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 caepfamilyengagement.org and the companion faculty website is available at caepnet.org/AboutFamilyEngagement.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.