Research shows involvement from a parent or other caring adult is the biggest factor in determining a student’s success at school. But for many parents, that involvement is limited to a twice-a-year, 20-minute meeting known as the parent-teacher conference.
As Heather Weiss, founder and director of the Harvard Family Research Project states, “Conferences are short, the info a parent receives is hard to interpret, and it’s unclear what actions a parent or the teacher should take to maximize the student’s strengths.” Perhaps the parent-teacher conference needs a new look.
Below are some tips on maximizing the value of conferences by encouraging participation, soliciting feedback and providing information parents can use to help their students succeed.
- Start with parent feedback: A partnership between parents and teachers is key to improving student outcomes. Open the doors to collaboration by garnering parent feedback. In preparation for the conference, send a parent-assessment survey to be completed beforehand. A sticker or magnet, imprinted with upcoming conference dates and a link to the assessment, is a great reminder. In your survey, ask parents how they feel school is going for their student, what their child’s strengths are, which areas may need improvement, and what, if any, struggles the student may be facing. Then share your own observations and see if, by working together, you can develop steps and goals to maximize success.
- Use conferences as a way to educate and share resources: Conferences provide a great opportunity to educate parents about curriculum standards, instructional methods, and tools and resources used. Providing hands-on examples, such as a reading assessment or grading rubric, can help parents better understand expectations. Tools and resources used in the classroom may be helpful for home use, too. Parents may appreciate receiving an iPad® sleeve or Tech Skin imprinted with a list of websites or apps used in classroom learning. Or, make it easier to download helpful resources by printing a quick-response (QR) code or URL on newsletters.
- Consider a student-led conference: A student-led conference encourages reflection, responsibility and involvement in goal setting. Prepare students to facilitate their own conference with a little pre-work, such as a form or survey, where students rate the subjects or units they like best, challenges they face, their overall performance and other helpful information. You may also consider starting a portfolio for every student at the beginning of each semester. During conferences, students can present this portfolio to their parents and use it to launch a discussion about what they’ve learned, their likes and dislikes about a project or unit, and how they were assessed and why.
We hope these parent-teacher conference makeover tips can help you, your students and their parents get the most out of this precious time. Give one or more a try and watch the learning unfold—for all!