Best Practices for Student-Led Conferences

Thursday, November 12, 2015 -- Scott Sterling

For many schools and districts, traditional teacher-led parent conferences are a thing of the past. Instead, in an effort to promote student-centered learning, students are often being handed the reins over their own conferences. It’s a great way for students to take ownership of their learning, as well as hold themselves more accountable.

Student-led conferences do not look like the typical conference. For starters, there is not the same anxiety about negative feedback since students are organizing and presenting the information themselves. There also is usually little to no mention of behavior.

Instead, the teacher and student work together ahead of time to create a presentation of the student’s work and progress. Here is an example of the workflow:

  1. Teacher meets briefly with student about a week ahead of the conference appointment, giving them an overview of the format and what is expected.
  2. Student gathers assignments, papers, projects, and other artifacts of their class work to create a portfolio, if one does not already exist.
  3. Teacher and student meet again to refine the student’s message and help them organize a formal presentation of their work and progress.
  4. Teacher, student, and parents meet at the appointed time. The presentation tends to be quite short for younger students (no more than 10 minutes) and gradually gets longer as the student gets older, but usually do not surpass about 20 minutes. The teacher acts as “master of ceremonies”, making sure everything stays on schedule.
  5. If there are specific things about which the teacher would like to speak with the parents, they can make a separate appointment or discuss over phone or email.

Proponents say student-led conferences give a much more holistic view of how the student is performing and progressing. Parents like them because they tend to be more collaborative and include the most important person in the learning process—the student.

They also serve as an extension of skills students should be practicing in class, such as evidence gathering, summarization, and communication skills. Finally, students learn that having their teachers and parents work together doesn’t necessarily have to be a negative experience.

For more information on the student-led conferences trend, Edudemic recently published this primer article that covers more of the benefits and best practices.

If you’re interested in an actual case study, teachers from Wildwood IB World Magnet School in Chicago recently described their own processes for Edutopia, including their scheduling system and the forms they use to help students organize their presentations.

Interested in finding out about how Edmentum’s online solutions can promote parent involvement in student learning? Check out our guide to Parent Engagement!