Parent-teacher conferences (Parents’ evening to those of us in the UK) are in desperate need of a redesign. For too long we’ve been happy to allow this important part of the school calendar to be little more than a time-consuming annoyance. Here at the RSA we wanted to really understand how people felt about parent-teacher conferences and so we asked RSA Fellows and staff what three words they would use to describe these interactions- perhaps unsurprisingly the top three were: Formulaic, Awkward, and Rushed.
This is why the RSA has joined forces with The Teachers guild to ask educators from Sydney to San Francisco:
“How might we redesign parent-teacher conferences?”
To get us going we asked our Fellows what one thing they would change about parent-teacher conferences, here is just a few of things they told us:
“It often felt like an "us against them" set up - even if you look at the layout of the room. Parents and child would always be across the table from teachers in the sports hall. In reality, parents and teachers are on the same side - they both want the best for the young people in their care. I would like to see room layouts and methodologies/structures of conversation that encouraged consensus building to be used.”
“Try and improve the rushed and often chaotic nature of the sessions so that there is more time for reflection and mutual understanding between teachers and parents.”
“Make it student-led in terms of their work and their feedback about their own performance, behaviour and where they can improve. Teachers should guide students if they are unsure about progression or improvement.”
It’s pretty clear that something about our existing systems doesn’t work. People want a deeper and more meaningful experience but time, space and culture currently present us with barriers.
The relationship between home and school doesn’t have to be like this, and the moments in the school year when they are brought together should be the most constructive and powerful. We want all teachers to joining us on a 10-week design journey where they will not only have the chance to discover new and interesting ways to engage parents but also peak inside classroom across the globe.
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