Student-Led Conferences

Student-Led conferences seem to be the new buzz phrase in my school. We have a small group creating a proposal (though it sounds less like a proposal and more like a done deal), and their conclusion is to redesign conferences into a model where students present to their parents and a teacher. On paper it looks great, but the reality seems something altogether different.

This will be done through our culminating project groups, which are 20-25 students who are not in my classes but an extra group on top of our student-load. Last semester this took me to nearly 180 students. Currently we only meet twice a year in these CP groups because the project does not necessitate more meetings. I don’t know these kids, and if I’m forced to conduct conferences for these students, I have the following concerns:

  • I don’t know these students since I see them twice a year (maybe four times with this new model);
  • I will only be able to meet with the parents of up to 30 parents when I currently see 100-120 a year;
  • our school does not have a structure to support these conferences since hours of preparation will be needed to prepare the students (one teacher who has done these said it took two weeks to ready the kids);
  • I don’t know the other content areas I would have to discuss, and parents would expect me to answer their questions;
  • the proposal itself states that we will need to use our class time to prepare the students; and
  • the two teachers on the committee (of 6-7) both voted “no” because they recognized the time commitment and the workload burden placed on teachers.

The proposal sounds like a showcase of student work and an overview of all subjects done by one teacher. I would like to encourage parents to talk to their students and to check students’ grades, which I believe would help. Also, our problem is not that parents don’t attend conferences. We simply do not get the parents we need to see to attend. That, I believe, would be a better focus for us.

Does anyone out there currently use student-led conferences at the high school level? How do you make it work without affecting class time? Is anyone able to convince me I should support this?

1 thought on “Student-Led Conferences

  1. Jim Van Pelt

    Sorry, Doc. I’ve sat through these conferences with my elementary school children, and they suck on every level imaginable. My kids get to show me the same papers that they have been bringing home and to tell me the same stories about their progress that I get from them at the dinner table. When I go to a conference, I want to have an adult to adult conversation about my child’s progress. I do not, by the way, during this conference want the teacher to haul out the child’s state-mandated testing and go over the scores with me. I want to know how my kid is doing from the viewpoint of someone on the scene whose expertise is a valuable part of my child’s education.

    Do everything you can to resist this meaningless exercise.

    Thank goodness we finished school three weeks ago, making this conversation somewhat academic for me. I’ve golfed four out of the last five days.


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