Designing and facilitating effective parent-teacher conferences is an important skill which requires intentional focus. This strategy provides you with guidance and resources regarding how to productively prepare for, engage in, and follow up on parent conferences. The parent-teacher conference can be an opportunity for you and families to co-develop goals for students. This strategy also provides you with an opportunity to explore the effectiveness and impact of goal-setting parent conferences where you value parents as partners and important contributors to their child's academic success.
Identify the parent-teacher conference times for the school year and share those dates with families as soon as possible.
Find out what families will need in order to engage in conferences (flexible time, child care, virtual meeting options, etc.), and connect with your administrator to provide the necessary supports.
Using one of the resources listed below, prepare for conferences by identifying each student's strengths and recommended next steps. Invite students to identify work samples to share with families, and, if possible, invite students to the conferences.
To ensure that there is ample time during the conference for families to ask and receive answers to questions and to address any concerns, invite the family member and/or student to open the conference.
Follow-up on any next steps you agree to with families.
It is important for teachers and other school staff members to communicate frequently with families during distance learning. Communication with families during distance learning promotes participation, motivation, and student progress.
Communicate with families about the purpose of the upcoming conferences. This can include the goals for the conference and what will be discussed. This communication can be sent via letter, email, or a family communication app (Remind or ClassDojo).
Send a survey to parents/families to determine which day and time would be most convenient for them to engage in a conference. In the survey, include questions about what families might need in order to engage in the conference (technology devices, translator, flexible time, etc.).
Google Forms is a user-friendly survey tool that can be used to gather data. The resource linked below, Getting Started with Google Forms, provides a tutorial on how to set up and distribute a Google Form.
The teacher/school staff can also gather this information via phone call, text, chat application, mail, or email.
Voxer is another great tool to use to communicate with students and their families. The resource linked below, Voxer to Communicate w/ Students Easily, shows a tutorial of the features of Voxer.
Prepare for the conference by creating a portfolio of student work, data, or documentation. Consider having these items saved as pdf. files so that they can easily be shared with the student and their family after the conference is over via mail or email. This can also be shared digitally with families if files are saved to individual student Google Drive folders.
Invite families to the conference with detailed information about the date, time, media type (video conferencing, phone call, etc.), instructions for accessing the conference, what they should have prepared for the conference, and questions they should be prepared to answer. The student can also be invited to the conference so they are aware of their academic progress.
Provide the student and their family with ample time to ask questions and/or voice concerns. The teacher, and school staff, may also want to allow the student and/or family members to begin the conference by asking questions or voicing concerns.
Follow up on any next steps that were discussed during the conference.
During a conference, family members may express that they need additional support with accessing, using, and troubleshooting the technology tools that the class/school has been using during distance learning. The teacher can create screencast recordings from the student perspective of the tech tools to explain how to use them. The teacher will need to create student accounts in order to login to a student view.
If the time allotted by your school for conferences doesn't provide you with enough time to have meaningful conversations with each students' family, what are some ways you can create a space for those conversations to occur?
Refer to this Initial Student Goal Setting Data Conference template and view the video from Flamboyan in the resource section below to learn more about Goal Setting Parent Teacher Conferences.
For students whose parents are not fluent in English, teachers and/or schools should do their best to provide the following resources:
Contact information for bilingual staff to whom families can reach out when they have a question for the teacher or school.
A spoken translation service for teachers to use for parent phone calls and conferences.
If your school does not provide a translation service, consider using a tech tool like Google Translate to send text messages or emails to parents in their preferred language.
Alternatively, consider asking a bilingual colleague or friend to help you facilitate a phone call or meeting.
A written translation service for teachers to translate parent materials (i.e. syllabi, permission slips, notices about upcoming deadlines) into languages spoken by families
If your school does not provide a translation service, consider using a tech tool like Google Translate to send documents to parents in their preferred language.
Family-level "bilingual buddies" who can help non-English-speaking parents navigate instructional materials. Bilingual parents can be given the opportunity at the start of the year to volunteer to support parents who don't speak English.
Google Translate is a free Google Add-On allowing for the translation of basic sentences from English to multiple foreign languages and vice versa
This tool can support this strategy by making it easier to translate written material for parents ahead of the conference or after. It can also help during the meeting itself translating basic sentences.
Remind is a tool that teachers and schools can use to keep families informed about what’s happening in the classroom and at the school (i.e., celebrations, projects, field trips, assessments, deadlines).
See the lessons below for examples of how BetterLesson Master Teachers had students lead their own parent conferences.