Standards Opinion

Preparing for In-Class Student Conferences

By Starr Sackstein — December 05, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The forms have been filled out and the appointment schedule has been emailed.

Now it’s time for me to prepare.

Multiple times a year, I meet with my students in class during extended project time to check-in about their progress.

In the “No-grades” classroom, student conversations about learning are a must. Whether formal (like this) or informal (in-class briefly), students must be getting focused feedback all the time.

As I prepare for class time being spent knee to knee, I like to review the body of student work I have for each child. If I plan on meeting with 7 children a day (2 before school starts, 1 in newspaper and then 4 during class), I like to make sure to review: their form answers, my feedback on their documents and in Pupilpath (our online communication system) and get an overview of what they said they wanted help with.

It’s tempting for a teacher to use a full 10 minutes to tell students what they’re doing wrong or what needs improvement, but that’s not what these conferences are about. This time is all about student goals and progress based on what they deemed important.

The more involvement and ownership students have in their learning, the more invested they are in seeing it through to the end. The goal and learning are motivators and we are just a support mechanism in their successful accomplishment of it.

So each conference starts with, “What do you feel you have improved upon and are doing well now?” Followed up by, “What would you like to work on now and how can I help you?”

We’ve been focusing discussion on this vocabulary since the beginning of the year and the standards are extremely transparent and a part of the classroom. Students know what they are having a hard time with and can articulate that to me so that I can help them develop a plan that can be measured and followed to keep them accountable for their own progress.

Regardless of what I see as a student’s greatest challenge, it is so important for me to let them lead so as not to overwhelm them. I’m here to offer solutions and keep the conversation on track. No stinkin’ thinkin’ or negative self-talk. Anything students want to improve, they can with practice. So I need to provide them opportunities to continue to work on the challenge.

After our 10 minutes are up, students will walk away with solid goals that will be tracked through the next few projects, and continuous check-ins and help will be provided until the training wheels can come off.

There is nothing more gratifying than seeing a student who knows they get it and can recognize their own growth and be able to articulate it to another person. Bearing witness to this feat is my greatest honor as a teacher, being able to be the mirror they need to see it themselves.

Where can you infuse more conference or feedback time that focuses on student-developed goals?

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.