Download the printable 7 Elements of Effective Parent-Teacher Communication: Candidates’ Strengths & Weaknesses | Tips for Faculty handout.

The CAEP Family Engagement Course is a free online course consisting of three modules that teach candidates about 1) the importance of family engagement; 2) parent phone calls, including practice making a live phone call; and 3) parent-teacher conferences.

The course is available at and the companion faculty website is available at

The course is organized around the 7 Elements of Effective Parent Teacher Communication (Walker, J. & Dotger, B., 2012, pp. 62-75). During the 2015-2016 pilot, the following trends emerged as areas of strengths and weaknesses for candidates around the 7 Elements. Faculty implementing the CAEP Family Engagement Course should watch for these trends in their candidates. 

7 Elements of Effective Parent Teacher Communication

  1. Warm Welcome: Establish the context for the conversation in the first few seconds of the conversation. | Many candidates forget to introduce themselves and skip the Warm Welcome altogether, especially during their first call. This tends to improve for subsequent calls.

  2. Share Information: Use examples to describe the reason for the call.  | Almost all candidates incorporate the Share Information step. But many talk at the parent, rather than with them. 

  3. Gather Information: Ask open-ended questions to get more information. | This is an area in which most candidates require improvement. Many candidates do not Gather Information—or do not do so in a meaningful way. They may ask a few perfunctory questions at the end of the conversation, but gathering information should create an open dialogue between parent and teacher.

  4. Establish an Action Plan: End with an action plan that is ideally a combination of both the teacher’s and parent’s ideas. | Along with Share Information, this is the step most candidates incorporate and with which they seem the most at ease; however, many candidates do not incorporate the parent’s ideas into their plan.

  5. Maintain Positive Expectations: Convey a caring and calm demeanor regardless of the parent’s tone. | Demonstrate specific knowledge of students as individuals.
    • Most candidates need to work on this step, especially when it comes to delivering bad news (for more details, see breakdown of call #2, module #2).  
    • When delivering bad news, some candidates become overly effusive, which detracts from the seriousness of the call.
    • Other candidates revert to the compliment sandwich; however, research shows that while this method makes delivering bad news easier on the news-giver, it makes it harder on the news-recipient (Legg, A. & Sweeny, K., 2013, pp. 279-288;Marshall, L. & Kidd, R., 1981, pp. 223-226). Those learning bad news prefer to hear the information in a direct manner (see the Delivering Good and Bad News section of the Parent Phone Calls module on effectively delivering bad news).
  1. Be Empathetic: Express empathy for parents’ emotions.  Validate a parent’s concerns and express understanding if a parent becomes emotional. | Candidates demonstrate difficulty differentiating between validating a parent’s emotions and agreeing with the content of what parents are saying.

  2. Manage Flow: Keep conversations on track and within the allotted time. | Candidates vary considerably on how well they stay on track.  

Candidates need practice

    • Navigating unfamiliar situations
    • Asking open-ended questions that seek the family's perspective
    • Distinguishing empathy from agreement


    • Candidates want to focus on delivering news, rather than on gathering information by asking open-ended questions and establishing a dialogue.
    • Candidates will default to giving “good” news—even when the situation requires delivering bad news. 
    • Practice and skills in delivering bad news can help candidates have effective conversations.