School leaders and faculties generally agree that effectively capturing and listening to students’ “voices” in our schools is vital to improving school and learning outcomes. The “how” of achieving this goal is often the sticking point.
Implementing a system of student-led conferences makes students accountable for their work and teaches them the valuable skills of self-evaluation, reflection, and goal-setting. In addition, the process provides them with valuable opportunities to improve their organization, communication, and leadership skills. The following article can be used to provide school faculties with an overview of the value and procedures of this practice, and provide them with the necessary steps to ready themselves, students, and parents for implementation.
Reading: “Letting Students Take the Lead,” Principal Leadership, October 2005, pp. 33–36.
- When participants have finished reading the article, facilitate a conversation (in subject area or grade-level groups) using the following prompts:
- What do you see as the possible benefits for our school in implementing student-led conferences?
- What challenges should we anticipate?
- Are there any parts of the described process that any of us are already using and that could be used as a foundation or as a beginning model?
- If you decide that the process is one you would like to begin to plan for, you can use the planning prompts (adapted from Di Martino, High Schools at Work) and the planning tools that follow. Remember, these tools can be modified to suit individual school needs.
- Clarify your purpose:
- What is your purpose for developing student-led conferences?
- What strategies will you use to motivate students to take responsibility for reflecting on and setting goals for their own learning?
- How can student-led conferences foster stronger partnerships with parents?
- Prepare teachers and students:
- What will be the format of the conferences? What will students present? Will they have a script or order of presentation? Can someone create a sample template for students to use to organize their reflections (i.e., strengths, weaknesses, goals for improvement)?
- Who will help them choose examples of their work and self-reflections of that work, and provide some guided practice in how to present these artifacts in a conference setting?
- Organize the work:
- Who will take the lead on coordinating and communicating about this program to teachers, parents, and others?n Who will be in charge of scheduling and logistics?
- Who will handle details such as invitations, refreshments, room set up, and compilation of student materials? Can students take responsibility for some of these tasks?
- How can you collect data to determine the effectiveness of student-led conferences on parent participation?
- How can you collect data to determine the effectiveness of student-led conferences on students’ motivation for learning?
- Clarify your purpose:
Kinney, P. “Letting Students Take the Lead,” Principal Leadership, October 2005.
Martino, J. (2006). High Schools at Work. West Warwick, RI: The Center for Secondary School Redesign, 2006.