In many schools, educators are transforming teacher-led parent-teacher conferences in favor of student-led meeting formats that engage students in the process. These conferences can provide powerful opportunities for students to advocate for their own learning.
How Do Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) Work?
Though the format may vary, these conferences differ from traditional conferences in that they place students at the helm of teacher-supported discussions with parents about student progress and learning. SLCs also often present opportunities for students to prepare, reflect on, and discuss evidence of their learning and growth by way of student portfolios.
Schools that implement student-led conferences report that they:
- Encourage students to take responsibility and ownership for their learning by involving them in the goal-setting and assessment process.
- Engage families in richer, more transparent conversations about student progress.
To better visualize what these meetings might look like in various grade levels, watch these video highlights from Expeditionary Learning featuring a student-led kindergarten meeting at Delaware Ridge Elementary School in Kansas City, Kansas, and a student-led middle school meeting and student-led high school meeting at Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) in New York City.
Whether you already hold student-led conferences or want to make a change, this list of practical resources includes examples, guides, and specific tools that will help you prepare for or improve these meetings:
Useful Tips, Guides, Checklists, and Printables
Student-Led Conferences From Scholastic: You'll find a number of resources in this blog post by middle grades educator John DePasquale, including a protocol to share with families prior to conferences. This is a follow-up post to elementary teacher Kriscia Cabral's series on student-led conferences preparation and application.
P21's Learning Targets and Student-Led Conferences: Fourth-grade educators Doris Malmin and Kevin Armstrong explain how their school got started with student-led conferences, share the sample script they developed, and describe some of their lessons learned.
A Step-by-Step Plan for Student-Led Conferences at the Elementary Level: In this post from Teaching Channel, explore takeaways shared by an experienced primary teacher, and learn how she plans for her station-based approach to student-led conferences.
Teacher's Aid: Student-Led Parent-Teacher Conferences: Educators discuss benefits of SLCs, process considerations, pitfalls to avoid, and other helpful tips in this podcast from BAM Radio Network (Length: 13 minutes).
Edudemic's Guide to Student-Led Conferences: This guide details the roles of each participant in the student-led conference triad: student, teacher, and parent.
WHEELS Student-Led Conference Faculty Handbook: Download a comprehensive handbook from Washington Heights Elementary School for access to self-evaluation templates, scheduling worksheets, staff worksheets, preparation checklists, scripts, agendas, and more.
A Guide to Implementing Student-Led Conferences in Your School: This presentation, authored by Patti Kinney of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, is chock-full of information for school leaders, including info about SLC benefits, sample letters, scripts, evaluation forms, frequently asked questions, and other tips.
Downloads and Examples From Schools That Work
Students at University Park Campus School in Worcester, Massachussets, grow into their power and potential through student-led meetings. Watch footage from these meetings, hear insights from educators, and then explore the following school tools:
- Student-Led Meeting Worksheet (Preparation): This guide can help students plan for their upcoming student-led meeting.
- Student-Led Meeting Worksheet (Parent and Teacher Agenda): This worksheet includes a sample parent and teacher agenda for student-led meetings.
- Student-Led Meeting Worksheet (Follow-Up): University Park uses this worksheet to help structure follow-up progress meetings.
At Wildwood IB World Magnet School in Chicago, Illinois, student-led conferences create opportunities for reflection, engagement, and agency. Find out how educators at Wildwood make this student ownership a reality and engage parents in conversations with students about their learning. Then check out a few of the tools they use to scaffold the process:
- Sample Outline for Student-Led Second-Grade Conference: These sample prompts are used by a second-grade teacher to help students prepare for student-led conferences.
- Reflections for Student-Led Conferences: Reflection prompts help students think through quarterly progress on goals.
- Student-Led Conference Worksheet: This form includes areas for students to list their strengths and think through areas for improvement.
- Student Portfolio Manual: The school portfolio guide provides information about how portfolios are structured and how materials are collected, including both student and teacher reflection sheets.
More Resources From Edutopia and the Web
- When Kids Lead Their Parent-Teacher Conferences, The Atlantic
- Students as Leaders of Their Own Learning, Edutopia
- Giving Students Charge of How They Learn, Edutopia
- When Students Lead Their Learning, ASCD
- Why Students Should Take the Lead in Parent-Teacher Conferences, MindShift
- Using Student-Led Parent-Teacher Conferences to Build Relationships, Edutopia
- Student-Led Conferences: Involving the Most Important Player, Association for Middle Level Education
Have you implemented student-led conferences at your school? We'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments.