Because Wisdom Can’t Be Told: Using Comparison of Simulated Parent–Teacher Conferences to Assess Teacher Candidates’ Readiness for Family–School Partnership

Jan. 02, 2012

Source: Journal of Teacher Education, 63(1), p. 62-75, January/February 2012
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study assessed teacher candidates’ readiness for parent involvement.
Specifically, the study used a text-based case and carefully selected videos of simulated parent–teacher conferences to explore teacher candidates’ awareness and use of two dimensions of interpersonal communication: responsiveness and structuring.

The authors explored three research questions.
1. How confident are preservice teachers in their ability to communicate with parents?
2. What kinds of skills or strategies can they generate when confronted with a common parent–teacher conference scenario?
3. When given examples of professional practice that differ along the dimensions of responsiveness and structuring, what do they regard as “best practice”?

As a necessary prerequisite to answering these questions, the study also took steps to validate the contents of the research materials and to establish a reliable coding scheme and benchmarks for evaluating candidate responses.

Participants and Method
Participants included three cohorts of 141 teacher candidates enrolled in foundation educational psychology courses taught by the first author. All participants were preservice teachers.

Participation took the form of a regular homework assignment.
Completing the task involved three phases.
In Phase 1, participants rated their efficacy for home–school communication and then responded to a description of a classroom-based challenge regarding one student’s behavioral and academic performance.

In Phase 2, candidates viewed and evaluated two QuickTime videos that involved two different teacher candidates (i.e., models) addressed the challenge in a parent–teacher conference.
Cases offered contrasting models of communication effectiveness along two dimensions: structuring and responsiveness.

Finally, candidates compared their evaluations of the two models and then chose which one did the better job.
They were asked to justify their choice in a paragraph and to use specific examples to support their decision.


The study contributes to the field of teacher education for family involvement in several ways. These contributions stem from what the application of this methodology reveals about candidates’ readiness for parent involvement.

Application of this research tools to candidates’ responses revealed four major findings.
First, candidates felt highly confident about their ability to communicate with students’ families.

Second, their levels of efficacy did not align with their actual skills: when asked to generate a response to a typical classroom-based dilemma that required a parent– teacher conference, candidates made limited use of a small range of effective communication strategies.

Third, although candidates had difficulty generating a comprehensive plan of action, they could—with scaffolding from a checklist of behaviors—discriminate between effective and less-effective models of professional practice (i.e., one model that exemplified high structure–low responsiveness and another that modeled low structure–high responsiveness).

Fourth, when forced to choose the better model, most candidates’ decision aligned with an expert panel; they chose the low structure– high responsiveness example.

Finally, candidates’ reasons for choosing one model as best centered on their valuing of structuring or responsiveness and their conceptions of home–school partnership.
Some candidates appear to value structuring as the essence of good communication, whereas others value responsiveness as the essential dimension.

Updated: Mar. 18, 2014


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