“The Burden of Language”: Building the Educational Alliance with Foreign Families in Parent-Teacher Conferences


  • Chiara Dalledonne Vandini Università di Bologna
  • Davide Cino Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca




Educational alliance, video-analysis, conversation analysis, parent-teacher confernces, non-native parents


Parent-teacher conferences (PTCs) are important institutional encounters to promote a constructive dialogue and alliance between the school and the family system. However, cooperation between parents and institutional actors is not always straightforward, especially in the case of foreign parents. Because of the unequal familiarity of the latter with the institutional frameworks and language resources needed to participate effectively in PTCs, foreign parents risk having less communicative resources to rely on in the joint construction of the interaction. In this paper we focus on eight PTCs with foreign parents, paying attention to occurrences where children's learning difficulties are linked by teachers to their language skills. Using a conversation analysis framework, we will observe how language issues are intertwined with cultural, identity, and moral aspects that need special attention in order to enhance and support the effective construction of educational alliances between schools and families.


Baker, C., & Keogh, J. (1995). Accounting for achievement in parent-teacher interviews. Human Studies, 18(2-3), 263-300.

Bove, C., Mantovani, S., & Zaninelli, F. (2010). Listening to the voices of immigrant parents. Issues and dialogues emerging from a research in it. Interdisciplinary Journal of Family Studies, 15(1).

Bove, C., & Mantovani, S. (2015). Pedagogie implicite e aspettative reciproche nel dialogo tra genitori immigrati e insegnanti nella scuola dell’infanzia [Implicit pedagogies and mutual expectations in the dialogue between immigrant parents and teachers in kindergarten]. Rivista Italiana di Educazione Familiare, 10(1), 9-31.

Bleakley, H., & Chin, A. (2008). What holds back the second generation? The intergenerational transmission of language human capital among immigrants. Journal of Human Resources, 43(2), 267-298.

Capperucci, D., Ciucci, E., & Baroncelli, A. (2018). Relazione scuola-famiglia: alleanza e corresponsabilità educativa. Rivista Italiana di Educazione Familiare, 2(2018), 231-253.

Cautiero, V. (2018). Formazione iniziale dei docenti: dal patto di corresponsabilità all’alleanza educativa tra genitori e insegnanti. Annali Online della Didattica e della Formazione Docente, 10(15-16), 336-348.

Christenson, S., & Sheridan, M. S. (2001). Schools and Families. Creating Essential Connection for Learning. New York, London: Guilford Press.

Clark, H. H. (1996). Using Language. Cambridge University Press.

Dalledonne Vandini, C., & Cino, D. (2020). Negotiating epistemic authority in parent-teacher conferences: non-native parents reclaiming agency against the backdrop of linguistic and cultural differences. Studi sulla Formazione, 23(1), 217-236.

Dalledonne Vandini, C. (2021). Gestione della conoscenza e negoziazione dell’autorità epistemica nei colloqui tra genitori e insegnanti: Competenza interazionale ed efficacia epistemica. Roma: Armando (e-book).

Davitti, E. (2013). Dialogue interpreting as intercultural mediation. Interpreters’ use of upgrading moves in parent–teacher meetings. Interpreting, 15(2), 168–199.

Desimone, L. (1999). Linking parent involvement with student achievement: Do race and income matter?. The Journal of Educational Research, 93(1), 11-30.

Elbers, E., & de Haan, M. (2014). Parent-teacher conference in Dutch culturally diverse school: Participation and conflict in institutional context. Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, 3, 252-262.

Epstein, J. L., & Sanders, M. G. (2000). Connecting home, school, and community. In Handbook of the sociology of education (pp. 285-306). Boston, MA: Springer.

Epstein, L. J., & Salinas, C. K. (2004). Partnering with families and communities: A well- organized program of family and community partnerships yields many bene ts for schools and their students. Schools as Learning Community, 61(8), 12-18.

Garcia- Sanchez, I., & Orellana, M. F. (2006). Construction of moral and social identity in immigrant children’s narratives-in-translation. Linguistic and Education, 17, 209-239.

Gobbo, F. (2009). On metaphors, everyday diversity and intercultural education: Some further reflections. Intercultural Education, 20(4), 321-332.

Goffman, E. (1959). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.

Goodwin, C. (1994). Professional vision. American Anthropologist, 96(3), 606-633.

Granata, A. (2011). Sono qui da una vita. Dialogo aperto con le seconde generazioni. Roma: Carocci.

Granata, A., Mejeri, O., & Rizzi, F. (2015). Non è solo questione di cultura. Fattori di ostacolo e risorsa nella relazione famiglia-scuola dell’infanzia. [It is not only a question of culture. Obstacles and resources in the family/ childhood school relationship]. Rivista dell’Educazione Famigliare, 1, 79-91.

Favaro, G., & Fumagalli, M. (2004). Capirsi diversi. Idee e pratiche di mediazione interculturale. Roma: Carocci.

Fele, G. (2007). L'analisi della conversazione. Bologna: il Mulino.

Hadley, F., & De Gioia, K. (2008). Facilitating a sense of belonging for families from diverse backgrounds in early childhood settings. Early Childhood Matters, 111, 41-46.

Heritage, J., & Raymond, G. (2006). Epistemics of social relationships: Owning grandchildren. Language in Society, 35(5), 677-705.

Howard, M. K., & Lipinoga, S. (2010). Closing down openings: Pretextuality and misunderstanding in parent-teacher conferences with Mexican immigrant families. Language and Communication, 30(1), 33-47.

Horvat, E., Weininger, B. E., & Lareau, A. (2003). From social ties to social capital: Class differences in the relations between home and school and parents networks. American Educational Research Journal, 40(2), 319-351.

Jedlovski, P. (2008). Il sapere dell’esperienza. Fra l’abitudine e il dubbio. Roma: Carocci Editore.

Jefferson, G. (2004). Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G. H. Lerner (Ed.), Conversation Analysis: Studies from the First Generation (pp.13-23). Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Kamio, A. (1997). Territory of information. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publ.

Kotthof , H. (2015). Narrative constructions of school-oriented parenthood during parent-teacher-conferences. Linguistics and Education, 31, 286-303.

Lareau, A., & Weininger E. B. (2003). Cultural capital in educational research: A critical assessment. Theory and Society, 32(5), 567-606.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, S. (2003). The Essential Conversation: What Parent and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other. New York: Random House.

Pillet-Shore, D. (2012). The problems with praise in parent-teacher interaction. Communication Monographs, 79, 181-204.

Pillet-Shore, D. (2015). Being a good parent in parent-Teacher Conferences. Journal of Communication, 65(2), 373-395.

Pillet-Shore, D. (2016). Criticizing another’s child: How teachers evaluate students during parent-teacher conferences. Language and Society, 45, 33-58.

Sacks, H., Schegloff E. A., & Jefferson, G. (1974). A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn-Taking for Conversation. Language, 50(4), 696-735.

Epstein, J. L., & Sanders, M. G. (2000). Connecting home, school, and community. In Handbook of the Sociology of Education (pp. 285-306). Boston, MA: Springer.

Schmid, C. L. (2001). Educational achievement, language-minority students, and the new second generation. Sociology of Education, 74, 71-87.

Simmel, G. (2006). Estetica e sociologia: lo stile della vita moderna. Roma: Armando Editore.

Spitz, R. A. (1957). No and Yes: On the Genesis of Human Communication. Madison, WI: International Universities Press.

Stivers, T. (2008). Stance, alignment, and affiliation during storytelling: When nodding is a token of affiliation. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 41(1), 31-57.

Vandenbroeck, M., Boonaert, T., Van Der Mespel, S., & De Brabandere, K. (2009). Dialogical spaces to reconceptualize parent support in the social investment state. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 10(1), 66-77.

Weininger, E. B., & Lareau, A. (2003). Translating Bourdieu into the American context: The question of social class and family-school relations. Poetics, 31(5-6), 375-402.

Wolf, D. L. (2002). There’s no place like “Home”: Emotional transnationalism and the struggles of second generation Filippinos. In P. Levitt & M. Waters (eds.), Changing Faces of Home : The Transnational Lives of the Second Generation (pp. 255-294). New York: Sage.

Xu, Z., & Gulosino, C. A. (2006). How does teacher quality matter? The effect of teacher–parent partnership on early childhood performance in public and private schools. Education Economics, 14(3), 345-367.



How to Cite

Dalledonne Vandini, C., & Cino , D. . (2023). “The Burden of Language”: Building the Educational Alliance with Foreign Families in Parent-Teacher Conferences. Encyclopaideia, 27(65), 19–33. https://doi.org/10.6092/issn.1825-8670/15356