Preparing for Student Led Conferences

As we move towards the end of the school year (scary to think how fast that’s come around!) this week our ES Team began to prepare for Student Led Conferences. This was framed by 2 questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the Student Led Conference?
  2. What opportunities does this present us

Purpose

The most obvious answer here is that the purpose of the conferences is that students share their learning with their families (small note, but I always try to be sure to say families rather than parents – its a small change but can make these events more inclusive of families who do not match the format of 2 parents + children and reduce anxiety in children who may not have a parent attending for any number of reasons). But what does sharing learning with your family look like: Is it different for different ages? Is only completed ‘work’ valuable? Is only work on paper, stored in a folder valuable? I’m going to take a guess that most readers would answer those questions yes, no and no. So, maybe we’re sharing:

  • Ways in which we might learn (examples of inquiry based learning/concept driven learning/visible thinking/ etc. )
  • What we’ve been learning (some of the things we have learned – knowledge, skills and understandings)
  • Some of the outcomes/actions which have arisen from our learning (stories written, dramas performed, art works, speeches, etc.)

This led us to our purpose. We don’t want to only share what we’ve learned. We want to share how we’ve grown, how we got there, the skills improved and understandings developed, the ways we’ve transferred knowledge and applied it.

Opportunities

We then discussed the opportunities a student led conference offers us.  Firstly there’s a huge opportunity to develop student agency.  In the Enhanced PYP agency is often seen through the lens of voice, choice and ownership.  SLC’s hit all of this beautifully. 

Voice – students are the ones discussing, describing and reflecting on their own progress as a learner

Choice – in the build up to SLCs students choose which work they want to share

Ownership – presenting your own learning journey to someone important to you is a huge change for demonstrating and developing ownership.  The teacher isn’t telling your family how well you have done.  You own this learning – you should be talking about it!

This also offers us an opportunity as a school community.  We’ve made a significant shift this year in the way we talk about learning.  Our focus in planning has changed. The design of many learning experiences has changed, or been reframed. Our assessment practices have changed. Our reporting has changed. As a group of educators we’ve been brave and leapt into backwards planning, standards based grading and mastery.  This is helping us develop rigor in our instruction and equip our students with the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to be successful life long learners capable of demonstrating agency and learning through structure, guided and free inquiry. But it is a big change.  And one area we’re working on is using making sure the language we use in schools matches our intention.  SLCs offer a great opportunity to empower students with language that places an emphasis on growth, progress and development.  It’s also an opportunity to model this for families. 

We’ve decided to have some parent reflection questions which help to do just that.  I want to see us move away from questions such as ‘Which piece of work were you most proud of?’  This implies that work (completion) is more valuable than learning and that the end result is more important that the process.  We don’t believe this as a community of educators so our language needs to change accordingly.  Here are some suggestions our teachers came up with:

Teacher created questions to support reflection by families

In summary our SLCs this year will be shaped by their purpose and the opportunities they afford us:

Purpose

  • Ways in which we might learn (examples of inquiry based learning/concept driven learning/visible thinking/ etc. )
  • What we’ve been learning (some of the things we have learned – knowledge, skills and understandings)
  • Some of the outcomes/actions which have arisen from our learning (stories written, dramas performed, art works, speeches, etc.)

Opportunities

  • Student agency in action with voice, choice and ownership in sharing their learning
  • Make the change in our thinking about learning visible in the language we use to reflect on our students progress (for children and families)

I’m excited to see our wonderful children share all that they have done and to see how our ideas can be improved on for the future.

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