A new approach to learning conferences

In the spirit of this growth mindset focus in Grade 7, my core team and I shifted around how we approached the Fall learning conferences.

The students would generally come to these conferences and they would share their insights and highlights from the last two months of school, but this time things really felt different. I noticed that typically students were somewhat awkward in these meetings: they didn’t always know what to say, they had a hard time navigating the dynamic between the two groups of adults in their life, and sometimes it seemed hard for them to hear the positive and constructive feedback offered.

Does this student look like one of your children? (Used under the creative commons license)

This year, we asked the students to chose 2-3 artifacts from the last 2 months of school (we primed them with some key suggestions) that either show a GROWTH, a CHALLENGE, or a SUCCESS. We had students write about these artifacts on a Google Doc we created for them ahead of time and then during the conference, we opened up the document and shared their chosen pieces with their family.

As a teacher, I peppered their conversation with my own observations, or background of the project, and other important information to help the parents understand who their student is at this snapshot in time.

With the student in the driving seat, this round of conferences felt so refreshing and interesting. The girls did most of the talking and they got to tell the story they wanted to share about themselves as a learner (with input from me as well…but the beautiful thing was that they all said what I would have said anyway. At times, I actually had to qualify that what the child was struggling with was “age appropriate” and something that is very normal for being in Grade 7). Parents were able to see their child as a powerful protagonist in their own education and students had a clearer sense of what they needed to work on because they¬† articulated it for themselves, rather than being told by someone else.

How conferences COULD look! (Also used under the creative commons license).

This artifact approach is something that is going to feed into our portfolios project for the year. My next mission is to try and decide how to document the learning. The options seem to be either Blogger, Sesame HQ, or Weebly. Any feedback or suggestions on any of these three platforms?

 

About the Author
Passionate and curious about technology, smiles, special education, differentiated instruction, forests, graphic novels, accessibility, anti-oppression, and warm beverages. Can often be found laughing with young people and improvising songs on the spot. @teach_tomorrow

7 comments on A new approach to learning conferences

  1. Celeste,

    I have been piloting Sesame HQ in our Junior School. Happy to show you and talk through its pro/cons for what you are after.

    J

    1. I too am looking at Sesame, and would love to hear more from Justin on his approach to using it. Also, we are reexamining how we manage portfolios from the student end, so that it is a creative process, and not just a mad scramble to pile things together to show off. It’s about the process as much as it is about the portfolio.

      Thanks, as always,
      garth.

      1. Yes. I think the idea of using a portfolio as a “curated” (ha!) and living form of documentation is really exciting. I’ve been the teacher throwing together the portfolio to impress parents at the end of the year and it just doesn’t ignite the students (or parents or teachers) at all.

    2. Justin, I’ve done some preliminary research on Sesame and I’m just about to do another post weighing the pros and cons of each option. I think Sesame could be a great option for another year (oops…spoiler alert). I would love to see how a teacher is actually using it in action before I bite the bullet.

  2. Amanda Lupo says:

    Celeste,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences of student-led conferences. I hold student-led conferences for my Grade 6’s in the spring. I am going to take some of your ideas and try to apply them for this year.

    Have you heard of VoiceThread? Our school uses VoiceThread to create online reading portfolios. This may be something to consider when documenting their learning throughout a unit.

  3. I love this, what a great way to encourage students to celebrate their learning and successes through a well structured conference. I know as a parent, that I would appreciate this type of conference and the chance to see my child in this light.

    Great post,
    Tim

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