Student-Led Conferences

Student-Led Conferences

"The work of the adolescent during the period of valorization will shift the plea of the child from “Help me to do it myself” to the plea of “Help me to think for myself.”  ~ Dr. Maria Montessori

Imagine you are a seventh grade student at Quest...

You have had a busy fall adjusting to the new routines and expectations of Middle School, and you have worked hard during the first units of study. You have stretched yourself in many ways. Some work has been successful beyond your expectations while other endeavors are ongoing. You have had discussions with your parents about how the first term is going, and you have received feedback and had conversations with teachers about your work. It is now a Friday in mid-October...

Scenario One: You have the day off from school, and your parents have scheduled a meeting to confer with your teachers about your progress so far this year. You may have a sense of what will be discussed, but it is a conversation between the adults, so you decide to make the most of the free day. 

Scenario Two: You have spent time over the past two weeks preparing for your student-led conference. You have chosen work samples and written reflections that emphasize how your skills and abilities have developed. You have also reflected on your positive role in the classroom and how you might choose to contribute more to this community in the coming months. Finally, you set a goal for yourself that requires you to step into courage, or to “be brave, not perfect.”

In the Montessori environment, independence and agency are fostered from the first days in Toddler and built upon in developmentally appropriate ways throughout successive years. In Middle School, an important part of taking ownership of one’s own learning is the student-led conference. In this model, the student presents work and guides discussion. Everyone at the conference table has a voice, but the students have determined for themselves what direction that discussion will take and therefore have ownership in assessing progress and determining objectives for future work. The parents’ role is to give their child time and space to own the process at the beginning of the conference and then to enter the conversation with comments and questions about strengths, growth, and goals. Teachers assist in facilitating the process, especially in preparing for conferences as work samples are chosen and reflections are written.

Student-Led Conferences

Over the past few weeks, Middle School students prepared for fall conferences by choosing two work samples that they were proud of and another that was challenging. Of course, there was often overlap in these categories; the examples they were proud of were often those where a challenge had been overcome. Students also reflected on their social-emotional growth through the lens of their role in creating a healthy classroom community. Finally, they each set a goal, academic, personal or extra-curricular, to work towards in the coming weeks and months. These were expressed as “I will” statements.

Middle School students often find it challenging to lead these conferences, especially if it is their first time doing so. Adolescents are hyper-aware of the roles played by people in different spheres of their lives. For those students not used to their parents and teachers interacting, the conference dynamic can feel somewhat uncomfortable. We recognize this and support students as needed in preparing and conducting the conferences. For students it is worth the investment of time and effort; there are many benefits to a student-led conference model. Emphasis on a growth mindset, being empowered to direct their own learning, and staying actively involved in the learning process are key among them. As adolescents analyze themselves as learners, they set goals and develop strategies for further progress. These skills will be useful in many ways as students move from high school into college and beyond. Dr. Montessori recognized that valorization, or the building of inner strength and self-confidence, is the work of the adolescent. Moving to a student-led conference is one way that valorization is undertaken in the Middle School Program at Quest.