Skip Navigation
archived information

Parent-Teacher Conferences
October 2021


"What does the research say about conducting effective parent-teacher conferences at the secondary level?"


Conderman, G., Johnston-Rodriguez, S., Hartman, P., & Kemp, D. (2010). What teachers should say and how they should say it. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 46(4), 175–181. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Many teachers have discovered that their positions require them to communicate effectively with families, team members, and other colleagues. In fact, teachers today indicate that much of their day is spent navigating adult-to-adult interactions for which they feel ill-prepared. Specifically, teachers may not know what to say or how to react when communicating with families, during meetings, or when discussing sensitive issues. Recent changes in school policies and practices--such as the accountability movement, inclusion, and response to intervention--necessitate that all teachers possess effective communication skills for successfully meeting the needs of a diverse student population. Teachers need to be proficient in using communication skills that elicit family members' opinions and promote a sense of equality through shared decision making. Clearly, of all the many complex challenges facing teachers today, none is as demanding nor as critical as applying effective communication skills. This article discusses effective communication techniques to meet the sometimes challenging, yet rewarding interpersonal demands of the teaching profession."

Kotthoff, H. (2015). Narrative constructions of school-oriented parenthood during parent–teacher-conferences. Linguistics and Education, 31, 286–303. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This article deals with parent-teacher-conferences in German elementary and secondary schools. Drawing on the frameworks of ethnomethodology and interactional sociolinguistics, it investigates narrative fragments that teachers and parents employ to characterize and assess children and to present themselves in school-oriented identities. Fragmentary stories represent a highly functional communicative means of doing so: They re-stage childrens' behavior and learning situations and allow parents to portray themselves as urging, correcting and supporting. In jointly developing a mildly critical view on the child, parents and teachers co-construct common ground regarding the norms for objectively assessing the child and his/her achievements and educational perspectives. However, analyses brought to light differences in the degree of common ground established by teachers and parents in terms of the perspectivation of the child as an achiever and the parents as critical and benevolent supporters."

Lemmer, E. M. (2012). Who's doing the talking? Teacher and parent experiences of parent-teacher conferences. South African Journal of Education, 32(1), 83–96.

From the Abstract:
"The most common form of direct communication between parents and teachers in schools worldwide is the parent-teacher conference. Purposeful parent-teacher conferences afford the teacher and the parent the opportunity to address a particular topic related to the child, such as academic progress and behaviour. However, teachers are seldom trained to interact with parents, and both parents and teachers often find such encounters stressful and ineffective. This paper investigates parent and teacher perspectives on the parent-teacher conference through a qualitative inquiry. This is framed by the contributions of ecological theorists to home-school communication and an overview of extant themes in the literature. In the present qualitative inquiry, teacher, parent and learner participants were selected by purposeful and snowball sampling and data were gathered by individual and focus group interviews, school visits and the perusal of written parent-teacher conference reports. The findings indicate that parent-teacher conferences are ritualised school events in all types of schools; parents and teachers' expectations of conferences are limited; teachers are not trained to conduct parent-teacher conferences; and conferences are overwhelmingly directed at problem solution. Parent-teacher conferences are characterised by a client orientation to parents, rather than a partnership orientation to home-school relations."

O'Fee, C. (2012). Trialling student-led conferences in a New Zealand secondary school. Kairaranga, 13(1), 3–6.

From the Abstract:
"Research shows that when parents and caregivers are involved in their child's education, children do better at school. Traditionally, the parent/ teacher interview has been one way of facilitating such involvement. However, as students progress through the school system, parent and caregiver involvement in conventional parent/teacher interviews reduces. This paper outlines the trialling of student-led conferences as a means to increase parent and caregiver involvement. Parents and caregivers in the study reported that student-led conferences were invaluable and that they contributed to a better understanding of their child's learning. Students reported that, as a result of student-led conferences, they felt more confident about their learning, more accountable for their own learning, and that there were more conversations at home about their learning."

Tholander, M. (2011). Student‐led conferencing as democratic practice. Children & Society, 25(3), 239-250. Full text available for

From the Abstract:
"School conferences, in which teachers meet with parents and students, have long been criticised for being an undemocratic practice. Traditionally, such conferences have been organised and governed by the teacher. However, in recent years, student-led conferences have become more common in Swedish schools. The present article focuses on eight such conferences in a sixth grade class. The results show that the students became more visible during student-led conferences and that the conversational climate became more open. However, the teacher still controlled the conferences in a number of ways: (i) she alone decided the seriousness of the various problems discussed, (ii) she often manoeuvred the students towards certain desirable answers and (iii) she almost always had the last word. Moreover, as students were constantly asked to assess their own culpability in relation to various problems, a strong individualistic focus prevailed."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: ("parent-teacher" OR "family-teacher") AND (conference OR meeting) AND (secondary OR "high school" OR "middle school")

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.