Our students just finished a second round of Student Led Conferences (SLC) this school year (one in Semester 1 and another in Semester 2).
SLCs are a formal opportunity for students to present to their parents about the state of their learning. The students’ advisor (a teacher responsible for a specific group of students during the school year) serves as a facilitator to prompt and guide the students if needed, but is a silent presence as the students share their learning with their parents. SLCs are not a time to talk about grades, student behavior, but about learning habits, process, improvements and goals.
Although there was emphasis placed on an ongoing documentation of each subject area as learning and reflection happened throughout the school year, a significant amount of time was dedicated to prepare for the SLCs
Preparation for Student Led Conferences
Each subject area had to be represented with at least one blog post. Each SLC blog post was to contain a title, an artifact, a reflection and be properly labeled.
Using the documentation posted to their blogfolios (process and showcase items), they select posts and artifacts that best demonstrated improvement or mastery of a learning target. Students connected their learning to specific school identified Core Values.
The slides below were shared with students to guide them through the process of preparing for the SLC. (Thank you Claire Arcenas for written directions as well as Visible Thinking Routines)
Student Led Conference
Students and parents gathered with the advisor for up to 30 minutes in a classroom setting. The student’s blog site was projected to the screen and students used the artifacts as a trigger to talk about their learning. They spoke about their challenges, successes and areas of growth in relationship to the Core Values. Parents were encouraged to ask clarifying questions at any time. To wrap the SLC up, students spoke about the learning that occurred by going though the process of preparing for the conference and their learning goals for the last quarter.
Notes and Reflections
There was a loud rumbling noise among students in the days that lead up to the SLC.
Comments such as the ones below were expressed by many:
- “We are tired of writing reflections”
- “I am sick of having to write a blog post in EVERY SINGLE CLASS!”
- ”Why do I have to do this?”
- “I am writing what my teachers want to hear, but not really what I think.”
I seriously started to doubt the approach to support Blogging Beyond One Classroom. Was it inevitable, if students were expected to “learn, reflect, share”for all their classes (from Math, Humanities, Science to Orchestra to Physical Education), that they were going to burn out? Could the “exponential explosion” of reflective blog posts clumped together in the immediate days before the SLC be blamed for it?
Was “too much of a good thing”…. well simply too much?
- Did we need to be more selective with WHAT types of reflections we asked students to make their learning visible? (Not every assignment, project or activity needs to be documented and reflected on?)
- Did we need to adjust our language to not bunch everything under an umbrella of “Please write a reflection on your blog”.
- I am reminded that “It’s one thing for us as teachers to articulate the kinds of thinking we are seeking to promote; it is another for students to develop a greater awareness of the significant role that thinking plays in cultivating their own understanding.” ( Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhard, Mark Curch and Karen Morrison). Do we need to double our efforts in helping students develop that awareness and continue to give them the why behind maintaining a blog (learning, reflecting and sharing as part of an overall process)?
- Did we need to change/alter/modify the routine of adding the reflection as a separate piece, tagged on the end of a assignment, project or activity?
Despite the fact that students openly did not seem to “enjoy” the process of blogging and reflecting as it was happening in the days before the SLC (among my advisory students), it was unanimous (again informal survey from among my advisory students) that the process of reflecting, thinking about one’s learning and going back to re-read/watch/look at previous posts and artifacts to identify areas of growth HAS helped and they are glad to have gone through the process. Students also recognized and articulated in their SLC specific learning opportunities and teaching methods from many of their classes that inspired and supported them in their learning process.
SLCs are an opportunity for:
- Authentic opportunity to showcase skills in information literacy (organizing, categorizing and archiving of information created and published)
- Building blocks of a positive digital footprint (How do we support and guide our students to positive online publishing? What does it mean to be “googlable?” How do we not only build, but also maintain a positive digital footprint?)
- Digital citizen issues come to surface (What is shared? Why should we share? Observance of copyright. How do we keep ourselves safe? )
- Evidence of using technology to demonstrate learning (Technology is not only about Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or video games. “Digital natives might be wizards in using technology in other domains, but need guidance for using it for learning)
- Resource or non-academic subjects are given time in conference and equally contribute to the students’ learning profile
- Advisors have a chance to step outside of their own classrooms and learn about their colleagues’ work
As compared to first semester’s SLC:
- Overall blog quality has improved (communication through a variety of media forms, logistics of inserting & embedding different media, beginning of hyperlinked writing, advantages of writing in digital spaces became evident)
- As blogfolios are continued being maintained, it is possible to track learning over time
- The connections to the Core Values seemed much more natural and not an add-on
- Student (oral and visual) presentation skills were practiced in a supportive environment
- Students and parents focused less on academic grades and more on learning habits and process
- SLC served and supported parent education in terms of modern skills, literacies and learning pedagogies
Juan Carlos‘ Blog:
“I used to think my learning was accomplished by simple things such as paying attention , doing my work and taking it seriously but now I know that learning has more than those things , you need to be reflective , critical thinker and also a communicator. You need to apply all the core values to able to learn in an effective way.”
“In which of the core values did you show the most progress or growth? What makes you say that?
I am getting better at communication. I am learning more Portuguese and improving with my blog and other technologies. This is very important in terms of communication. Balanced says that you can communicate in multiple languages. Improving in Portuguese means that I can communicate more to people who do not speak English. Also, I am getting better at using my blog which is another form of communication. People can come on and see my work and how I use my Blog.”
“I used to think my learning was mostly about critical thinking, but now I think my learning is more about being reflective. Sometimes you cannot really grasp what you have learned unless you reflect on what you have done. This is an important part of learning and changing your learning habits and becoming better at something. If you just do something once and then never again, you don’t really learn anything . Reflection makes you rethink again and understand better. “
Where do we go from here? My hope is to continue:
- supporting blogs as a global communication hub. A hub to receive feedback from an audience beyond one teacher (Learning About Blogs FOR your Students- Part IV: Connecting )
- helping students build a Personal Learning Network
- strengthening the blog as a platform for learning documentation and student reflection ( Making Blogging Visible )
- becoming a culture of making thinking and learning visible (embed visible thinking routines in an organic way, not as an add-on)
- showcasing blogfolios as a valuable source to help teachers assess for learning as well as support their efforts in differentiating their students’ learning (Assessment in the Modern Classroom: Part Three- Blog Writing )
- expanding the use of the blogfolios to include “out of school learning”
- embedding presentation skills to support the use of visuals to “tell the story of learning” (Embedding Visuals Into Teaching and Learning)
- paying close attention and coaching teachers and students in hyperlinked writing (Wondering about Hyperlinked Writing, Hyperlinked Writing in the Classroom- From Theory to Practice, Anatomy, Grammar, Syntax & Taxonomy of a Hyperlink )
Where are you in your journey of student digital portfolios/blogfolios? How do you prepare, run and learn from Student Led Conferences? Contribute to the exchange of ideas, thoughts, experiences, doubts, failures and successes? We are all pioneers. No one has done this for years and is an expert. We are all learning along the way. Let’s help each other. Leave a comment or connect on Twitter, but don’t keep your observations and perspectives on the topic to yourself.