Teacher and parent talking

This module will show how, through effective communication  and working as a team, even the most difficult of problems can be worked upon and resolved. It provides tools such as the “Feedback Sandwich technique” and the “GROWTH model” for problem solving, and focuses on parent-teacher relationships emphasising the importance of the student voice.

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when creating them”

Albert Einstein

Sky border
Red balloon with word Respect


orange balloon with word commitment


dark blue balloon


green balloon with word responsiveness


  • Student-Centred
  • Open and regular communication
  • Parent/teacher relation is equitable, valued and honoured
  • Student voice
  • Positive in approach
  • Vision
  • Trial and error
Red balloon with word Respect


orange balloon with word commitment


dark blue balloon


green balloon with word responsiveness


  • Student-Centred
  • Open and regular communication
  • Parent/teacher relation is equitable, valued and honoured
  • Student voice
  • Positive in approach
  • Vision
  • Trial and error
Sky border

Let’s solve challenges and problems quickly and creatively

“A process for grievances needs to be discussed and identified, outside of the issues that may arise in the collaboration.  The parent/teacher collaboration must be a safe space to bring up issues, speak openly and honestly “.

(Teachers and parents from collaborative engagement project)

Challenges and problems are going to come up along the way.  Dealing with these quickly and openly, with our student as the focus, guards against small issues becoming large problems.  This honest and responsive action honours the relationship and collaboration of parent and teacher. Remember, we are playing the long game here, and in order to succeed we need to keep focused on our student and successes as we face the hurdles or learnings along the way.  Placing blame or responsibility is not helpful.  When we use inclusive language the issue or problem is shared.

Remember it is common for children to have problems at school.  Some problems can be sorted out at home, but some will need parent-teacher cooperation and collaboration.  If there is a need to solve a problem, it is a good idea to seek a communication meeting.  As outlined previously in Module 5 – Meetings, communication meetings can be formal or informal, they are an opportunity for parents and teachers to discusses any concerns or issues.  Simple problem-solving steps can assist you both to work towards a positive solution.

(Adapted from Problem-solving strategies for parents and teachers; )

Raising Children – problem solving strategies for parents and teachers

Raising Children – problem solving strategies for parents and teachers


When starting to have a conversation around an issue, adapting the “Feedback Sandwich” technique (offering praise first, then criticism and praise again) is a great strategy to frame a problem in a positive light. With an attitude of moving forwards and the problem just being a small part of what is otherwise a successful situation. In our model, the sandwich technique works like this:

Positive Comment – reinforcement of something working well
Positive Comment moving forward – reinforces we have done this before and can do it again

sandwich technique



Positive comment from Parent – It is wonderful to see that David is now enjoying computer time with his peers.

Issue/Concern comment from Parent – I was thinking it could be a good idea that different children work in pairs with David throughout this process to ensure that he gets an opportunity to work with all the children in the classroom?

Positive Comment from Parent moving forward – I really appreciate that you are always thinking about ways to ensure there is good peer engagement with David in your classroom, he gains so much learning from being his peers.

By using this feedback tool, is more likely to lead to the below example of possible direction in the conversation.

Possible response from Teacher – Yes, I will look into that, as the same children do tend to jump up and want to work with David.



Positive comment from Teacher – It is great that Samaria is now bringing a lunch order into school.

Issue/Concern comment from Teacher – However, it appears when the canteen ladies get Samaria’s order incorrect – she can become quite upset and confronts them.

Positive Conversation from Teacher –  I think it’s great that you were able to come up with a good way to increase Samaria’s independence at school, and works towards one of her IEP goals. Therefore, it is so important we find a way to make this work for Samaria.

This example shows a possible direction of the conversation that can result in a positive action.

Possible response by Parent – I am sorry to hear that is happening. Perhaps we could use this as an opportunity to support Samaria to learn social skills and problem solving skills?

Positive comment from teacher – That is a great idea. I will prepare a number of role playing exercises to assist Samaria next time a mistake is made. 


By using the feedback model, we are working on solutions focus. Whereby issues and concerns can be brought up and discussed in a non-confrontational manner, where praise and solutions are exchanged, and contribute to the ongoing positive collaboration between home and school.

“it is so important to create a space where the parent (and student) feel heard, valued and seen as an equal contributor. A willingness on all parties to build a relationship that enables an honest sharing of ideas and information”



Parent engagement in learning is known to lead to improved outcomes for students of all ages.  Schools and teachers can support parent engagement by building partnerships to connect learning at home and school. Parent involvement usually focuses only on school-based activities such as attending events or volunteering in the classroom.  However, parent engagement encompasses children’s learning at home, at school and in the community.  There is strong evidence which links parental engagement with improvements in a student’s engagement and achievements for children of all ages and abilities.  Learning from home is an important aspect in the building and development of children’s confidence, motivation, capability and competence as learners.  Schools and teachers with a partnership mindset can value and support learning at home by communicating effectively, building trust, and sharing information and resources with families.


(Adapted from Parent Engagement in Learning, Australian Government: Department of Education, Skills and Employment)


Why Family engagement is important – Family School


Supporting Family-School-Community Partnerships for Learning – Australian Government

Building good relationships with the school – Family Advocacy


The method of communication needs to be jointly determined between the classroom teacher and the parent. Remember to refer back to previous modules on best ways to communicate between home and school.  However, for some students with disability there may be a need to formalise daily or weekly communication through the use of a Home/School communication book or email. The following section provides examples of this type of communication.

What is a Home-School Communication Book?

The home-school communication book is developed to facilitate two-way adult and student sharing of important information about the student’s day.

The communication book can:

  • support the student’s communication at home and at school; (this may include information about daily activities, special or fun events, playmate or peer interactions, and any highlights of the day.)
  • facilitate the transfer of information from home to school (e.g. student didn’t sleep well, didn’t eat breakfast, missed medication, had a seizure);
  • facilitate the transfer of information from school to home (e.g. events, field trips, “hot lunch” days, successes and challenges);
  • provide homework information.

NOTE: If the home-school communication book is used to provide documentation about specific programming for personal or confidential matters, it needs to be for adult eyes only. The procedure for transferring the book between home and school needs to be carefully thought out to ensure confidentiality.

(Taken from Burnaby Schools BC Canada).


Positive Parent-Teacher Communication – Hey Teach!

“Communication has got to be personal.  Depending on the needs of the family, this varies from scheduled face-to-face meetings or phone calls, to more informal contact via email or phone.  Documentation is also key and most importantly how this is shared with teachers.  It is not enough to make an individual plan available on the school’s intranet.  The content of the plan (goals and strategies) need to be shared with staff in multiple ways and in some cases professional learning is required.  Teachers need ongoing support in implementing plans and gathering evidence.” – Parent

“Regular communication happens in person through informal chats and formal meetings, as well as communication via the classroom digital communication platform which is only for parent/teacher communication.” – Teacher


Even if you don’t agree with what the parent is saying, your first step is always to listen.  Let them have their say.  Empathy can often resolve a problem.  Lead with a simple acknowledgement that you understand the parental concern.  More often than not, this will take care of the conflict itself, and if it doesn’t, it will clearly state the problem that the parent perceives.  Then you can unite to find a solution.  When given the chance to voice their concerns, parents will often have suggestions for how to fix the problem, and they can be an incredible resource.

(Taken from Kriegel – Beyond the classroom)

How can we effectively align for our student


  1. Have a genuine interest in the child and bring out the best in them
  2. A willingness to try and incorporate new strategies and approach problems from different angles
  3. Ability to see what is needed now and also an understanding of how to get to the next step
  4. Ability to communicate with parents and develop a warm rapport with the student and family
  5. For educators to trust in their own professional knowledge alongside a willingness to learn new things.

The importance of Student Voice

“Consultation with our student in a supportive manner, to understand what is happening for them,
is the starting point”.


In module 4 we discussed the importance of student voice.  To have a voice it is important that students are involved in meaningful discussions and decisions that impact on them. This is especially important when working towards the resolution of a conflict, issue or concern.  Establishing a routine of regular ‘check- in chats’ – whereby our student becomes comfortable and skilled to discuss what is happening for them at school.  The forming of this relationship and trust, is the solid basis on which discussions can be conducted when things are not going well or when an issue has come up.  Developing a process where our students can communicate or seek support when issues are escalating for them, is very important.

Sometimes I just want to be asked what is wrong.  Sometimes I may take a little longer to explain things, and sometimes I might just need a little time to work through any problems or things that are bothering me.  When I feel heard, I feel safe and supported.

Seeking Pupil’s Views – University of Bath

Seeking Pupil’s Views – University of Bath

Working through issues and concerns with our student

Being open about the fact this is a problem solving exercise.  We try something, we gather data, we reflect on the success or otherwise and change the plan if it’s not working”


Conflict can be caused by a disagreement or an argument between people.  Conflict resolution is a way for them to find a peaceful solution.  Conflict is a part of life, at school and beyond.  Schools need to actively nurture the skills students need to build supportive, sustainable relationships and resolve disagreements. How to teach and model conflict resolution impacts on all aspects of student wellbeing, including social and academic outcomes.

Learning to manage conflict reinforces the notion that solutions are possible.  It develops skills in pro-social behaviour, negotiation, assertiveness, co-operation and effective communication.  It also promotes social and emotional competencies such as empathy, compassion, respect for others and emotional awareness.

    1. Structure a supportive environment and process
    • Create a safe space
    • Be a positive role model
    • Help students to understand what the other person is feeling
    • Encourage empathy
    • Help students manage their own feelings
    • Teach calming strategies
    1. Encourage effective communication
    • Use ‘I’ statements
    • Avoid hurtful words, teasing and name calling
    • Talk through the problem with the other person
    • Listen to the other person’s point of view
    • Repeat back what has been said to show understanding (reflective listening)
    • Be kind.
    1. Build problem-solving skills
    • Create a list of several possible solutions
    • Explore possible consequences of these solutions
    • Explain what it means to be flexible and to compromise
    • Try to achieve a solution that is seen as fair by everyone
    • Encourage students to agree on a solution and give it a try.

    (taken from New South Wales Department of Education: Conflict Resolution)


    LetterOutcomeIssues to consider
    GGOALWhat do we want to work on?
    RREALITYWhat is happening now?
    OOPTIONSWhat are our options?
    WWILLWhat will we do?
    TTACTICSHow do we do this?
    HHABITSHow will we know it works? This is an outcome the model states "how will we sustain our success?"

    Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage their emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. Through the process of SEL students develop self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are important for school, work and life outcomes.  Social-emotional competence helps students cope with everyday challenges and improves learning and wellbeing.

    SEL develops understanding and skills to:

    • Nurture a positive sense of self
    • Promote respectful relationships
    • Build capacity to manage emotions, behaviours and interactions with others.

    (taken from New South Wales Department of Education: Social-emotional learning)


    What is SEL – Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, USA


    In the Australian Curriculum, students develop personal and social capability as they learn to understand themselves and others, and manage their relationships, lives, work and learning more effectively. Personal and social capability involves students in a range of practices including recognising and regulating emotions, developing empathy for others and understanding relationships, establishing and building positive relationships, making responsible decisions, working effectively in teams, handling challenging situations constructively and developing leadership skills.

    Key ideas:

    The key ideas for Personal and Social Capability are organised into four interrelated elements in the learning continuum, as shown in the figure below.

    (Taken from Australian Curriculum: Personal and Social Capability).

    The growth model

    “We use the growth model at our school to discuss students at our teacher ideas group – where teachers can attend to discuss a student they are concerned about, but who may not be receiving more formal, intensive support.  We talk through the steps with the teacher of the student, and a group of other teachers from different grades who may be able to share ideas.”


    Whilst our students can take longer to grasp some concepts or skills, there are some times that our planning and instruction just will not work no matter how long we persevere.  Looking at what has or is happening, and why (from a cause and effect approach) – we identify if we need to support, adjust or change something in order to resolve the situation and move forward.

    Our schools have certain ways they operate, educate and manage large groups of children.  It is respected there are standard policies and practices that need to be in place for this to happen.  However, these policies and practices are able, and sometimes required, to be viewed with flexibility, or even replaced for some of our students.

    If standard policies and practices are not working for our students, be creative and flip the problem.  Look at the goal and how we can get there for our student, rather than trying to use a process of policy that is not working to change behaviour or address an issue. A good problem solving scaffold that parents and teachers can draw on to work together is the GROWTH model.


    LetterOutcomeIssues to consider
    GGOALWhat do we want to work on?
    RREALITYWhat is happening now?
    OOPTIONSWhat are our options?
    WWILLWhat will we do?
    TTACTICSHow do we do this?
    HHABITSHow will we know it works? This is an outcome the model states "how will we sustain our success?"

    (Reference: Australian Government Positive Partnerships

    G GOAL What is the biggest issue right now? What do we want to work on?
    R REALITY Can you tell me a little more about what happens preceding the event?  (if not perhaps see if it is possible to observe for a week to try to work out if there is something specific that is not working for our student that is creating the issue).
    REALITY What are you doing when it happens?

    How do you think this is working? Are there any parts that are working?

    (Consult with our student and check that they have the capacity to work or behave/act at this level of expectation at present).

    REALITY Share any examples of what you might do if something similar is occurring at home (give an example ie slower, more directive, using story boards, giving choices, time rewards, positive behaviour reinforcement, specific language etc  are used)
    O OPTIONS Ask, how could we adapt this to work at school?
    OPTIONS Is there a different approach that may work?
    W WILL

    Decide what approach will be taken.

    How will we ensure student voice? How will we know how they are feeling, what they understand is happening?

    T TACTICS What will we need to do to make it successful? Explanation to student, resources, supports
    H HABITS Let’s check in a week/month to see how we are going and how we can embed this if working well in other areas of learning and support

    “When schools and families work together they can identify and prioritise goals and solve problems collaboratively.  When decisions are made collaboratively, everyone involved is more inclined to commit to student goals and objectives”.

    (Department of Education and Training)

    Parental Engagement: Improving outcomes for students with disability

    Parental Engagement: Improving outcomes for students with disability

    What happens if teacher and parent are unable to reach agreement?

     “Communication was the biggest tool, being honest, creating a true rapport and having a ready-made relationship to make resolution easier when things went wrong”


    If parent and teacher are unable to reach an agreement, here are some tips to support you moving forward:

    • Take some time out, have a think, re-focus on what you have heard from each other and ensuring that our student and the vision is at the centre of the decision making.
    • Ask the student for their input, see the ideas for student voice input earlier in this module and module 7
    • Have a further meeting where you each clarify what you understand the other’s perspective is, and try and find compromise on an approach or decision moving forward.
    • Seek a third party, ideally another teacher or staff member who is on team student, to work with you both.
    • Have a meeting with the Principal, Deputy or other staff member, to see if other ideas/resources can be put to the collaboration and decision making.

    The importance of developing parent-teacher relationships

    “I’ve learnt so much from Claudia, we got a lot done together, it was slow, we had a lot of conversations and meetings about her son in my class.  However, we enjoyed our journey, and the challenges we were able to overcome working together, and we had a great year”


    Research and practice clearly indicates that for student engagement and learning to be successful, there needs to be a collaborative partnership between parents and teachers.  Australian Academic and Inclusive Education researcher Linda Graham (2020) believes that it is critical for teachers to pay attention to the ways in which they can work with parents. Graham outlines the following key points to consider-

    • Parents have a central place in school communities – they are not visitors or ‘receptacles of teacher knowledge’, nor are they there just to implement teacher programs
    • Parents have a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience regarding their children that teachers are unlikely to have.  Parents knowledge and experience are critical to the inclusive process.
    • Equality between teacher and parent expertise is a feature of positive partnerships, with a particular focus on recognising, valuing and enabling parent knowledge, skills and experience.
    • Positive partnerships require a commitment on the part of teachers to come to know and engage with the experiences and perspectives of parents.
    • Being proactive in establishing effective communication will assist teachers to come to know parent’s experience and perspectives. This means;

    – developing positive interpersonal skills,

    – becoming skilled in listening to parents, and

    – developing skills to help parents express their views.

    • It is important to recognise that the experiences of many parents have led them to find following an inclusive pathway stressful and that teachers can contribute to that stress (e.g. by not listening to or acting on parent’s views)
    • In response to the stress reported by parents, teachers can develop a positive school and classroom culture.  Elements of this positive climate could include:

    – developing trust between parents and teachers,

    – creating a feeling of welcome – both parents and children feel they belong;

    – establishing a feeling of safety-parents feeling that their child is safe and that it is safe to voice their perspectives;

    – flexibility – responding to diverse hopes, fears and capacities of parents, and

    – recognising and celebrating children’s abilities and achievements.

    • Teachers should be willing to be learners and to accept that they do not have to know it all.  They should be willing to find out what they don’t know and/or to rely on parental knowledge and expertise.
    • Teachers and parents share responsibility for children’s outcomes and for raising aspirations.
    • Teachers and parents share responsibility for the development of educational goals and for problem-solving.
    • Regularly practice clear, accessible communication (e.g. quick simple strategies such as use of photographs and apps)
    • Avoid or explain jargon
    • Be proactive – actively find out what parents want to know and what they are comfortable sharing
    • Work flexibly – find out about and use preferred modes of communication.  This involves more strategies then just traditional home-school diaries.  Consideration should be given to where communication takes place (and the power messages of the school environment)
    • Be positive – don’t just communicate about big issues or when things go wrong.  Stay solution-focused rather than problem-focused
    • Speak (and write) sensitively, and be considerate of the language that is used about the child
    • Set aside designated school spaces for parents to use
    • Create a whole-school ‘learning culture’.  Accept that everyone is learning together, no one must know it all – learn with and from each other
    • Parents contribute to the governance of the school
    • Parents contribute to staff development (through the sharing of ideas and strategies)

    (Graham, 2020:351-353).


    “The school encourages open lines of communication with parents, and particularly to express the positives that are happening for the student in the school. It also allows for issues to be shared in a timely manner so that they can also be addressed quickly.”


    Let’s talk about behaviour

    “Behaviour support and management is critical to creating engaging and effective classrooms”

    (NSW Department of Education/ A new Student-Behaviour Strategy)

    Schools face a different set of challenges today than they did years ago.  In the inclusive classroom teachers rate behaviour as one of the significant issues they face.  Research outlines how implementing a humanistic behaviour support plan, supports the locating of the problem of challenging behaviour as not with the student, but within the context, the curriculum, the instruction, and the social landscape. The term humanistic behavioural supports encompass the interventions that inclusive educators can use that provide practical alternatives to the traditional taken for granted behavioural systems that often involve rewards and punishments (Causton, J., Tracy-Bronson, C. P., & MacLeod, K. (2015). Beyond treats and timeouts: Humanistic behavior supports in inclusive classrooms. International Journal of Whole Schooling, 11(1), 68-84).

    Many teachers are finding that for all students, traditional strategies around punishment and exclusion have limited or no beneficial effect, whilst raising significant social-emotional consequences (e.g. they can be stigmatising in the eyes of peers, decrease a student’s motivation and connection to the classroom and contribute to self-esteem and even trauma issues).

    While there are many reasons why a student may behave in a way that others will perceive as challenging, it is considered by many that at its essence all behaviour is a form of communication so the beginning of any behaviour support strategy should be the consideration of the reasons for, and purpose of the student’s “challenging” behaviour.

    • What is the student trying to communicate through their behaviour? When the first discrete opportunity presents itself, ask the student to explain “why” they acted in that way. Listen for clues in their response. Try to interpret the situation from their perspective.
    • What unmet functional needs of the student may be driving the behaviour? Consider frustration in communicating, lack of security or anxiousness, insufficient control in decision-making, lack of engagement and stimulation, a need for a sensory break, etc.
    • What environmental triggers in the classroom and school context may be contributing to or increasing that unmet need? For example, is the classroom environment further compromising the student’s communication skills, is the curriculum or nature of instruction inaccessible, is there conflict within or exclusion from the social landscape of the classroom or playground.
    • Is there a pattern in the timing of the behaviour? For example, does it seem connected to a particular seating arrangement, a particular lesson or transitioning back into the classroom after playtimes.

    In essence, adopt a pro-active “problem solving” approach.

    (Taken from Behaviour support in the inclusive classroom – Australian Alliance for Inclusive Education).


    “Best practice in supporting student behaviour involves a preventive, student-centred and positive approach”

    (NSW Department of Education – a new Student Behaviour Strategy)

    Key reform directions to support this shift in approach include:

    1. Integrating student behaviour within our broader approaches to learning and wellbeing
    2. Providing targeted support to vulnerable student cohorts through evidence-based interventions and a dedicated expert workforce
    3. Building capacity across the workforce through available and continuing professional learning
    4. Commissioning services for improved outcomes.

    (Taken from A new Student Behaviour Strategy –


    “When solving problems, dig at the roots, instead of hacking away at the leaves”

    Anthony D’Angelo


    Ann Greer has over twenty- five years of formal experience in working with people who are labelled as having challenging behaviour.  Ann believes that behaviour is communication and it is the getting to know the individual that is the key.  Ann encourages teachers to –

    • Determine a process that is respectful and non-punishing
    • Discover how you can collaborate to find the motivations, effects and consequences
    • Develop a range of strategies that can be used to minimise the effects of a person’s actions

    Click here to watch a playlist of videos on Behaviour and Communication featuring Ann Greer


    How to find the underlying reasons for challenging behaviour with functional behaviour assessment – Monash University

    Articles and publications on disability and “Difficult behaviour” – David Pitonyak, Imagine


    Prior to any conversations it’s good to have thought about what we want to talk about!

    Collaboration via effective meetings (with clear agendas), and also quick catch ups when issues arise, assist in developing good working relationships from the outset.  This also helps to respect each other and show trust.


    Let’s think about how we can use the Growth chart and student voice to work towards the resolution of an immediate concern, or perhaps we can chat about what processes we will agree to follow if issues and concerns were to occur throughout the schooling year.

    Please click on the icon that applies to you to see the content

    From time to time things will happen that will not make you happy. Sometimes these things can happen suddenly, but more often than not, when things are upsetting or bothering us, we can chat about our concerns with our teacher/parent and work on potential ways to fix the problem. It is important that you share with us what is concerning you, and to suggest ways you think can help fix the situation.

    What do you see as the problem we need to solve?

    Why do you think this happens? Think about where you are, who you are with when it happens, how it makes you feel.

    What could help to solve this problem? That you could do, that your teacher could do, what we could change about the situation.

    How will we make this happen? (i.e. regular check-in chats).

    RESOURCE 1: Solving Problems – student mind map

    “The more we understood as parents, the more we could be sure we weren’t asking for things that weren’t at least the expected, and minimum for all other students. Understanding the school’s processes meant we knew what to ask for”


    Using the Growth model – let’s scaffold a way to work through any issues or concerns that may be happening for our child.  Share your completed sections with your child’s teacher, and combine to complete the chart.

    Let’s consider and resolve problems

    “Problems arising were always welcomed – adversity allows you to change/improve the situation.  If everything just plodded along without issue it is likely we’d be languishing in mediocrity. Embrace issues, they allow conversation and collaboration”


    Using the Growth model – lets scaffold a way to work through any issues or concerns that maybe happening for our student.  Share your completed sections with your student’s parent, and combine to complete the chart.

    RESOURCE 3 :
    Let’s consider and resolve problems


    Let’s talk about it

     “Open mindedness, flexibility, a sense of sharing the role of working together to achieve accepted and required outcomes.  Looking ‘outside the box’ with active listening and respect of parent’s needs and perspectives”.

    (Parent & Teacher)

    Let’s deal with any issues or problems quickly and openly. We are aiming for a collaborative engagement, one that is honoured by honest and responsive actions.  Remember, in order to succeed we need to keep focused on our student, and to celebrate the many successes we will achieve and learn by along the way.


    Share – Student, parent and teacher pre-work and Growth model ideas and concepts


    Consider – Filling out a combined GROWTH model chart based on discussions and decisions made from each other’s observations, and include the student voice.


    Impact – How might this information now be noted and integrated into how our student is understood, taught and valued.

    Conversation Guide – Solving problems

    Conversation Guide – Solving problems


    Let’s share something positive to start with – on the topic of something we have discovered about our student or more generally.

    What has been discussed, decided upon?

    Has the student been consulted before, during or regards to the outcome?

    What needs to be followed up, who will do this, by when and how will we know it’s been done. Is there a review required?

    Who else is it important to share this information with? How will we do this? Who will do this? (Consider other staff, replacement teachers, peers).

    Now go back to your “Conversation Guide” document and complete the “actions” section.