In a blog post late last year, A New Twist on Family Meetings: Student-Led Conferences, Kathy Dyer provided thoughtful reasoning for why teachers and parents should consider student-led conferences.
Summarizing her rationale, it gives learners the ability to reflect on their growth, giving them a better base for understanding themselves as learners and taking ownership of their learning. As Tod Johnston shares in an NWEA Connection article, the key to making this approach work is in careful preparation. He shares five tips for teachers that are also worth sharing here:
- Confer about their MAP® Growth™ test results
Once the results of the student’s MAP Growth test are available, sit down and review them with the student. Rather than focusing on the individual RIT scores, review how their results have changed over time. Using the Learning Continuum can help identify future learning goals and help form a plan that can empower students.
- Set up a guided reflection
Formulate questions that can generate reflection about topics that you’d like to review with families during the conference. As Tod shares, questions such as: What strengths did the MAP Growth results highlight? What skills should be developed next? What learning activities will help the student accomplish their goals?
- Outline the conference
Create an outline and a checklist of topics the students can refer to during the conference. Conversation starters can help prompt the student and keep the flow of conversation moving forward.
- Model the conversation
Showing students some examples of conferences or sharing some thoughts on how the conference conversation will unfold can give them some expectation. Share some thinking on what to do and what not to do during the conference. Consider having a mock conference as a lead up to the real event so students can better understand how to lead the conference when all parties are present.
- Give time to practice
Give students the time and opportunity to role play a conference with a learning partner. This will help the student build confidence and reduce anxiety when the time for the real conference is upon them. Provide some sample questions to the listeners so they can provide an idea to the students on what they might expect from their parent.
If we empower our learners to reflect on what they want to share with us about themselves as learners, they will be strengthening their communication skills and their organizational skills. This reflection, self-assessment, and organization will be leading them to develop complex thinking skills and work on their metacognition, which are skills that helps children learn, as well as contribute to life outside of the K-12 environment.