Criticizing another’s child: How teachers evaluate students during parent-teacher conferences


As the principal occasion for establishing cooperation between family and school, the parent-teacher conference is crucial to the social and educational lives of children. But there is a problem: reports of parent-teacher conflict pervade extant literature. Previous studies do not, however, explain how conflict emerges in real time or how conflict is often avoided during confer- ences. This article examines a diverse corpus of video-recorded naturally oc- curring conferences to elucidate a structural preference organization operative during parent-teacher interaction that enables participants to fore- stall conflict. Focusing on teachers’ conduct around student-praise and student-criticism, this investigation demonstrates that teachers do extra inter- actional work when articulating student-criticism. This research explicates two of teachers’ most regular actions constituting this extra work: obfuscating responsibility for student-troubles by omitting explicit reference to the student, and routinizing student-troubles by invoking other comparable cases of that same trouble. Analysis illuminates teachers’ work to maintain solidarity with students, and thus parents.



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Language in Society


Cambridge University Press

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