Student Led Conferences: Which Structure is the Best?

Partaking in Student Led Conferences is one of my favorite things. This is a time when I really see my students shine–they are proud of their accomplishments and can speak in depth about their progress, learning, and goals. The cherry on top is when they share an anecdote that even you forgot about or when you hear them expand on something you discussed in class. It always makes me realize how everything we say and do as teachers really impacts our students!

What are some different kinds of structures for Student Led Conferences?

“The “Traditional” Student Led Conference” 

What: Student selects certain pieces of of work that demonstrates mastery or growth of content area or behavioral/social progress

Why: Focus on areas of strength, growth, and share goals 

How: Student facilitates conference while teacher listens and may contribute towards end.

Time: 1 student every 15-20 minutes

“Station Conferences”

What: Student visits different stations with family member to share what and how they have been learning

Why: Focus on sharing work, goals, and participating in an activity with a family member, family education, multiple families at a time

How: Student guides parent around the classroom, teaching them about different things they’ve learned in class. but the focus is on the student. Teacher “floats” around the class.

Time: Up to 5 students every 15-30 minutes.

“Dual Conferences”

What: Student selects certain pieces of of work that demonstrates mastery or growth of content area or behavioral/social progress

Why: Provide parents with time to ask questions, while maximizing time

How: Student facilitates the conference. Since two are scheduled at a time, teacher sits in on half of each conference. *I try to redirect questions back to the student.

Time: 2 students every 20 minutes.


Which structure is the best?

Let me start by saying that one style is not better than another. I have found each of these styles to be successful in terms of student reflections  and students’ ability to showcase their work. In all instances, I saw strong family involvement. The structure that is best for you and your students really depend on how you answer the following questions. Many of the answers to the questions depend on another, so really consider your answers before scheduling sign up times or content for your students to discuss.

  • What are the goals we have for our students and their families during the conference?
  • Will our students need confidentiality to discuss the topics they’ve been asked to share?
  • What will allow our students’ families to feel like their time was valued?
  • Do I need to be present for every step of the conference?
  • How much time is available?–Do we have minimum days? Is it going to happen all on one day? Will I be able to set up for this style of conference with this time frame?
  • How much time are families accustomed to having for conferences??
  • How will information be communicated? Does our school have translators? Are our students fluent in the language of their families? (This may sound strange, but let’s keep in mind that academic language may be different from the day to day communication they have with their families)
  • Will I be able to give my students and their families the attention that they may want/need?
  • How much time will it take to prepare? (Whichever style you choose, make sure to give your students multiple opportunities to practice beforehand)
  • Will students feel valued and cared for?
Remember that the goal of these conferences is to put our students (and their learning) at the center of this practice.


Next Steps...

Once you’ve decided on what works best for you and your students, it is SO important to make sure families understand their role in the conference! One of my director’s would always remind us to consider that entering a school may be very uncomfortable for some family members depending on their own educational experiences. With that in mind, I like to share the intentions of the conference with families ahead of time and suggest questions they might consider asking during the conference so they can also contribute towards the students’ reflective process. Click the button below to download the FREE Student Led Conference Family Info Guide! It is currently in English & Spanish.

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