A staple of any PYP school is the student-led conference. And although there are many different approaches to planning for student-led conferences, generally all iterations of SLCs have some element of student voice, choice and owership.
However that spectrum of voice, choice and ownership can vary greatly school to school, class to class.
This year our team decided to turn a critical eye towards SLCs to see where we as teachers tend to hold onto control over the process and the content, in order to then be able to transfer that control to where it should be… in the hands of the students.
Instead of giving students our why for SLCs we supported them to come up with their own personalized why.
Once they were aware of their own why, they were able to communicate to their parents what they wanted from them during their time together.
So often, the “what” of SLCs is pseudo-chosen by the teacher. “You must show something form math, literacy, UOI, art, music, PE etc…” So the student is technically able to choose what they show, but decisions about what-what is already made for them. This approach also often places learning into subject-specific confines, keeping that silo-mentality alive and well in the institution of school.
We decided that we wanted to move away from both of those typical pitfals of planning for SLCs. So instead, we put the decision of “what” entirely in the hands of the students and instead of guiding them to choose the what based on subject, we guided them to choose the “what” based on what they wanted to share about themselves as learners.
We also decided to leave the number of “whats” up to them. So we purposefully did not make the template with a certain number of boxes or bullets, but rather let them drive the decision making based on whatever worked best for them.
During their planning, we supported them to think about themselves as learners in different ways – using the IB Learner profile, PYP attitudes, ATL skills and a variety of sentence starters.
Once students knew what they wanted to share about themselves as learners with their parents, we supported them in planning how they could best share that.
We encouraged them to think about places, people, artifacts and resources that could help them express what they were trying to say about themselves as learners.
Students really took ownership over this part of the planning and began to use their own systems of numbering, colour coding and organizing to help themselves feel most prepared.
The day before the conference students decided where they would be most comfortable conferencing with their parents and set-up their own conference location.
Overall, it was a very successful process. Students truly “led” the conference. Not just the conversation the day of the conference, but all the thinking, planning and decision making that happened in preparation before hand.
How you ensure students are in control of planning for SLCs?
How do you “up the agency” in Student-Led Conferences in your class?
I like the idea of having students think about why they are sharing with their parents during the SLC. I also like that they give their parents “direction” on what they most want from them. I am going to implement that for sure with my SLCs this year.
The idea of implementing more authentic portfolios has been sticking with me all year since arriving at my school. Thank you for sharing this scheme.
We even went as far as eliciting math and language goals from students at the beginning of the year. It was not authentic and of course not carried through, without forcing it.
The challenge with agency at our school is that we have parents who want to just see their math and language levels and may not see much value in this type of portfolio (unfortunately).
I am wondering how you work through this challenge?
Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful article Taryn!
Perfect timing since we are preparing for our SLC too! 🙂
Loved your post so much and I owe you a huge thanks for changing how I do SLCs. I wrote about it on my blog https://www.tacklingtomorrow.com/student-agency-in-student-led-conferences/
Two other teachers jumped on it immediately, so maybe next year a few more will take the step towards greater student agency.
Thanks for all the ideas, and for sharing!
(PS. My blog is being updated, so the posts are there, but the design is all over the place!)
I love this idea!
I’m currently trying it with my Grade 1 class. They found the links to Attitudes quite tricky but, with a little support, they were able to identify ways to “show” they are curious, creative, committed etc.
It was hard to not jump in when they didn’t choose sharing reading or math, but I have to respect their choices and make it a really authentic sharing experience. Perhaps my mind will change on this once they are over.
Now I’m thinking about how to run a reflection session after the SLCs are finished. Did anyone else do this? I’m thinking of using their SeeSaw accounts to make reflection videos about
1) What worked well and why?
2) What didn’t work well and why?
3) What would you change for next time?
I’m open to any other reflection ideas though.
Hello! This is a fabulous blog post and would love to use this model for our upcoming conferences. I really like the ATL Skills poster and would like to start using it with my class. Would you be able to share a copy with me?