Recently, we successfully held our first student-led parent conferences. In his book, Leaders of Their Own Learning, Ron Berger says, “Student-engaged assessment changes the primary role of assessment from evaluating students to motivating them to learn. It builds the independence, critical thinking skills, perseverance, and self-reflective understanding students need for college and careers.”
If this is what we believe (and we do), then it seems only natural that students should be in charge of parent conferences. Traditional conferences involve parents and teachers talking about student progress without the student present. However, if the students are in charge of their own learning, doesn’t it make sense for students to lead parent conferences with the teacher as an observer to the process?
This was hard for me to understand as a “seasoned” teacher who had only experienced traditional conferences. Didn’t parents want to hear from ME how their children were progressing? Isn’t that what parents expected? Yes, they did… but only because they hadn’t experienced anything else. I could see the looks on their faces change from confusion to pride as they listened to and interacted with their children. For me, the understanding changed as I helped my students prepare for their conferences.
Students prepared for their conferences by choosing examples of their work to share. Their focus was on sharing the learning process to their parents, not just a finished product. In conferences, students shared their pieces with their parents and explained their successes and challenges of the learning process. They were able to articulate what part was challenging and how it helped them to grow. Students also shared their goals, hopes, and dreams for the remainder of the school year, including how they were working on our habits of character (responsibility, perseverance, cooperation, compassion, curiosity and creativity.)
Students, parents, and teachers were filled with pride. We saw many extra smiles throughout our building that week and there was a strong sense of accomplishment. THIS is how students become leaders of their own learning and leaders of their world.