Change is hard!
And changing a school procedure that has been the same forever is even harder! Leland and Gray Middle School teachers started planning a transformation this past summer. Their goal? To increase student engagement through student-led conferences.
Start with identity.
Middle school students began the year by focusing on identity. Educators charged them with answering the question, “Who am I?” Specifically: who am I as a learner, a family member, a community member, and a citizen?
Identify strengths and challenges
And learning more about themselves helped students think about their areas of strength and areas for growth. While the original plan was to have students write goals in advance of student-led conferences, time ran short. Instead, students asked their parents for feedback on their strengths and challenges and used then that feedback when formulating their goals.
Communicate the change
And change is especially unwelcome if you aren’t expecting it! It’s crucial to communicate the change in plans to parents and community members. Leland and Gray middle school teachers sent out a letter to let parents and guardians know that conferences would look and feel different.
Prepare and practice!
The first round of student-led conferences can be scary, for both students and teachers. Scaffolding the process can help. Students used a script to prepare for the conversation.
And they practiced, a ton, in pairs. So when the big night arrived, students explained their learning to their parents with ease. (Because they had practiced explaining it to their peers!)
Ask for feedback
Parents AND students were asked for feedback on the new format. How will you know what went well and what might be improved if you don’t ask? Leland and Gray middle school teachers know that this process will grow and improve over time, and they plan to use this feedback to revise the student-led conference process.
Student-led conferences received amazingly positive feedback from parents.
I liked that my child is engaged in his progress and aware of it. Loved seeing him voice his strengths — good confidence builder!
It involved the student to the point of accountability. My child was not able ot “zone out” from the meeting, and claim ignorance on subjects.
This format forced [student name] to think, process, and articulate who and where he is academically and personally.
Participation in conferences was higher than it had been in recent years. And students took ownership of their learning!