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Student-led conferences provide numerous benefits

October 19, 2000

Student-led conferences provide numerous benefits



In some cases, students lead the conferences.

Teacher Kendra Trail uses the student-led format in her Hancock Elementary School fifth-grade class.

She became acquainted with the process while teaching at Pangborn Elementary School in Hagerstown a few years ago.

Pangborn Principal Barbara Stouffer likes the student-led conferences. She believes the process helps give students ownership of their learning. Grades are not something the teacher gives. Grades are earned and become students' responsibility, Stouffer said.

From the beginning of the school year, students set specific and realistic goals for themselves, for example, getting a "B" in math or reading. They figure out how they will achieve those goals: always do homework, study more for tests, check work, reread to make sure they understand; get help if they don't understand.

Trail's students keep samples of their work in their "Me" folders. They share them with their parents during the conference.

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"Everybody's a party to the process," Stouffer said. It removes interpretation problems, she believes.

There are benefits beyond the progress report. Students' communication and organizational skills are improved, Trail said. Students have to be honest with themselves, Stouffer believes. The information is right there; they can't "fudge it," she said.

Barbara Beaver is looking forward to the conference that will be led by her son, Steven, a student in Trail's class. She experienced the student-led conference when her daughter, Dana, was a fifth-grader.

"It made me feel better that Dana understood her grades," Beaver said.

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