A teacher is smiling and talking to a parent. The parent has a paper in her hand and has her back to us.

Do you avoid using jargon when communicating with parents?

May 25, 2023

Education is a complex field with a lot of specialised terminology. School staff use jargon to communicate with each other, but it can be confusing and intimidating when they use it with parents.

We know that parents want to be involved in their child's education, but they may feel excluded if they need help understanding your language. Here are some reasons why you should avoid using jargon if you want to engage parents in their child's learning and development.

Educational jargon can be confusing even for people who work in education. When parents hear terms like 'formative assessment' or acronyms like 'SLT', they may not know what they mean. If there is no opportunity to ask or find out, it can make them feel like they don't know what is happening in their classroom and are less likely to be able to support their child's learning at home.

When parents hear educational jargon, they may feel like they're not smart enough to understand it. This can be intimidating for parents and make them less likely to engage. Reducing or even removing jargon will make parents feel welcome and included.

When educators use educational jargon, it can be a barrier to communication. Parents may not feel comfortable asking questions or seeking clarification because they don't want to appear ignorant. This can lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities to build relationships.

Schools can communicate with parents using simple, straightforward language everyone can understand. For example, instead of saying 'formative assessment', a teacher could replace or add the explanation "checking in on your child to see how they are doing and adjusting our teaching as needed".

So what actions can you take to reduce jargon and communicate more efficiently with your parents?

  1. Don't avoid using jargon that parents are likely to hear elsewhere. Instead, provide specific examples of educational vocabulary and their simplified explanations. This will help parents understand what specific terms mean and how they relate to their child's education.
  2. Encourage your school to adopt a whole-school plain language approach when communicating with parents. This will help to avoid confusion and misunderstandings and ensure that all parents feel included in their child's education.
  3. Provide resources for parents to learn more about educational terminology. This could include a glossary of terms or links to educational websites explaining common jargon and acronyms. This will empower parents to take a more active role in their child's education and ensure they understand what is happening in the classroom.
  4. The PEN Toolkit contains an Acronym Glossary & Jargon Buster document that you can quickly and easily adapt for your school before sharing with your parents.

School staff should strive to communicate with parents in a way that is clear and easy to understand; by avoiding or explaining educational jargon and acronyms, you can make parents feel welcome and included and create opportunities for good quality collaboration and communication. When parents are engaged in their child's education, everyone benefits.

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