Gateway Middle School students recently participated in student-led conferences, a practice that puts students in charge of their parent-teacher conferences and creates opportunities for reflection, engagement, and agency.
In student-led conferences at Gateway, students lead their conferences, explaining to their families their work from school, what kind of challenges they have faced and how they overcame them, and their academic and learning goals in the near future.
Research shows that students assume greater control of their academic progress, accept personal responsibility for their academic performance, learn the process of self-evaluation, and develop organization and oral communication skills through student-led conferences. These conferences also allow parents, teachers, and students to engage in an open and honest dialogue about a student’s achievements and areas to grow.
Student-led conferences involve coordination across disciplines and need to be a school-wide focus to be implemented successfully. In preparation for student-led conferences, students assemble a portfolio of their work that includes reflections on their work in all their different subject areas, a reflection on their contributions to their school community, and write a letter to their family introducing them to their conference and portfolio. Finally, students practice their oral presentation.
“Student-Led Conferences are a centerpiece of student agency,” says Suzanne Herko, Gateway Middle School Teacher and Student Agency Coordinator. “As students prepare, they get the opportunity to think about what they have learned, what they are proud of, and how they are still growing in all of their classes. The entire process centers on how they are the ones in control of their learning.”
Students also feel both this responsibility and opportunity. “I usually don’t like presenting in front of people because I’m afraid of what people will think of me, but with student led conferences I was excited to present my accomplishments to my mom,” says Zada Colas, 7th grade Gateway Middle School student. “I know she loves me, is proud of me, and likes hearing about how much I’ve grown directly from me.”
Gateway Impact is an initiative of Gateway Public Schools aimed at improving educational outcomes of young people through sharing our best practices. The online platform launched in October 2018 and provides several resources and tools for schools and educators interested in implementing Student-Led Conferences.