Mutuality and reciprocity in parent–teacher relationships: Understanding the nature of partnerships in early childhood education and care provision

Elizabeth Rouse
Deanna O’Brien

The expectation that educators will develop partnerships with parents is a key principle in early childhood education and care provision. This is particularly so in Australia where policy guidelines and quality standards list parent partnerships as key indicators of quality practice. However the language used across the two key policy documents, the Early Years Learning Framework and the National Quality Standard, is inconsistent in the way these partnerships are defined and intended to be enacted. This has resulted in an ambiguity in the way teachers and educators are engaging in partnerships in their work with families. Drawing on a framework for examining partnerships that positions the notion of mutuality and reciprocity in the centre of the relationship, and examining this through Bronfenbrenner’s (1979) ecological perspective, this paper presents findings of a small scale case study that explored the extent to which these characteristics are reflected in the relationships between the teacher and parents. The study found that while the teacher was meeting identified performance standards, that a true partnership underpinned by mutuality and reciprocity was not evident in the relationships between the teacher and the families.

Australasian Journal of Early Childhood—Volume 42 Number 2 June 2017.

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