I.J. Holton making turn to student-led conferencing

Published 11:13 am Saturday, February 10, 2018

By Angi McAndrews

I.J. Holton Intermediate School Principal

This February, I.J. Holton Intermediate School’s spring conferences will look a little different. Instead of the traditional parent-teacher conference model, where the conversation focuses on performance with little input from the student, we will be running student-led conferences, which will help to amplify the student voice, enhance family communication, and empower students to both take ownership of their progress and pave the way for greater learning.

Angi McAndrews

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We believe student involvement in discussions about academic progress is critical to their success. Often, as students transition from the elementary to middle grades, conversations about learning lighten and “how was your day” discussions tend to center on social, rather than academic, aspects of the school day.

In addition, fewer school papers come home, and parents are less involved in homework as students become more independent. It’s an easy time to let school-connectedness slip through the cracks, but even though young adolescents seek independence, they still need guidance. It is our hope that this model of conferencing will set the stage for greater dialogue about learning in the home.

We believe students should be empowered to talk deeply about their learning. It’s no secret that many parent-teacher conferences consist of “getting” information, but if parents attend conferences to talk about their child’s learning, who better to speak to that than the learners themselves? Through this model, parents will get a glimpse into their child’s life as a student by showcasing who they are as a learner, sharing what they are learning about, and articulating why the learning is important to them.

We believe students should take ownership for their performance as a learner.

By having students tell the story of their learning, we are supporting ownership of successes and hurdles in a more vulnerable way. Students will share current academic progress, but more importantly, reflect on their learning with parents. Have I tried my best? What made this learning difficult? What support can my family provide to help ensure my continued learning? What helped me succeed? How will I continue to grow as a learner?

To prepare for student-led conferences, students and teachers are investing time in collecting evidence of learning, reviewing standardized test scores and interpreting results, formally reflecting on learning, setting goals for the future, and practicing the conversation in advance of the big day! By putting students in the driver’s seat, we believe parents will walk away with a deeper understanding and appreciation for their child’s efforts as young adolescent learners.