Friday, March 4, 2016

Student-Led Conferences

Each spring, our parent conferences take the form of student-led conferences. As kids get more and more used to taking responsibility for their own learning, student-led conferences become a natural extension of that responsibility. Kids are in charge of their learning and now have an opportunity to share that learning with their parents. The structure of student-led conferences is vastly different than traditional parent-teacher conferences and the preparation for students is much greater as well.

At the beginning of second semester, just after winter break, we introduce the subject of student-led conferences. Kids are now looking for learning artifacts and performance events that they'd like to share with their parents. In the middle of February, we begin building the kids' portfolios, which make up the bulk of the discussion during the conference. This year, we decided to create websites as portfolios. Most of the kids used and some used Google Sites. A few even used As kids built their sites, we asked them to create pages for English, social studies, math, science, 20% Time and "forms". Each page will have two projects linked. One of the projects must be one that the teacher required and the other project can be one that the student feels shows their best work. The "forms" page houses all of the forms we ask the kids to fill out, from "My Goals for Second Semester" to "How I See Myself as a Learner". The folder of forms is linked here. The week before conferences begin, we make sure that each student has their website created with all of the appropriate pages, links and materials.

The evening of conferences usually runs quite smoothly. We schedule four student-led conferences simultaneously and each conference lasts a half hour. In our four-hour conference period each evening, we can get 32 conferences done. We coach the kids on proper etiquette and have a script of bullet points taped to each conference table in case the kids get lost during the conference. The script just highlights things the kids should talk about. At some point during the conference, Melissa and I visit each conference to see if there are any questions that the parents have for us. For the most part, the parents have had all of their questions answered by their child. We have an exit sheet for each of the parents to rate how their child performed during the conference and we ask each parent to write their child a note telling them some positives about their conference. All in all, it is a great experience that allows the kids to present themselves as learners in charge of their education and allows the parents to see their children in that light.

1 comment:

  1. My middle school has done SLC for 3 years now. The students conference with their parents about their grades, attendance, and behavior. They also share a goal sheet that they have worked on during class time. One thing we have struggled with is having examples of student work. Some teachers try to return papers that the students can use during the conference but we don't have a consistent policy. We became a 1:1 middle school with Chromebooks this year so the idea of an online portfolio or a website is doable. I plan to let our counselors (who are in charge of conferences) about this idea.