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Pass the Mic: Using Student-Led Conferences to Amplify Student Voices

Updated: Dec 9, 2023


The traditional parent-teacher conference has been a valuable event in the academic calendar for many years, providing parents/guardians with insights into their child's performance, behavior, and areas for improvement. However, these conferences have largely been a one-way conversation, with teachers doing most of the talking and parents/guardians listening passively.

Student-led conferences turn this model on its head. Here, it's the students who lead the discussion. They take on the role of presenter, sharing their achievements, challenges, and goals with their parents/guardians and teachers. This shift of responsibility empowers students and gives them a platform to express themselves, fostering a sense of ownership over their education.


Why Student Voices Matter


  • Ownership of Learning: According to a study by Johnson and Smith (2019) [1], when students actively participate in these conferences, they don't just talk about grades; they own their learning. By actively participating in discussions about their academic progress and setting their own goals, students become more invested in their education.

  • Improved Communication: These conferences encourage open and honest communication between students, parents, and teachers. It's not just about sharing grades but also about discussing the student's learning experiences, strengths, and areas that may need extra attention.

  • Self-Reflection: Students learn the valuable skill of self-reflection. In The Role of Student Reflection in Academic Growth, Clark et. al (2021) highlighted their study showing that student-led conferences support and enhance  self-reflections skills.  As a result, students become more aware of their strengths and weaknesses, which can lead to improved self-confidence and a better understanding of how to overcome challenges.

  • Goal Setting: Setting and tracking goals is a fundamental life skill. Through student-led conferences, students learn how to set realistic academic and personal goals, paving the way for lifelong success.


The Student-Led Conference Process

Student-led conferences typically follow a structured process which includes several core components: sharing portfolios, engaging in self-evaluation and reflection discussions, and goal setting. When teaching students to plan and engage in leading a conference, educators can use the STARS model.



  • Say Hello: Students begin the conference by introducing all participants and the purpose of the conference time.

  • Talk About Learning:  During the conference, students present their portfolio and provide a self-evaluation to discuss what they have learned,  highlight areas where they have excelled, and identify areas for growth. 

  • Ask for Feedback: Students invite parents/guardians and teachers to ask questions about their work, achievements, and experiences. 

  • Reflections: Students reflect on the feedback they have received. 

  • Set Goals: Collaboratively students, parents/guardians and the teacher establish new goals for academic and personal growth. Discuss strategies and actions that will help students achieve these goals.

Effects Beyond the Classroom


Student-led conferences are more than just a shift in the traditional parent-teacher conference model; they represent a paradigm shift in education. By passing the mic to students, we empower them to become active participants in their learning journey, ensuring their voices are heard and valued. These conferences not only amplify student voices but also create a pathway to lifelong success built on self-awareness, self-confidence, and meaningful communication. 


Additional Resources for Implementing Student-Led Conferences


Share Your Learning. “Benefits of Student-Led Conferences.” 


Edutopia. “Student-Led Conferences: Resources for Educators.” 



References 


Johnson, A., & Smith, B. (2019). "Empowering Students in Parent-Teacher Conferences." Journal of Educational Research, 45(2), 123-136


Clark, E., et al. (2021). "The Role of Student Reflection in Academic Growth." Educational Leadership, 55(3), 209-225

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