Free, online parenting educator course transforms learners into leaders

New course addresses a need for high-quality professional development

Parenting Ed Course

The College of Public Health and Human Sciences has launched a free online course geared toward parenting educators. The course – Essentials of Parenting Education Professional Practice ­– strives to share knowledge and learning with the public to expand OSU’s reach within the community, and addresses a critical need for more professional development opportunities within the parenting educator community.

In the four weeks since the course has been publicly available, 57 people already have registered and 22 people have completed the course.

“Oregon is leading the nation in its efforts to implement high-quality parenting education,” says Denise Rennekamp, former CPHHS outreach coordinator and parenting education program coordinator. “There’s a great sense of accomplishment with the launch of the course. This achievement is the result of a collaborative effort with a holistic process.”

The Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative (OPEC), the Ford Family Foundation and CPHHS alumna Cheryl Miller Lutz ’72, provided financial support for the project, and Oregon State Ecampus and Open Oregon State contributed in-kind support.

Denise and CPHHS Faculty Research Assistant Kim Deck started the multi-year project, and CPHHS Assistant Professor Shauna Tominey joined the team last year. They worked with parenting educators and content experts from across the state, a steering committee, Open Oregon State and Ecampus staff to create the content.

“Development of the course was a comprehensive process that involved a great deal of input from parenting educators and a thorough review by experts in the field,” Denise says.

The course is designed for professionals of all skill levels and will take an average of three to four hours to complete. Although each module is available on its own, participants must complete all seven modules to receive a certificate of completion, which is good for four hours of professional development credits.

“There is always something new to learn,” Kim says. “From the newbie to the most seasoned parenting educator, each participant can learn something from this course. It may be a new perspective, strategy, approach, best practice or terminology. I believe that completing the course will inspire parenting educators to further explore these topics and continue their professional growth.”

The seven modules included in the course are:

Module 1: Creating a Parenting Education Professional Development System in Oregon provides an overview of the foundational components of the Oregon Parenting Education Professional Development System, which includes core knowledge and skills for parenting educators, a recognition system for parenting educators, a professional network and a selection of training opportunities.

Module 2: Equity, Inclusion and Diversity differentiates and defines equity, inclusion and diversity and identifies strategies for culturally responsive practice for parenting educators in their work with families. 

Module 3: Ethical and Professional Practice (Part 1) focuses on ethical thinking and practice in different parenting education situations. This module also explores how personal biases may affect interactions with families, encouraging participants to identify professional boundaries and strategies for preventing circumstances that would jeopardize boundaries with families.

Module 4: Ethical and Professional Practice (Part 2) identifies confidentiality best practices and the importance of creating a personal safety plan. In addition, this module explores positive professional interactions with families and encourages participants to set goals for improvement through self-assessment, self-reflection and self-care.

Module 5: Foundational Facilitation Skills (Part 1) explores key principles of adult learning, elements of a safe learning environment and facilitator strategies for optimizing participants’ learning experiences through effective communication and listening techniques.

Module 6: Foundational Facilitation Skills (Part 2) identifies several strategies that foster group participation in order to facilitate supportive group dynamics and manage challenging behaviors in adult learning environments.

Module 7: Fidelity and Evaluation in Program Implementation covers the importance of fidelity in parenting education programs and discusses how evaluation can be used to support ongoing program improvement.

“The course is self-paced, which creates flexibility for parenting educators to work at their own speed,” Shauna says. “It’s a convenient way for professionals with busy schedules to participate in professional development when it makes sense for their lives.”

There are plans in place to expand the program to include an online system where parenting educators can track their professional development, work experiences and education. A recognition system is also in the works, and individuals who complete the online module will be eligible to apply.

“Parenting education isn’t a new field, but it is one that is gaining recognition because of the essential role parenting educators play in the lives of children and families,” Shauna says. “Traditionally, parenting education has been highly stigmatized – parenting education was considered to be something for ‘bad parents.’ We know that parenting is learned. By creating resources for parenting educators, we hope to provide parents with the support that many are looking for.”