Exploring the Emotional Geographies of Parent–Teacher Candidate Interactions: An Emerging Signature Pedagogy

Jul. 01, 2011

Source: The Teacher Educator, 46(3), p. 208–230, 2011
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This article explores preservice teachers’ emotional responses to simulated parent–teacher conferences.

This article examines data collected during the teachers’ post-simulation debriefings, focusing specifically on their emotional responses to their interactions with standardized parents across six distinct parent conferencing contexts.

Methodology and Procedures
Six participating teacher candidates took part in the 15-week PCM.
These participants are all middle class, Caucasian students at a private university in the northeastern United States.
These six teacher candidates each engaged in the PCM’s six simulated parent–teacher conferences at SUNY Upstate Medical University (UMU).

These simulated parent–teacher conferences included the following cases:
The Supportive Parent;
The Worried Parent
The Frustrated Parent
The Case he Angry Parent
A Case of Domestic and Child Abuse
The Case of Parent Advocate


The post-simulation data reflect the emergence of emotional geographies between teacher candidates and standardized parents as they engage in simulated parent–teacher conferences.
The data provide evidence of candidates’ wrestling with a professional geography—the boundaries between teachers and parents and the degree to which these relationships extend beyond traditionally rigid professional.
Teachers expressed discord with the degree to which they openly engaged with parents and regret with the degree to which they intentionally remained distant and removed from the parent’s context.

Furthermore, teacher candidates report being frustrated and angry with themselves as they immediately experience an expansion of their moral geography—where their original academic intentions for the conference were not aligned with the parent’s broader social intentions.
The teachers felt pressure and anxiety, as they sought to counter the words of a frustrated parent with what they considered appropriate but equally strong responses.
They reported nervousness and tension during engagements with an angry parent, emphasizing the dynamics of intimidation and dominance that arose during these interactions.

However, teachers’ feelings of enthusiasm and encouragement emerged from their positive interactions with a proactive parent advocate.
They conversed with a supportive parent, and reported their own openness and vulnerability in describing for the parent what they did and did not know about autism.
Their emotions are in response to the convergence of purpose on the part of both parent and teacher.

Through this intervention, they began to critically examine whether or not a verbal battle with a parent is at all necessary, or if there are other means to a productive end for the student in question.


The authors readily acknowledge that no two parents are the same, nor is there one standard way to engage and communicate with parents.
The PCM places teacher candidates in multiple one-on-one conferences with parents, where they have the sole responsibility for engaging in professional dialogue and navigating those interactions.
The authors conclude that the PCM challenges teacher candidates to find their own individual voices, to discover for themselves the verbalizations and mannerisms that help them connect with parents.

The authors argue that it is important to address how schools of education can implement this pedagogy within their own teacher education programs.

They offer three distinct suggestions.
First, faculty within teacher education programs must decide the degree to which they want to provide teacher candidates with opportunities for simulated parent–teacher conferences. Thus, we strongly suggest that institutions expose participating teachers to multiple simulations.

Second, it is critical that schools of education consider the concept of scale with regard to the intervention and applied technologies. This article reports on a small sample of students who enrolled in a six-simulation, semester-length experience.

Third, this pedagogy hinges on teacher candidates interacting with standardized parents with whom they have not met.
However, our experience is that when teachers interact with unknown standardized parents, they engage authentically.
When the ‘‘parent’’ is expressing seemingly genuine verbalizations, the teachers respond accordingly.

Updated: Oct. 09, 2013