How can we create a culture in which students take ownership of their learning in partnership with their families?
Students at Katherine Smith participated in a new conference format this year. Student-led conferences were a natural progression with the implementation of learning targets.
Each grade level decided how this new format was going to look, but all conferences had a common theme. The student was at the center and was responsible for sharing his progress towards his learning targets with his family.
Students began collecting evidence that they would share with their families at conference time. Our portfolios contained data graphs, writing samples and even self-reflection and goal setting sheets.
As conference week came closer, the students began to prepare by practicing in class. We used a fishbowl protocol to observe what it might look and sound like and then practiced with each other and received more feedback.
When conferences began, students were nervous about their new role yet at the same time they were excited about the opportunity to share their learning with their families. The following are some comments about the experience from the students:
- I felt nervous. Once I got to do it, I felt happy because it was fun telling my parents about what I was doing in class–Kassandra
- My favorite part was doing the math. My dad told me that I should learn equations to do math and I showed him I could do it—Ashley
- I thought conferences were great because it’s not just teachers and moms, but KIDS and teachers and moms. Then I can tell my mom how I’m doing in school.—Elijah
- When we were coming, I didn’t want to do it. I was shy. But then when it was done, I was happy because it was fun and I was telling my mom what I was doing in class.—Kimberly
- At first I was nervous. Then it felt fun because I like to show my mom what I was learning in class. My mom said I did good.—Yahir
- I told my mom my math learning target was my favorite part. I liked the way how we did our new conference.—Geselle
- I liked when I did my conference for my mom in Spanish. She felt happy.—Angel
Student-led conferences provided both students and families with a sense of pride and shared ownership of the learning process. Families were proud to see their child present their work and had a deeper understanding of how to support their learning and growth. One parent’s reflection of the process noted that, “c and her excitement in explaining and showing me how she is learning. I like this idea of student-led conferences. It’s a closer bond between student/child and parent.”
I couldn’t agree more.