This is the sixth of six articles on the assessment and reporting practice used at my school for the past 15 years This post explores student-led conferences. While things have evolved over time, and recent changes to our provincial reporting requirements are challenging the way we do things, this is a snapshot of the ideal, our grand goals, and in most cases, the practice.
At the end of each term we invite parents to meet at school with their child and teacher to review work from the past term. Students first share their portfolio of work samples with self-assessments and reflections. We encourage parents to ask questions, and students to share details about their learning experiences and current understandings. After that, they share the student-written growth statement with teacher responses and comments. To this point, the teacher is in the room, but not a necessarily a direct participant in the meeting. The purpose is for parent and child to spend time together talking about the child's learning.
When their conversation is done, teachers join the table. I usually begin by asking parents if they have any questions after having looked at the portfolio and the growth statement. We first address any of their questions or comments often redirecting questions to the child to answer, or referring to specific pieces of work in the portfolio to illustrate a point. If a student's self-evaluation and a teacher's responses in the growth statement are very different, student and teacher talk with parents about the differing opinions regarding performance and use evidence from the portfolio to back each assertion. The conference can focus primarily on goals for the upcoming term.
Right Questions to the Right People
"How come you're not meeting criteria?" says a parent to her child. "What could you do to exceed the criteria in this project?" says another. The conversation in this model is almost always about the content, the learning, the student behaviours and engagement which is what we want. These questions are far more productive than a parent asking a teacher how come Johnny got an 83 and not an 85 like his friend. Gone are the, "What does my child have to do to get more marks?"
Time to Talk
Each meeting lasts about 30 minutes most of which is parent/child time. Teachers spend as much time with the family as they need, sometimes 10 minutes, sometimes the full half hour. More than one family may be in the room at the same time but families may request a private meeting.
As the term wraps up, students, teachers, and parents hopefully come away from this process with a better understanding of the student's accomplishments, abilities as a learner, sense of self, and some clear goals for the coming term.
Other Posts in this Series
- Goal Setting
- Growth Statements
- Student Led Conferences