Communicating student learning is both formal and informal in schools. Where formal written reports provide a snapshot of student progress and parent/teacher conferences and interviews provide opportunities for an ongoing exchange of information and dialogue of student learning, student-led conferences actively engage students in reflecting on and communicating their learning progress.
The conferences involve student sharing, discussing and reflecting upon samples of work that they have carefully chosen to highlight with their parents. While student work samples have been previously selected by the students with the guidance and support of their teacher, during the conference the teacher stays very much in the background while the student is “in charge”. The goal of student-led conferencing is to provide students with an authentic context for self-evaluation and with an opportunity to assume some responsibility for informing their parents about how they are doing in school.
The great benefit about student-led conferences is that the students are the ones explaining what they are learning. As listeners and encouragers, parents learn what their child is learning, how they are doing, how they are evaluated, and importantly, what students can do to improve their own performance.
There are many benefits of student-led conferences. These include:
- Students assume greater control of their academic progress.
- Students accept personal responsibility for their academic performance.
- Parents, teachers, and students engage in open and honest dialogue.
- Increased parent participation in conferencing.
- Students learn the process of self-evaluation.
- Students develop organizational and oral communication skills.
Student-led conferencing has proven to be successful at all grade levels. Beginning in the kindergarten grade, students are able to fully discuss his or her learning.
Ridgeview’s Kinder-Team, Mrs. Andrea Daudlin and Mrs. Christy Campbell share details to support a successful conference in kindergarten in one of their informative blog posts from The Self-Regulated Teacher:
Our Kindergarten Student Led Conferences are a twist on the traditional Student Led Conference. In the years we were teaching Grades 1-4, each student would welcome their parents to his or desk, where a curated selection of work would be waiting in a file. A letter of welcome for parents, plus a class created agenda, provide structure for the Conference time.
In Kindergarten, however, we use a Centre approach, in much the same way we use Centres during the morning Activity Time, Math Centres, or our focus afternoon Centre Time. Parents can expect to see an Alphabet Centre, Math Centre with tasks and participate in the daily Calendar activities as part of our Student Led Conferences.
Kindergarten is a special grade, the first formal schooling for most children, the first Student Led Conference for most parents, and it’s important for us to set the tone and expectations for how the Conferences are conducted because you’ll be enjoying them for the next eight years while at Ridgeview. As one of two informal Communicating Learning opportunities, we want this to be a positive and successful experience for you and your child. The format will be different as you move through the grades, but its value is always the same: priceless.
The Kinder-Team highlight their top ten tips for parents to get the most from Student-Led Conferences:
- Sign up for your child’s Student Led Conference. In Kindergarten, we have a limited number of families we will host in our classroom for each time slot. Kindergarten sign-up sheets are posted outside the classrooms; all other Grades are posted in the main hallway near the Library.
- Arrange for care for your other children, particularly toddlers and preschoolers, so you can focus on your Kindergarten child. Older children can wait outside on the playground.
- Arrive on time for your Student Led Conference and remember to bring your child with you. This Conference is for you and your child. We’ve had several instances where our students were left at home with a babysitter, on the playground or at the childcare centre.
- Give praise and specific, positive comments to your child eg., “I like how you used a variety of colours in your drawing;” recognise that your child might find some tasks difficult so encourage them to keep trying their best.
- Be mindful of your Conference duration and gently remind your child when it is time to go; other families are waiting for their turn.
- Keep socialising with other parents to a bare minimum. Your focus is on your child.
- Be respectful of the SLC of other students and their parents by keeping your own child close to you at all times.
- Refrain from engaging your child’s teacher in a discussion about your child’s progress; the teacher is supporting all students during the SLC process and has many jobs to do. If you would like an interview, make an appointment on another day for a mutually agreeable day and time.
- This goes without saying, but our cell phones are a distraction. Please support us by turning off and putting all electronic devices away. Please do not take phone calls during your child’s conference: it’s disrespectful of the preparation we’ve done with your children; the other families; and most importantly, your children who are very, very excited to be the centre of your attention to share their learning with you.
- Please do not bring any hot drinks into the classroom. It’s not safe to be carrying a hot drink around with so many small children present, and for the precious schoolwork which we have out on the tables in case of spills.
Student-led conferences are an opportunity for parents to display a positive interest in their child’s progress, accept their child’s evaluation of his/her accomplishments and provide their child with support and encouragement for his/her work at school.
Teachers will be in the room during the conferences, making themselves available for clarification if necessary. Parents are still welcome to request a meeting with the teacher following the student-led conferences if they feel there is a need.
Ridgeview staff are excited to provide student-led conferences across the grades to highlight the learning process. Please mark your calendars for the Ridgeview student-led conferences scheduled for Thursday, April 26, 2018.