Student-led conference: A conference with parents led by the student where the student leads parents through a discussion of their academic and behavioral strengths and weaknesses. Students showcase their work, create goals, and raise inquiries. The teacher facilitates the conference process if needed.
My school participates in student-led conferences throughout the year for all grades. Yes, even kindergarten students direct a conference! Putting students in charge of their own learning is such a powerful tool. While there are many ways to prepare students for leading a conference (and it does vary by grade level), I use a specific format for middle school. This is only my third year engaging with SLC’s, so I’m constantly tweaking and making adjustments to how I approach them!
Preparing students to lead a conference in middle school
1.) Keep Portfolios. Student work is a key component of any student-led conference, as it is a clear way to show progress. I use manila folders (which I allow students to decorate) to track all major student writing pieces. I staple every single draft of a particular piece together. This allows students to easily identify strengths/areas of improvement and gives parents insight into the writing process.
Online portfolios would also work if your school/students have access to computers.
2.) Give students time to reflect. For each major piece of writing my students do, I give them a chance to reflect on their grade. This usually involves students completing a set of reflective questions on a handout, which I then staple to the piece of work they are reflecting upon. I always grade major writing pieces with a rubric, which assists students when they are reflecting.
3.) Provide a guided reflection sheet. Most students need some guidance when reflecting. My grade team uses a reflection sheet that allows students opportunities to reflect on their three core subjects and their behavior. The sheet is always evolving based on teachers and content. It also serves as a script that students use in their actual conference with their parents.
4.) Role-Play. After students complete the reflection sheet, I allow them time to role-play. One student is the “parent” and the other is the student. They take turns reading their script and provide feedback. Sometimes, the kids really get into it and play the role of the “parent” by asking questions a parent might ask! Allowing students time to practice what they will say calms nerves and boosts confidence. I have found that students are genuinely honest on their reflection forms and giving them time to role-play with their peers assists them in taking ownership of their strengths and weaknesses.
Does your school engage in student-led conferences? How do your students reflect? I’d love to hear your thoughts!