it. Students found the handouts and checklists most helpful to go along with the videos. They felt like those were things they can tangibly use in the future. Because the course was for students pursuing a Master's degree, most of them are practicing professionals as teachers, therapists, administrators, and the like; therefore, they mentioned that the dilemmas were also something they could relate to. Many of the students experience these issues in communication when it comes to collaborating with a team for a child. They could take the activities and checklists and apply them to a real-life dilemma they are currently experiencing. It is great to see how the module translates into practice at the same time that students are learning the material. One other benefit was that the course was also interdisciplinary, so it included students from Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy, Early Childhood, and Special Education. Having students from a variety of disciplines that would be in a team collaborating was beneficial to get a more holistic picture of what early childhood education looks like for professionals. The OT students and SLP students could chime in on their perspectives about how communication is important specifically to their work and goals, and how this translates to effective team work with teachers and families. To teach about communication for collaboration, and interdisciplinary course with a range of students was helpful in showing the reality of collaboration. I look forward to using many more modules in the near future.

Thank you!

Thank you Hatice for sharing your experiences this semester with the Communication Module. Keep us posted on your next teaching experiences. Pam

Community Questions

I wanted to address one of the community questions posted to this blog:
How do you currently work with learners to develop communication skills?
We provide learners with many videos, guides, and activities such as role playing from the module to help them get a sense of how to communicate effectively in their professional environments. However, to currently work with them on communication skills I believe one of the most important strategies is having them work together in the course or professional development seminar. This semester our students have a family internship where they pair up and meet a family who has a child with special needs and they shadow the family and get to participate in their daily routines. Students can also pair up and plan an event for families at their local school, agency, or community center. As an instructor, I encourage students to pair up with a classmate they are meeting for the first time or do not know well. They must collaborate as a team for their internships, so the content from these modules helps them practice these skills first hand with the course requirements. These real-world examples for students to organically form relationships using effective communication skills to collaborate are the most valuable to teach them how to currently put these skills to practice.

field work

I too have students meet with families as part of a graduate family course. Employed students choose a family for a child they teach and invest extra time getting to know family life much as you describe. for others we recruit families a volunteers for practicum students. . (I had one student invited to arrive at the house at 6:30 AM to watch "getting up and ready for school routine" and the student loved it! and the parent felt they finally had someone who understood her challenges with her 13 year old daughter with special needs!).
I have the students target a single communication skills for themselves for the term that they can work on as they meet repeatedly with the family and colleagues. I can see maybe the video demos from Connect giving some students a more focused idea of skills to target besides "active listening" or Asking open-ended questions". I have invited, but not required yet (but technology is making it possible to require i think) that student video tape themselves at some point in the term interacting with parents or colleagues and critique their sue of targeted skills.
As always there is room for improvements and I welcome new ideas. The COnnect Modules offer that stimulation.

field work

Wow, that is wonderful that your student was able to get up and visit the family so early in the morning! It is a great way to get an overall perspective of a family routine instead of just after school time. I think that this holistic experience is key for communication when it comes to collaborating with professionals. Quite often my bumps in the road in communication with colleagues has been my lack of understanding. I am able to communicate with the therapist about the children in my classroom, but I don't see the large caseload of individuals this therapist works with all morning long, so getting that full picture of the work we do and the experiences we have is a very important thing. I am convinced that the more we know, the better we will be able to communicate.

portuguese visitor

Hi everybody! My name is Raquel Corval from Portugal. During this month I'll be working at the FPG Child development institute on the CONNECT Project. To observe you using the CONNECT modules would be really helpful for me and I'm sure will give me a lot of ideas about how to develop these modules in Portugal. I would be very grateful and glad to share with you my thoughts about it.

international connections

Raquel, We are so excited about your work and eager to make the Portugese module available on the website. We have had inquiries from Singapore, China and India about the modules and can imagine an international consortium of faculty who are using the modules to support the faculty and PD providers in their countries. We look forward to other international scholars who see a connection with CONNECT.

welcome!

Welcome Raquel! Do you have a specific module you would like to see used first? I'm pretty sure we could facilitate that.

welcome!

HI! That would be perfect! I would prefer the module 1- Embedded Interventions but I´ll be here only for a month so any module that could be available at the moment will be good. Obrigada (thanks) Raquel

mod 1 & 2 links with mod 3

Margaret, Good to hear from you. This is a divergent comment and topic. I am thinking that you used module 1 on embedded interventions in one of your courses and might have used module 2 on transition practices as well. One of the topics that was only touched upon in those modules was collaboration with other professionals. Are you beginning to see ways that several modules might be used over the course of a semester in some of your classes? Just curious about the connections among the modules.
A related question. We have a visiting faculty scholar from Portugal with us now. She is interested in observing a faculty member using a CONNECT module or assets from CONNECT in a course. Are you a candidate for that anytime over the next month? Or do you know anyone who is? Thanks

Agreed!

I too was very excited to get the module on communication, particularly because I am currently teaching a course on working with families and other professionals. I have not used any of the materials yet, but I am thrilled to have a new "bag of tricks" to get students engaged in the material and really thinking about communicating around difficult topics.

Agreed!

Margaret I am interested to see how it goes in your families course, keep us posted!

Activities

Hatice and Margaret, I'm interested in your thoughts about the level of the activities in the modules (for the master's level class and for undergraduates)? Were the activities about right and/or were they easy to tweak if not just right?

Adjusting activities

I think that the activities have a range of levels in terms targeting them to your particular audience. I found that reading the dilemmas and brainstorming ideas for effective communication were appropriate for masters students who are currently working as practitioners and have a lot of their own real life examples. For undergraduates, I think the videos where students watch and identify examples of attending and active listening and so on would be helpful since many of them may not have had these personal experiences yet. Margaret, as an undergraduate instructor, perhaps you could comment on this. I did not use the videos in my class, instead we used student examples to go over and found the handouts and checklists to be helpful in that. So, they are indeed easy to tweak based on the level of experience of the students. Anyone else have examples of how they've used the module or how they plan on using it with masters level students or undergrads?

any tips for faculty?

So glad you found the module helpful for your class. Do you have any particular tips or advice for faculty related to any of the activities or other assets that you used?

any tips for faculty?

Pam, one tip I would have for faculty is to make sure they bring in the personal experiences of their students and incorporate that into the module. My students are all for the most part teachers and therapists who are currently working in the field, and they have an abundance of personal stories about communication for collaboration. I had to find a way to incorporate this into the activities and let them use the module resources to help them problem-solve their own experienced barriers to effective communication. The handouts and checklist were particularly helpful as well in guiding students to looking at these components.