“Yes, there are two paths you can go by BUT in the long run There’s still time to change the road you’re on.” Led Zeppelin
Teaching students to be reflective about their learning provides them with real world skills and why I believe we need more student-led conferences (SLC). In my eyes, SLC’s should happen routinely in the classroom, not just limited to parent/teacher conference time once or twice a year. I also believe SLC’s should also happen in all subjects areas, not just reading like some teachers believe. With personalized learning and student centered classrooms, SLC’s should be a core component of the classroom.
Why Have Student Led-Conferences:
1. Deepen their understanding of themselves as learners because the students are self-evaluate, self-regulate, and self-motivate
2. Student are empowered and develop ownership of personal goals and achievements.
3. It holds students accountable for their learning and work.
4. Students are practicing real world skills such as communication, critical thinking, reflection, organization and leadership.
5. It focuses more on growth of learning verse just grades and test scores; especially if students have a portfolio of work and use a range of diagnostic, formative, and summative tasks to monitor student progress.
6. It fosters positive teacher/student relationships.
What Should a Student-Led Conference Look Like?
Start the conference with a question to put the student in the lead for example: Tell me what you are working on as a _____ (fill in with what subject you are working with: reader, scientist, mathematician etc). This should lead you to decide what comes next, if the student is on track, ask how can I help you attain your goal or do a small teach point if they need support. Make sure after each conference the student leaves the conference with a goal/action step that they will be working on. Here is a possible dialogue of a SLC in reading (T = teacher and S = Student)
T: “Tell me what you are working on as a reader.”
S: “I am working on the strategy monitoring my comprehension. I am noticing based on my ‘tracks of my thinking’ I am having a hard time with vocabulary.”
T: “Let me show you a way to figure out hard words.” This is where the small teach point comes in. (The teach point is only a few minutes)
S: “I will add that to my goals for reading and practice it this week and record it in my readers notebook.”
or in math
T: “Tell me what you are working on as a mathematician.”
S: “I have mastered addition and I have moved to subtraction but I am struggling.”
T: “Which subtraction strategy did you try using? Let me see your work.”
S: “I have tried using compensation but I don’t think that strategies works best for me because I round one of the numbers to make it easier but forget to compensate for it.”
T: “Let’s try a different strategy such as decomposing the numbers to make the easier for you to subtract.” This is where the small teach point of reviewing decomposing comes in.
S: “I will practice decomposing when I subtract as I feel confident with place value.”
1. What happens if the student doesn’t know what to do? If you are consistently having student-led conferencing in your classroom, the students will be used to the routine and process. If you are not doing this consistently then you should make sure to add it into your class period. Having clear expectations also helps. Use tools such as goal setting sheets, data trackers and refer to mini-lessons as well.
2. Am I as a teacher involved in the conferencing? Yes, you will facilitate the discussion if needed and ask probing questions.
3. Some teachers are reluctant, how can they be brought on board? Understand change is hard, start with the willing teachers that want to try to let others ‘see’ teachers do them so they feel more comfortable. Start off in one subject, master that and then move on to conferencing in other subjects.
I do think SLC should have with parents too and an FAQ I always get is when parents are involved is:
1. What if the parent has a question for just the teacher? At the end of the student-led conference you can have a few minutes without the student or you can set up follow-up appointment. If you are consistently communicating, this rarely happens. Many are so impressed with how much their student knows it doesn’t happen as much as you think.