Parent-teacher conferences are one of the most common ways school districts foster a school-to-home connection. During a traditional parent-teacher conference, teachers share student progress and answer questions from parents on the success, or lack of success, of their child in the classroom.
Many districts are now including students in the process and even putting them in the driver's seat during the conference. Involving students in parent-teacher conferences transfers responsibility to the students to share their learning, demonstrate growth, and discuss their performances compared to expectations. Student-led conferences increase the amount of student reflection on their learning and helps them actively engage in conversations about their academic and social growth.
Kyrene Elementary School District already had success with student led conferences at the elementary school level, whether it was paper-based or done through PowerPoint presentations and web pages, but only a small percentage of students and teachers were doing this at the middle school level. This changed when the district purchased Share authoring software from Tech4Learning.
“When we got Share, I knew this is what I needed to have when I was a teacher,” explains Stephanie Leake. “There was never an easy way to capture student learning and share it without the process getting unwieldy. Share gave us a vehicle for that collection and delivery.”
Because she could explain how to create, capture, and utilize digital portfolios to support student learning, it was easy for her to help teachers see the value. “This connection to my teaching experience made it easy to get teachers on board,” shares Leake.
Implementing digital portfolios made the process of student-led conferences easier and more effective. Often discussions about student-learning during conferences are not specific and unless there is a problem, results in the vague conclusion that a particular child is doing “fine.”
“Normally students finish a unit, shove the test in their backpack, and forget,” remarks Leake. “But digital portfolios require to student to provide specific examples of their work as well as their reflections on that work.” Since using Share to capture student learning into digital portfolios, student-led conferences has grown from being used by two middle school teams to over fifteen.
At Aprende Middle School work with digital portfolios was implemented as part of the gifted education program and written into each student's Individualized Learning Plan. “Students worked with the teacher to identify personal learning goals and used their own data to reflect on their growth in their Share portfolios. Student reflections were thoughtful and specific and, as a result, students developed a greater understanding of their strengths and needs.”
Since the release of K12Share.com, a cloud-publishing option that is part of Share software maintenance, Kyrene has been working to move student-led conferences into the home. “Normally, we have conferences just two times a year,” says Stephanie Leake. “Now that students are publishing their portfolios to the cloud, they can share with parents whenever they can get online together.”
To support this school-to-home connection, the Educational Technology Specialists at Kyrene developed a form with specific questions to lead conferences in the home when students log into their K12Share.com accounts. With the availability of K12Share.com, teachers and students can easily share their learning without having to be at their school site.
Share and K12Share.com have provided Kyrene with tools to help the district better implement student-led conferences and portfolio assessment to meet their goals for stronger school-to-home connections and student-centered learning.