Conferencing with Students

Conferences can play a vital role in supporting the growth and improvement of your students. The one-on-one interaction is a priceless use of time for them. In this post, we will look at conferencing and the process for successful use of this idea.

Conferencing

A conference is an opportunity for a teacher and student to discuss one-on-one the students progress in regards to the student’s academic performance. By academic performance, it can mean summative performance or formative.

Conferences can also be used for long term projects such as papers, research, or other more complex assignments.  The length of time does not have to be more than 5-10 minutes in order to provide support. The personal nature of a conference seems to work even in such a short amount of time.

Below are some steps to take when conducting a conference with a student

  1. Explain what is going well
  2. Ask the student if they see any other strengths
  3. Explain what needs to be improve
  4. Ask the student if they see any other problems
  5. Provide suggestions on how to improve weaknesses
  6. Let the student suggest ways to improve
  7. Ask the student if they have any questions

The Good

Begin by sharing what was excellent about the paper. This prepares the student for the bad news. There is almost always something to praise even from the weakest students.

You can also solicit what the student thinks is strong about their paper. This encourages critical thinking as it requires them to form an opinion and provide reasons for it. This also encourages dialog and makes conferences collaborative rather than top-down communication.

Conferences need to be evidence based. This means when something is good you have an example from the paper for the student of what good looks like. THe same applies for bad as well. Concrete examples are what people need to understand and learn.

The Bad

Next, it is time to share the problems with the paper. As the teacher, you point out where improvement is necessary. In addition, you allow the student to share where they think they can do better. Often there is awkward silence but self-reflection is critical to success.

If the student remains silent,  you may elicit a response through asking them questions about their paper that indicates a weakness. Soon the student begins to see the problems for themselves.

The Solution

With problems identified it is important to provide ways to improve. This is where the learning begins. They see what’s wrong and they learn what is right. Naturally, the student can contribute as well to how to improve.

This is also a place where the teacher asks if there are any questions. By this pointing dialoguing has gone on for awhile and questions were probably already asked and answered. However, it is still good to ask one more time in case the student was waiting for whatever reason.

Conclusion

Conferencing is time-consuming but it provides an excellent learning experience for students. It is not necessary for them to be long if there is adequate preparation and there is some sort of structure to the experience.

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