Colette Mc Williams

The Importance of Student Involvement in Conferences

The onset of cooler weather reminds us that Fall is in full swing, and believe it or not, Parent-Teacher Conferences on the Upper Campus are right around the corner. I love conferences – not only because it’s a time when parents and teachers come together as part of a partnership that lasts an entire year, but also because in Grades 3-5, students attend these conferences. “Student-led” conferences are very powerful for a number of reasons.

In Nature, the Triangle is the Strongest Shape

At this point in the year, the teacher and students have already developed a bond and are moving in a strong, forward direction. At Trinity, the parents are the third side, which completes our triangle. Student learning is most effective when the teacher, student, and parents are all on the same page and are working toward the same goals. It’s wonderful to see how well teachers already know and care for each student and to see parents’ support in return. In Third through Fifth Grade, one can also observe, firsthand, a student who feels supported both by their parents and by their teachers.

Student-Led Conferences

As in many areas of our lives – from visiting the pediatrician to something as simple as buying a new pair of shoes – it’s critical that our children are present so that all of the necessary information can be compellingly conveyed and a fit can be determined. Our philosophy is that when children are part of the conference process, they are more empowered to take ownership of their learning. So, just as we ask them to be responsible for their homework at home and find ways to promote their independence, so can we bolster their academic voice by making them part of the conference conversation.

Research shows that student-led conferences are an excellent way to actively engage our students in their learning process. In a study by Donald G. Hackmann, Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University, the following were listed as some of the major strengths and benefits of student-led conferences:

  • Students assume greater control of their academic progress;

  • Students accept personal responsibility for their academic performance;

  • Parents, teachers, and students engage in open and honest dialogue;

  • Parents attend conferences at increased rates;

  • Students learn the process of self-evaluation;

  • Students develop organizational and oral communication skills.

With the student in the room, it makes the conversation more interactive and centered around the student’s learning, rather than a one-way conversation where the teacher gives a report, and the parents ask the questions.  Student-led conferences open lines of communication between you and your child. Each parent should walk away with more than the standard answer to “How was school today?…OK,” answer.

With the teacher’s support, students can elaborate on their learning process, and most parents are amazed at the depth with which their child can discuss it. These conferences allow your child the chance to ask for help in a safe place, where they know there are people there to support them.

Conferences are a special time here at Trinity, and my goal for Parent-Teacher conferences on the Upper Campus is to make them a positive and impactful event for all three parts of that all-important triangle: student, parent, and teacher. Working together as one team, we’re able to grow curious, capable, kind students who are ready to meet the future, and conferences are a great place to start the conversation.

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