I’ve been doing student-led conferences for a few years now.
My students all have a blog linked from mine, and each child’s blog is an online portfolio of their learning in many subject areas. In preparation for the conference, the students choose three things from their blog that they think is their best work. I record these (just in case they forget!) and then we practice what will happen during our conference. We set the classroom up in the way it will be when we share with our parents, and a few students get to model what they will do when their parents are there.
During the actual conference, the children share their three chosen posts with their parents and talk about what they did well and what they would like to get better at. Then, we set a learning goal for the next term and talk about what things their parents, themselves and I will have to do so that they can reach that goal. The children love to choose posts with images, so that gives us an opportunity to discuss some of our learning goals outside of the more traditional reading and writing areas.
Students love being part of this process and it is interesting to see some students who are quite quiet in class confidently share (and sometimes vice versa!). Most parents are thrilled to watch their children as the centre of attention.
This year, our whole school division held student-led conferences, so the parents were asked in a note from the school office to request a separate meeting if they had a lot of questions or things that they wished to discuss. The conference time was to be about the students sharing what they had learned and discussing their goals.
Somehow this year that message did not reach everyone. Some parents still wanted to have a traditional conference and get information from the teacher, not their child. This is obviously something that we (and I in particular) have to do a better job of communicating to parents. Parents are familiar with the system that they grew up with–the parent and teacher discuss the child, who generally stays at home. I spend time modelling and making sure that the students know how to do their part, so it seems only fair that I put time and effort into making sure that the parents also know what their new role is as well.
Like all change, that will take some time.