A conversation analytic study of parents evening
This research describes the interactional structures by which a teacher and parents of
children in a British Junior school initiate parents' evening meetings.
Utilising tape recordings of 17 parents' evening meetings, this study applies the
analytic methods of conversation analysis. Working from detailed transcripts of the
tape-recorded data, conversation analysis examines the way in which interactants
construct their conversational activities. It seeks to highlight the accomplishment of
specific tasks made relevant by the participants, as well as the way particular
interactional settings are created and maintained. This research also examines several
features relevant to the meetings as institutional encounters.
The study focuses on the opening sequences of the parents' evening, and provides a
description of a consistent structural organisation designed to deliver an initial report
on the child by the teacher.
The description of this structural organisation is used as a context within which to
analyse several conversational features. These include the methods by which the
participants enter into a state of talk, the role of written records during the meetings,
the use of syllogism in the delivery of the children's results, and the formats utilised
in the presentation of different results.
There are three main findings.
l.The delineation of the basic actrvrties carried during the opening stages of the
parents' evening meetings. The description of these activities show how, despite the
asymmetrical positions of the participants in terms of access to written records and
rights to initiate the meetings, the interactions are collaboratively produced by the
teacher and the parents.
2. Many earlier observations regarding institutional talk are also evident during
parents' evening, including participation frameworks invoked and caution displayed
by professional interactants.
3. The role of intonation and the invocation of local physical resources in institutional
settings are identified, whilst earlier work on news announcements is developed.