5 Steps for Conducting Successful Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conferences are held both for discussing students’ academic progress, and for  building and strengthening parent-teacher partnership to achieve academic goals. Here are 5 steps that teachers can follow to execute smooth and productive parent-teacher conferences, whether in-person or on zoom:

Keep Parents Posted: Ideally, teachers and parents should communicate before the scheduled conference date. Parents must be informed of any issues that need to be discussed – this way, the conference serves as a brainstorming session for finding solutions to improve student performance in class. You can use this free downloadable template to help you record any goals, questions, or concerns that come up.

Present Evidence: Teachers can create portfolios for each student recording behaviors, class participation, academic progress, achievements, and areas that need development. At conferences, these portfolios can help parents gain a clear and complete picture about their child’s academic progress.

Be Purposeful: Sometimes, the discussion may move away from the student or fixate on a particular point. Teachers can try to avoid this roadblock by forming an agenda for the conference, clearly listing the points that need to be discussed. A copy of the agenda can be shared with parents either before or during the conference and it can help teachers direct parents’ attention back to the necessary points.

When scheduling conference timing, teachers can also plan additional time for miscellaneous topics, or for parents to ask questions or voice concerns. If needed, teachers can schedule an additional meeting to discuss these issues.

Be Positive: Remember to start and end the conference on a positive note. Highlight achievements and progress before discussing the areas that require improvements. Teachers can collaborate with parents and find suitable solutions to help the students with their problems. End the meeting on a positive note, as this can give parents hope and motivate them to help their child.

Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Avoid talking about other teachers. If parents have concerns about another teacher, suggest that the parents discuss them with that teacher or staff member.
  • If teachers are faced with sensitive topics, or if they know parents might react negatively, request that an additional staff or guidance counselor attend the meeting.
  • Practice good communication and listening skills such as being attentive, allowing parents to talk without interruptions and maintaining appropriate eye contact.
  • If parents do not speak the same language as the teacher, request a translator so that the meeting can still be held productively.

These steps can help teachers conduct conferences that are both successful and productive for improving student learning.

Learn more about teacher/parent communication in the online PD course: Partnering with Parents.

May 2021 Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

About the Author
Ellen Paxton is a respected expert in education and best known as the Chief Learning Officer of Professional Learning Board. As a two-time National Board Certified Teacher, Ellen has successfully published and customized online professional development courses and Learning Management Systems for 20 years to help teachers meet their state continuing education renewal credit requirements. Through ProfessionalLearningBoard.comRenewaTeachingLicense.com, and ConnectedPD.com, Ellen has established solutions and maintained partnerships with several accredited universities, higher education institutions, teachers’ unions and state Departments of Education while setting strategic direction that makes a difference and overseeing implementation of popular online PD for schools.