Finding the best ways to engage families is top of mind for schools and districts—and the parent-teacher conference continues to be a meaningful strategy for elevating parent voice in their child's educational journey.
Both teachers and families invest a huge amount of time in the conference process, and these meetings are important opportunities to celebrate student success and plan for future goals. Collaboration between teacher and parents is a key component of student success.
That's why we've updated our popular Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide, which is included in our free Family Engagement Toolkit. The Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide includes questions and prompts designed to help teachers and parents develop a shared understanding of what they want to accomplish together during the conference and throughout the school year.
How Can Teachers Use the Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide?
Often, parent-teacher conferences are viewed as the only opportunity families have to meet with their child's teacher during the school year. Given the immense importance of family engagement in successful outcomes for students, there is ample reason to think about parent-teacher conferences in a new light—one where families and teachers approach parent-teacher conferences as one event in an ongoing relationship. The Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide sets the foundation for that relationship.
As a first step, teachers can reach out to parents with a note conveying their enthusiasm for the upcoming conference and some questions—or prompts—to help everyone think a little more about these important conversations. These prompts help teachers and parents develop a shared understanding of what they want to accomplish together, discussing:
- What are our shared values and goals for your child?
- How is your child doing academically in this class?
- How is your child doing socially in this class?
- What next steps can we take to support your child’s success in this class?
If teachers and parents view this annual conference as one touchpoint in an ongoing conversation, rather than a single touchpoint, the shared framework established during the parent-teacher conference continues to support the relationship throughout the year. Conversations between parents and teachers might occur via email, blogs, webpage posts, and feedback surveys.
What's Inside the Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide?
The Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide elevates student, teacher, and parent voice. It provides opportunities for teachers to share information from students, including the following prompts:
- Your child wanted me to share that they have been working on:
- Your child wanted me to share that they are proud of:
- Your child wanted me to share that they would like to learn more about:
It also provides key questions that both teachers and parents have an opportunity to answer, leading to a meaningful conversation about goals, academic and social progress, and next steps. Questions include:
- What does your child enjoy about going to school? What have I seen or heard them do that demonstrates this?
- What shared goals can we develop for your child? What actions can we take to support these goals throughout the school year?
- What is my approach to behavior supports for your child? To what extent does this address their needs?
These prompts give parents and teachers the chance to celebrate, discuss, reflect, and develop goals for the school year. To help set the stage for ongoing communication, teachers can make sure parents walk away with correct email addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information. Teachers can invite parents to bring in their phones or devices and help them set up and bookmark the right links during the conference.
Family Engagement Throughout the School Year
Sustained family engagement is crucial to student success. Research shows when schools successfully engage families, students are more likely to earn higher test scores, develop better social skills, and are more likely to graduate. Building on the parent-teacher conference by administering engagement surveys, reducing barriers to engagement, and encouraging frequent check-ins is key to ensuring families are true partners in education.
In Panorama's free Family Engagement Toolkit, you'll find strategies, guides like the Parent-Teacher Conference Conversation Guide, and over 100 survey questions from Panorama's Family-School Relationships Survey. These resources empower your school or district to assess and strengthen family engagement—because when families are partners in education, students thrive.