Student-led Conferences Focus On Learning

More than 450 students and their parents recently participated in Mt. Olive Middle School’s first-ever student-led conferences. The end of the year event

was an opportunity for parents to see how much their children have learned

since September.

The students created portfolios of work done over the school year and reviewed

the material with their parents during the conferences, which generally lasted

about 20 minutes. The portfolios included items such as science labs, essays and

math homework.

While traditional parent-teacher conferences generally focus on performance

and assessment, student-led conferences focus on learning.

Parents had a chance to see what their children had learned

over the past 10 months of the school year and see actual progress.

“Usually my mom sees my grades but doesn’t know what I actually learned,”

said eighth-grader Alex Bartell. “We [the eighth-graders] also reflected on what

we actually learned so it was good for us too.”

Each grade level and subject area handled the compilation of the portfolios in a

different way. In eighth-grade social studies, for example, students were asked

to identify which concepts and topics learned over the year they felt were the

most significant to the world today as well as to themselves.

“We chose this approach so that students could individualize their portfolios and

because it would allow them the opportunity to really reflect on how the past

impacts the present,” said social studies teacher Matt Hansen. “It also got the

students thinking about how events around the world impact us, both of which

were primary focuses of our course this past year.”

Reflection and self-analysis is one of the key ideas of student-led conferences.

The process, especially when done at the culmination of the school year, inspires

students to think about the importance of what they’ve learned and how they’ve

grown intellectually.

Students see how one piece of learning provided the foundation for the one afterit, everything building to what they know now. And they are able to identify

their strengths, weaknesses, and progress – and articulate them.

The feedback forms that parents completed were overwhelming positive about

the entire experience.

“The teachers and team leaders did an amazing job and created these wonderful

results,” said teacher Karen LaValley, who coordinated the conferences. “Each

person was an important piece of the puzzle and helped the conferences be so

successful.”

All students completed portfolios. For the parents who were not able to attend

the conferences, the portfolios were sent home so they could review the work

with their kids.

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