Student-Led Conferences: Why, How, and What?

It is that time of the year again, Parent-Teacher Conferences (PTC) or for some, Student-Led Conferences (SLC). Which begs the question of what is a SLC? How are students supposed to lead their own conference? What am I suppose to do during that time? Why can’t I just lead the conference? These were the questions that came to mind when I did my first SLC years ago. Now, they are my favorite days of the year!

Students taking full ownership of their learning journey through demonstration and discussions with our key learning community members, parents.

Why Student-Led Conferences?

SLC’s are incredibly important for the student to take ownership of their learning. The ability to choose exactly what they are proud of and show their learning to the most important people in their lives. Having students create yearly goals and next steps for their learning and to be able to have a discussion of their “why”. Why have a goal and why is this next step important to my success? These are the discussions we had in the weeks leading up to SLCs. To help facilitate these conversations, I used a visible thinking routine, “Color, Symbol, Image” to get students thinking critically about their personal “why” of student-led conferences.

Visible Thinking Routine “Color, Symbol, Image”

What do I do now?

A Student-led conference allows me to see more parents than I would in a traditional one on one parent-teacher conference. This is for the students, to celebrate their learning and to plan for their personal next steps to continue improving. Together we started planning with the question, “What learning, do you want to show your parents?” In groups, we came up with several centers that we had done in class with various tasks and prompts that they could reference if they inevitably got stuck during the big day. We determined the reasoning behind each center and practiced rotating on our own following our center sheet.

Student Led Musical Centers

For me, the most important thing during a student-led conference is for the students to leave feeling successful and proud of their learning. This is why we worked together in developing activities that showcased their learning in a way that was meaningful to them. Each grade level had different centers based on difficulty level and each center could be scaffold to the student’s desire. They could make it as hard as they wished or as easy, it is up to them as agentic learners. We chose various rhythm activities and instrumental accompaniment to highlight the music element of rhythm. Below are several activities that were selected to present their learning in a structured inquiry lens. Parents were able to get involved in the learning and many of them did by default wanting to try what their child was discussing.

Feedback! How did it go?

This year I tried something new and asked parents and students to share what they were most proud of with each other through a chalk talk activity. Both members of the learning community, students and parents, were proud for various reasons including not giving up, trying something new, and presenting confidently. This created a dialogue between students and parents about what they were specifically proud of instead of just “Good Job”.

As I am looking to improve our next SLC, I created a Google Form and asked parents to sit with their child and determine what they enjoyed showing them today and what they would like to show their parents next time. The feedback was rather insightful of what the parent would also like to see and what else the student would like to show them next time.

Student-Led Conferences allow our students to show their learning and to be proud of their learning in a way that works for them. It gives them the freedom to express their learning in a way that is important to them. As well as to discuss their hopes and dreams for the future of their learning journey. With agency leading the charge in education, I see SLC as a way to help support agency amongst our students in developing global leaders.

What do you think? How has your experience with SLCs been? What do you recommend? Keep sharing your learning!


CREDITS: The ad was taken from the presentation template created by Slidesgo, including icons by Flaticon, and infographics & images by Freepik.

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2 thoughts on “Student-Led Conferences: Why, How, and What?”

  1. Levi, I love seeing a teacher clearly spell out why Student Lead Conferences are the most successful kind of parent-teacher-student meetings. My experience w/ SLC’s was nothing but positive as a mom with a child on spectrum with an IEP. He was in about 5th grade when they implemented it, and it changed things dramatically. He was able to hear teacher recall all the great things he did, hear me talk about how great he is at home, my goals for him. After all the positives, any suggestions for improvement were taken seriously, less defensively, and he was also able to admit his weaknesses, as it was a team decision to try harder on SDI’s and he knew only he had the power to reach them. I don’t think SLC’s were available for “neurotypical” Ss, and that’s a shame, because so many accommodations given to kids with IEP’s would work brilliantly for NT kids, and give them a chance to succeed even more. I really, really liked this article and will be reposting a few times. This idea works and needs attention and implementation in every school. Be well. Peace, Annie Lynn

    1. Hey Annie,
      I am so glad you enjoyed the article. I will admit, when I first start SLCs I was very nervous and reserved in trying and I am so glad I did. The level of feedback and support from all stakeholders during SLCs really is dedicated to the process and not the product of learning. For our parents, to step foot into their child’s learning and get on their level, does a lot in promoting agency and their ownership of their learning.
      Thank you for your support!

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