The Power of Student Led Conferences
By: Mary Kienstra on: March 27, 2015 in: student led conference
Last week I had the pleasure of observing the power of student led conferences. I knew it would be interesting to watch the kids present their learning, but I didn’t realize how impressive it would be. I teach the gifted sections of reading and math to 4th and 5th graders. These are kids who experience success at school – they are capable learners and generally enjoy school. I typically join their parents and classroom teachers for the twice-yearly parent teacher conferences, so I looked forward to this new experience.
Our students were well prepared. They had written reflections that included their strengths and weaknesses in each subject area as well as a chart about their school behavior. They wrote about the successes they have had and their goals for the rest of the school year. Each chose 4-5 examples of their work to showcase their learning. In the days before their conference, they practiced presenting to each other so they would be smooth and fluent when it was time to present to their parents.
I was surprised at how nervous some of the students appeared. Even kids who are usually self assured in class, seemed a bit unsure. This whole experience was something new. And important. They were eager to impress their parents and their teachers. The most powerful part of the conference was the students’ frankness. They truly understand their role in their own learning and are ready to accept the responsibility. Instead of parents questioning the teachers about grades or behaviors, they asked their child directly. The kids were honest. Those were powerful words.
As impressive as the kids’ presentations were, the best part was the proud looks on the faces of their teachers and parents. Watching those faces beam as the kids presented their learning was priceless. I hope we decide to have the students lead their conferences again next year. This was a true celebration of learning with the learners leading the discussion. The proud smiles around the table were evidence of a job well done.