Early Childhood Initiative Series
Christine McWayne, Professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development, Tufts University
Implicit within mainstream notions of family-school partnership is the assumption that school-based engagement is needed for parents to provide effective support for their children’s learning and development. However, for many low-income, ethnic minoritized and immigrant families, sociocultural and language differences between families and educators create significant chasms in understanding between home and school settings. Often, educators do not have access to the potentially powerful information about home-based practices and routines, families’ experiential knowledge, and other aspects of children’s out-of-school lives that could form the basis of engaging and meaningful early childhood programming. By framing family-school connections as emphasizing information flowing from the home to the school, we can make shifts in our assumptions about and expectations of families, while building a culturally inclusive and welcoming environment for all families in early childhood programs.


In this presentation, Christine McWayne discussed a home-to-school, strengths-based conceptualization of family engagement that challenges deficit-based and school-centric orientations toward families. She illustrated this approach through examples from the Readiness through Integrative Science and Engineering (RISE) project, which represents a unique approach to teacher professional development (PD) for supporting science, technology, and engineering (STE) curricula in preschool classrooms that is centered on: best practices in PD, best practices in preschool STE teaching/pedagogy, and home-school connections consistent with a strengths-based and sociocultural perspective. Findings concerning implementation during a two-year randomized controlled trial with 50 Head Start Classrooms and outcomes were shared.

McWayne is a professor in the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts University. She is an applied developmental scientist and community-based early childhood educational researcher whose career has been focused upon fostering better understandings of the early social and learning successes of young children growing up in urban poverty. A particular focus of her recent research is understanding how to better support parents and teachers as they contribute to children’s early development. McWayne has sought to document the ways in which families from non-dominant groups are supporting their children and how, by having more culturally-grounded information, we can bridge the divides that often exist between the primary helpers in children’s lives (i.e., parents and teachers).

McWayne received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

The Early Childhood Initiative seeks to bring together scholars to address early childhood challenges and produce world-class scholarship that will help maximize the potential of all children during their early years.