Session 2–Parent engagement: Strategies for understanding parent needs, engaging marginalized families, and connecting with families in their parenting journey to support ECSE outcomes


Family engagement is critical to student success, yet many early educators struggle to find meaningful and effective strategies to connect with families in the context of student learning, setting individual goals, and in establishing relationships. This session will be presented in three modules. In module one, we will examine the research literature on effective engagement strategies for families. Module two will address and attend to important variables that can impact a family’s willingness to engage by employing regulatory focus theory—a perspective-taking approach to understanding what kind of messaging may be most useful to families. The third module will explore INTERFACE-ER, an intervention designed for early educators to support family engagement. INTERFACE-ER stands for Incorporating Narratives To Engage and Retain Families through Affirmation, Culture Connection and Empowerment- Educator Resources. This module will ECSE educators with a specific skill set for maximizing engagement in a two session home-visit, conference-connection, or meeting with family members that can be arranged before or after an IEP meeting, or at another time. This session directly connects to the IECMH principle (3)- relationships are the catalysts for all early learning; principle (5) Working with young children, their families, and caregivers requires a specialized set of competencies; and principle (6) Working with young children and their families is inherently arousing.

Session objectives

In this session, participants will:

  • Learn about theoretical perspectives and empirical studies that form the foundation of engaging families who have been traditionally marginalized or discriminated against.
  • Develop a series of core engagement tools, including a brief intervention to support families as empowered partners in building their child’s success in ECSE.
  • Learn about regulatory focus theory, build strategies, and develop reflective tools that can help early educators discern the best approach to engage families based on their parenting preferences.
  • Expand their repertoire of skills with strategies to build the home-school partnership as a bidirectional relationship with a core commitment to the child’s success at its core, that must be nurtured to see optimized outcomes at school and at home.

MN CoE innovations supported

EQIP, Classroom Engagement model, Pyramid model

Intended audience

Early educators, family coaches, teachers on special assignment that work with families, home visitors, really anyone who works in the educational system that has repeated opportunities to engage families.

Intended skill level



Alisha Wackerle-HollmanAlisha Wackerle-Hollman, PhD, NCSP

Alisha Wackerle-Hollman, PhD, is an assistant research professor in the school psychology program at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Wackerle-Hollman is an educational psychologist with expertise in two primary lines of research: family intervention and engagement and early childhood multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).

Specific to her work in parenting intervention and engagement, Dr. Wackerle-Hollman has engaged research efforts focused on community based research and curriculum development and intervention supports for engaging families who have been historically marginalized. Her work emphasizes a strong commitment to equity and optimizing early childhood outcomes for young children and their families. She earned her Ph.D. in educational psychology at the University of Minnesota and has worked with young children and their families in applied settings since 2006. Prior to her graduate level education, Dr. Wackerle-Hollman worked as an early childhood special education teacher, early childhood special education para-professional, preschool teacher, and preschool assistant director.

Dr. Wackerle-Hollman has given over 75 peer reviewed presentations at national and international conferences, published over 15 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, and has contributed to various books with chapters on family engagement, assessment, measurement, and data-based decision making.