Individual student conferences provide a time for the teacher and student to touch base in a personalized, targeted fashion. While it can be difficult for teachers to make individualized time for each student, the effort is worth it. Through specific, targeted questioning, teachers can get a better sense of student understanding of any content area. They can then provide immediate, on the spot feedback for the student to apply right away. This strategy is effective in that the teacher gets a better understanding of the student's learning, and the student gets personalized feedback to help mover her learning forward.
Use formative data, benchmark data, and observation data to determine students with which you wish to confer. Examples include written pieces, unit assessments, reading inventories or exit tickets amongst others.
What is your goal for the conference? To elicit more information? To provide feedback? Both?
Come up with a list of questions you want to ask students or topics you want to discuss.
Ensure the rest of the class is engaged in an independent learning activity so that individual student can be pulled aside.
Use pre-selected data point/work sample as foundation of conference.
Ask follow up questions to better understand student thinking or
Provide actionable feedback for student to implement.
This is a great way for teachers to provide personalized feedback on student writing.
Prior to conference, read student's written piece and write comments and questions on sticky notes and stick onto the piece of writing.
During the conference, go through each sticky note with student, elaborating to provide more context or to clarify
At the end of the conference student can write down action steps based on the conference.
It is quite powerful, when possible, to address misconceptions or provide feedback on the spot.
While students work independently, circle the room, looking at student work for any students that might be heading in the wrong direction.
If a mistake/misconception is spotted, stop to work with that student independently to correct the misconception on the spot.
Just as writers need feedback on what they have written, mathematicians need regular feedback on their problem solving approach.
The power of the math conference often lies in the opportunity for a student to verbally explain his thinking to the teacher. Thus it is important to let the student first explain their thought process so that you understand the direction in which to aim your feedback.
After providing feedback on the student's misconception or problem solving approach, ask a similar question and see if the student can apply whatever skill was reviewed to this new situation.
Individual conferences are an excellent way of digging deeper into student understanding and providing meaningful feedback. Make sure to keep questioning neutral as the purpose is to elicit understanding. When offering feedback, make sure to start off with positive statements before launching into areas for improvement. Everyone likes to feel appreciated!