How to Flip a Parent Teacher Conference
The concept of a flipped classroom is simple but profound: instead of presenting new information during class time and then having students practice using that information at home, as is traditionally done, in a flipped classroom model, students learn new material at home—usually through a video presentation selected by the teacher—and then practice during class time.
The main advantage of flipping a classroom is that students have access to the teacher while they are practicing using their new knowledge, which means that they are more likely to be successful than if they were practicing at home. Further, some evidence suggests that students are more likely to do their homework if it consists of watching a video than if it consists of practicing skills with, for example, a worksheet.
While flipped classrooms have been a hot topic for a few years, the idea of flipped parent teacher conferences has gotten much less attention. One easy way to flip a parent-teacher conference is with Google Forms. Teachers can use the form to solicit questions and comments from parents before the conference. This way, teachers can be prepared for the questions that parents have.
For example, in a traditional conference, if a parent asks how their child is doing with one particular math skill, the teacher might not have that information handy. At the very least, they are likely to waste their limited conference time finding precisely the information that they want. But with a flipped conference, the teacher can see that question on the Google Form response from the parent, find the relevant data, and be prepared to answer the question.
But perhaps the most important benefit of flipping the conference is how it can change the dynamic when teachers need to share less-than-welcome news with parents. It’s a normal human reaction to be defensive or hostile in such a situation. At the very least, there are a lot of parents who enter the conference with a good bit of tension. But if the teacher has shared concerns with the parents in advance, then the parents can process, think through, and then be much calmer during the conference. In other words, the focus can shift away from bearing bad news and towards thinking about solutions.
Some teachers have found that flipping the conference makes it possible to accomplish the goals of the conference in about half the time. That’s a win for both parents and teachers.