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Collaborative parent teacher meetings — November 2020


Could you provide research on collaborative parent-teacher meetings?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and resources on collaborative parent-teacher meetings, including meetings that focus on goal-setting. While there are many tip sheets and resources found on Google, Pinterest, and Edutopia, there is much less research on this topic. The sources we searched included ERIC, Google Scholar, and PsychInfo. (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Access to the full articles is free unless indicated otherwise.

Research References

Bilton, R., Jackson, A., & Hymer, B. (2017). Not just communication: Parent-teacher conversations in an English high school. School Community Journal, 27(1) 231–256. Full-text available from

From the abstract: “In this article we report case study research which focused on the nature of parent-teacher conversations at one English high school. Our research aims were to discover what parents and teachers said to each other during these events and examine how they constructed their talk. Audio recordings of parent-teacher meetings/conferences were analyzed using conversation analysis (CA). One-to-one interviews with parents, students, and teachers, academic reports, and school records were also used as supporting evidence. Our results showed that, when the student was present, parents and teachers frequently joined forces during meetings, working together to seek to modify the child's study habits or conduct. The extent of this behavior was surprising, occurring in almost every conversation in which the student was present. Using Epstein's typology, we suggest that these examples of collaboration might be more accurately described as Type 3 involvement--in-school assistance--rather than Type 2 involvement--communication. We conclude that these meetings can be occasions during which parents and teachers do more than merely exchange information when they meet and talk.”

Boazman, J. (2014). It’s time to revamp the parent-teacher conference process: Let’s include the child. Parenting for High Potential, 4(1), 10–13. Abstract available from

From the abstract: “This article focuses on the fact that very often the traditional parent-teacher conference process is missing the most important stake holder, the child. The author asks the reader to clear the traditional image of parent-teacher conferences from their mind and imagine a conference process and setting that has the potential to bring together multiple teachers to collaborate on the growth and development of the child. While not new, the model described here is a student-led conference where the student takes the lead role in preparing and presenting personal achievements, areas for improvement, and goals for the future. This student-led conferencing style can be used in a wide variety of educational settings, and age groups. In the student-led conference, the student has the opportunity to show academic knowledge, behavioral practice, and personal achievements. It also allows for reflection, recognition, and discussion of academic and behavioral weakness. The learner can discuss a plan for mastering regular education objectives, along with a plan for what they would like to learn beyond the regular education curriculum. Learners have the chance to set goals and ask for the support they need to achieve those goals. Student-led conferences—and the growth that comes with regularly occurring student-led conferencing—has the potential to positively impact the emotional and academic development of the student and move the student closer to talent development, happiness, and thriving throughout their formative years and beyond.”

Danielan, J., & Dulong, S. (2014). Connecting for high potential: The parent/teacher conference. National Association for Gifted Children, 24, 1–3. Full-text available from

From the abstract: “‘Connecting for High Potential’ sheds light on questions from teachers and parents on many subject matters, however, rarely is there an opportunity to explore how the ‘other side’ might be facing the issue. An ongoing goal of the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) is for teachers and parents to develop a broader understanding of their students’ potential (and one another) which will enable them to build stimulating learning environments that tap into a child’s high potential. This resource for parents, teachers, and community members is designed to provide practical advice for working together to support gifted children’s continued growth in educational settings. Presented in this issue is the ‘Parent/Teacher Conference.’ While it can differ greatly depending on the student, the parent(s), the teacher and the issues at hand, it offers one of the best opportunities to create a school/home plan to help students succeed.”

Harvard Family Research Project. (2010). Parent-teacher conference tip sheets for principals, teachers, and parents. Abstract available from

From the abstract: “A growing body of evidence suggests that family engagement matters for student success. Research shows that family engagement improves school readiness, student achievement, and social skills. Furthermore, an increasing number of innovative approaches to education leverage and connect the many settings and times in which children learn and grow to create seamless ‘complementary learning’ systems that place families as core partners in the learning process. As this research base and local, state, and national policies and models converge in support of family engagement, there is a growing demand to provide practical tools that reflect the current state of the field. This set of parent-teacher conference tip sheets provides administrators, educators, and families with ideas and strategies that honor their shared responsibility in supporting family engagement. These three tip sheets—for principals, teachers, and parents—can help ensure that parent-teacher conferences achieve their maximum potential by providing guidance that reflects each person’s role and responsibility in promoting productive home-school communication. Designed to be used as a set, the tip sheets combine consistent information with targeted suggestions, so that parents and educators enter into conferences with shared expectations and an increased ability to work together to improve children’s educational outcomes.”

Leenders, H., DeJong, J., Monfrance, M., & Haelermans, C. (2019). Building strong parent-teacher relationships in primary education: The challenge of two-way communication. Cambridge Journal of Education, 49(4), 519–533. Abstract available from

From the abstract: “This study investigates which subjects teachers talk about with parents in parent-teacher conferences and other contact moments, and how they communicate with regard to these subjects. Fifty-five in-depth interviews were carried out with teachers from special education schools, at-risk schools serving low socio-economic status children and mainstream primary education schools in the southern part of the Netherlands. The results illustrate that (1) two-way communication is used the most in at-risk schools, (2) teachers find it difficult to involve parents in the decision-making process concerning special care for the child, and (3) the teachers’ attitude towards parents is best when it comes to difficult discussion topics. When situations are really difficult, teachers stand alongside the parents instead of addressing them from their expert role, asking them ‘How can we solve this together?’ Teachers should be more aware of this quality, and not be afraid to address difficult subjects or conflicts.”

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. Full text available from

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.”

McNaughton, D. & Vostal, B. R. (2010). Using active listening to improve collaboration with parents: The LAFF don't CRY strategy. Intervention in School and Clinic, 45(4), 251–256. Full text available from

From the abstract: Effective parent-teacher communication builds working relationships that can support strong home-school collaboration and improved educational outcomes. Even though many teachers value the participation of parents, it can be challenging to communicate this positive intent. Effective communication is central to authentic collaboration and relies on involving parents in the school through meaningful discourse. The use of active listening skills may be an important first step to establishing effective two-way communication and successful collaboration. Active listening allows the listener to simultaneously gather information while conveying his or her interest in the other party. The process typically includes making empathetic comments, asking appropriate questions, and paraphrasing the speaker's comments as a means of demonstrating attention and confirming understanding. Although the value of the individual components is well recognized, it can be challenging to remember and make coordinated use of these skills in stressful situations. This article discusses one strategy for making effective, coordinated use of active listening skills. The LAFF ("L"isten, empathize and communicate respect; "A"sk questions and ask permission to take notes; "F"ocus on the issues; "F"ind a first step) don't CRY ("C"riticize people who aren't present; "R"eact hastily and promise something you can't deliver; "Y"akety-yak-yak) strategy. The steps in LAFF don't CRY provide a logical and easily remembered approach for demonstrating empathy and learning about parent concerns, and the strategy can provide a good start for the development of collaborative home-school teams. Although the steps are perhaps most easily implemented during informal parent-teacher meetings, the same key principles of communicating empathy and respect and seeking a full understanding of parent concerns are important also in more formal and larger meetings. These first steps in trying to better understand a parent's concerns and perceptions may be especially important in those situations in which parents: (1) are new to the U.S. educational system; (2) have difficulty understanding the curriculum; or (3) have been frustrated with previous communication with teachers. (Contains 1 figure and 2 tables.)

Tveit, A. D. (2018). Construction of pupils’ school achievements and future plans in parent-teacher meeting. Interchange: A Quarterly Review of Education, 49(2), 231–246. Abstract available from

From the abstract: “The aim of the study is to elaborate on factors that contribute to negotiated descriptions of the pupils’ social and academic achievements and future plans in parent-teacher meetings. This is discussed according to Habermas’ theoretical framework. The methodological approach comprises case-study; using focus-group interview, and the data material is examined through content analysis, including features from conversational analysis. The findings identify several factors that have impact on the negotiated descriptions about the pupils’ school achievement and future plans: (1) some teachers might choose to present an embellished reality while others are ‘brutally’ honest; (2) some teachers might probe to find out and then adjust to the parental goals when the level of ambition is discussed; and (3) some teachers act according to parental initiatives and pressure.”

Weber, H., & Pennington, L. (2016). Imagine the possibilities: Parent-teacher partnerships to ensure curricular success. Parenting for High Potential, 6(1), 12–14. Abstract available from

From the abstract: “Many parents and teachers are not aware that specific ingredients (such as communicating clearly, providing constructive feedback, setting goals, conducting self-assessments, and accepting failure) are required at home ‘and’ school to help gifted students succeed. Following are ways parents can support their child’s teacher in building that important bridge between home and school: (1) Request a copy of the learning plan or curriculum map for the year and ask where the child is on the learning continuum; (2) Reach out to teachers with questions via email or phone calls; (3) Ask the teacher for detailed feedback about the child’s areas of excellence and needs for improvement and also provide feedback to the child; (4) Work with the teacher to address issues of perfectionism and learning from failure; and (5) Model the growth mindset by limiting negative self-talk, sharing with the child what you learned each day, and positively talking about mistakes you made. A brief list of resources is provided.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used:

[(Collaborative OR collaboration) AND “parent-teacher” AND (meeting OR conference)]; [“parent teacher” AND (meeting OR conference)]

Databases and Resources

We searched Google Scholar and ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When searching and selecting resources to include, we consider the criteria listed below.

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published within the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases. Priority is also given to sources that provide free access to the full article.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study designs, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, and we may also include descriptive data analyses, survey results, mixed-methods studies, literature reviews, or meta-analyses. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality. Priority is given to publications that are peer-reviewed journal articles or reports reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations. If there are many research reports available, we select those with the strongest methodology, or the most recent of similar reports. When there are fewer resources available, we may include a broader range of information. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0012, administered by WestEd. Its 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.