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By Dana Childress, Ph.D. & Megan Schumaker-Murphy, Ed.D.

The second webinar in our Going Virtual series will expand on the concepts explored in our first webinar regarding what equity looks like during virtual visits. To create more equitable early intervention experiences, it is essential for practitioners to use practices that support learning for parents (and other caregivers) and children while considering the family’s cultural values and beliefs. In our May 24 webinar, we will define culturally-sustaining practices and link them to adult learning principles and strategies that you can use to engage families in a virtual space. Here’s a teaser of how these concepts connect.

What Are Culturally Sustaining Practices?

When we use culturally sustaining practices, we invite and encourage cultural and linguistic practices into the early intervention process to maintain and strengthen them (Paris, 2012; Paris & Alim, 2017). We ask about how families work, what is important to them, how they spend their days, and what priorities they have for their children’s development. We ask to join them during their routines and interactions, in their cultural contexts, so we can build on those interactions in ways that encourage development.

The key here is to join the family so we can learn from and with them. We join them to show that we value their culture and home language, respect their beliefs and preferences, and can help them weave intervention strategies into their ways of being so they feel confident using the strategies every day.

How Do Adult Learning Principles Guide Parent Coaching?

To do that, it is also essential that we understand adult learning. On any visit, you are facilitating learning for both children and caregivers. When you are helping caregivers learn how to use intervention strategies, you tap into what is immediately relevant and useful to them – what do they want their children to do? You find out what they have already tried and what they know to build intervention on this foundation. You help them understand intervention strategies, why a strategy might be helpful, and how they can use it with their child. Perhaps you model the strategy first, or maybe you explain it in detail with the assistance of the language interpreter.

Then, you invite the caregiver to try it out with the child. You coach the caregiver with your eye on success for both learners. You provide feedback and help the caregiver reflect on how the practice went – How did it feel to use that strategy? What did the caregiver notice? What did the caregiver see the child do in response? It is through this intentional learning process that adults learn best.

Where’s the Connection?

Adult learning principles remind us to prioritize what is meaningful to the caregiver and show that we value this in how we provide early intervention. Similarly, culturally sustaining practices encourage us to provide the support that values family culture and maintains those parent-child interactions and ways of being that are unique to the family. Many strategies used to support adult learning and sustain families’ cultural practices overlap. Join us on May 24 for Culturally Sustaining Coaching Approaches to learn more about this connection and add many strategies to your toolbox!


Paris, D. (2012). Culturally sustaining pedagogy: A needed change in stance, terminology, and practice. Educational Researcher, 41(3), 93-97.

Paris, D. & Alim, S. (eds). (2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogies: Teaching and learning for justice in a changing world. Teachers College Press.