a student leading her parent teacher conference

8 reasons why my students lead their own conferences


From promoting student agency to developing metacognitive skills, student-led conferences are the way to go

I can clearly picture my eight-year-old self staring out the large window, waiting for my parents to come home from my parent-teacher conference. I wanted to know what my teacher said, how I was doing, and what was wrong with me. The stress as the minutes ticked by increased as I got older, and the stakes were higher. As my parents shared the details with me, I am not sure I paid attention.

When I became a teacher, that memory stuck with me, and in my first year as I sat discussing students with parents, I felt something was missing. I realized it was not something but someone. The student should be part of the conversation; after all, it is his or her learning we are discussing.

From that point on, I transitioned to student-led conferences with elementary students. That first year they took 45 minutes per child, and I was meeting with students and their parents during my lunch, after school, or at night at the public library. It took a month to get through all students, but the pride in both the student’s and parent’s faces made it all worth it.

Eighteen years later I am able to do 20 minutes per child, having rich conversations as a team to support student learning. This past year we added digital portfolios that transformed the conference. Students presented their work in a small, theater-style setting, taking complete ownership of their learning process.

Related: 4 things you should know about digital portfolios

Educators often ask me why I have elementary students run their own conference. Below are a few of the reasons I share with them.

8 reasons why my students should lead their own conferences

1. Student-led conferences promote student agency.
Running their own conference provides students a meaningful experience that is relevant and authentic. It allows students to voice their own strengths and weaknesses. They choose what to share to showcase things they learned, need to work on, and are proud of. By making decisions about their learning, students take a greater investment in the process.

2. Students are part of the conversation.
By giving a child the opportunity to express him or herself as part of the learning team, we are letting the child know you are important. You have value. You need to own your own learning and scaffold your own thinking to grow. These are invaluable life skills!

Related: 10 things I do to boost my students’ self-esteem

3. Students are accountable for their own success.
Student-led conferences send a message to individual learners that they are in charge of their own success. The adults surrounding them will support and guide them, but ultimately the child drives his or her own decision-making process. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the student. When students share what they need to work on to their parents and teachers, they immediately take ownership of this and begin working on it the next day.

4. Students develop metacognitive skills.
The art of reflection helps propel us all forward. By giving students opportunities to practice this skill, we teach them how to dive deep into learning. Students begin to internalize what they have learned, how mistakes help us grow, and set goals for the future that they are accountable for. Using a digital portfolio to provide evidence with captions that supports their thinking helps students develop clear communication skills. Reflective practices are very powerful.

5. Students engage in a productive struggle.
It can be challenging to identify pieces of work that support what students want to discuss during a conference. Curating evidence is a struggle for students, as it brings to light what they need to work on. This struggle helps push students toward being self-directed learners.

Related: How ‘productive struggle’ can lead to deeper learning

6. Learning is personal.
Every individual learns best in different ways, and the sooner students can figure out how they learn best, the more successful they will be at choosing the right support tools. Teachers and parents should be part of the conversation, listening to what a student needs to grasp skills and concepts. It should not be the student listening to what the teacher and parents think.

7. Collaboration with peer feedback.
In preparing for student-led conferences, having the children share their thoughts and ideas with others and elicit feedback is instrumental. Students told me they wished we did more of that as their classmates gave valuable comments about how to enhance their digital portfolio. Tony Vincent’s feedback chart is a useful tool to support students in understanding how to give and receive feedback.

8. They can share work with people who cannot attend.
The four walls of the classroom are removed with student-led conferences using digital portfolios. Not only can students confidently go home and discuss their conference with relatives who could not attend, but they can also share their portfolio. This provides further conversation where students can take ownership of their learning and continue their journey towards self-actualization.

Sign up for our K-12 newsletter

Newsletter: Innovations in K12 Education
By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

Latest posts by eSchool Media Contributors (see all)

Want to share a great resource? Let us know at submissions@eschoolmedia.com.

New AI Resource Center
Get the latest updates and insights on AI in education to keep you and your students current.
Get Free Access Today!

"*" indicates required fields

Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Email Newsletters:

By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

New AI Resource Center
Get the latest updates and insights on AI in education to keep you and your students current.
Get Free Access Today!

"*" indicates required fields

Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Hidden
Email Newsletters:

By submitting your information, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

eSchool News uses cookies to improve your experience. Visit our Privacy Policy for more information.