That time of year comes again for students and teachers to prepare themselves for Student-Led Conferences. In my experience, these types of conferences although may be organized differently in International Schools their one common thread these type of conferences have is that they empower the students to share their learning; their strengths, their achievements and their goals.
However, having been a teacher and been involved with helping students to organize conferences, one thing kept occurring, no matter how much preparation time we gave the students, no matter how many systems we had in the school or class for students to easily access portfolios and their goal setting, no matter how much we encouraged the conferences to be in the child’s mother tongue; some students just froze when it came to sharing their learning with their parent or caregiver.
As a grade 5 teacher at the time, I gave this considerable thought and wondered how could we empower all of our students to share their learning confidently to their parents and to avoid any student ‘freezing’. So, I had the idea of students being given the opportunity to share to adults before they share to their parents. One morning, I invited all the single subject teachers, support teachers and teacher assistants to conference with the students in Grade 5, about their digital portfolios; each student had 30 minutes with one teacher. This simple act of sharing was quite powerful; it had many knock on affects that I hadn’t even considered.
One observation I noted was that this system helped to develop the relationship between some teachers and individual students, teacher were taking the time to get to really know their students; another observation was how some of the students, in the 30 minutes had educated the teacher assistants about digital portfolios and shared some Apps and tools that were used; some single subject teachers had never seen some of the students’ process of written work and so learnt another side about certain students.
Each teacher-student conference was recorded and some of the grade 5 students decided to open their ‘parent-student’ conference with the video, to set the tone, build their confidence and to give them thinking time before they shared with their parent.
Now as Head of Elementary, the sharing of portfolios with teachers is annually used in Grade 5. Currently, in our school students from other grades have an opportunity to share their learning with their peers but the next step is to launch this system in the younger grades and to see if it has a similar valued effect.