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.
Conferencing individually with students during distance learning is just as important as conferencing with students in a traditional classroom setting. This strategy supports you to engage in effective conferences with students using video and technology during distance learning.
Just as in a traditional classroom setting, both the teacher and student should be aware of the purpose and goal of the conference, and come to the synchronous conference with prepared materials (e.g., student work to look at together) and/or data to review together.
Consider having both teachers and students set a specific goal for the conference and share that goal via a Google Doc or email in advance of the meeting. Consult BetterLesson's Goal Setting and Reflection strategy below to learn more about ways to set goals with students.
Teachers and students should know how to access student data or materials in advance of the meeting. These resources can be provided via the LMS that the school is using, GoogleClassroom, or simply via Google Docs
Make sure that only the teacher and student have access to the materials for privacy purposes.
Teachers can use a video conferencing tool such as zoom or Google Meet to have conferences with individual students or can schedule a phone call with students who do not have access to video conferencing tools
Make sure to schedule a conference time with students in advance and send the student an invitation to the conference, making sure the student knows how to join the video conference. You can have students select a time to meet with you by using a tool like Calendly (see below).
The preparation steps and resources to support planning for asynchronous student conferences are the same as when meeting synchronously. The main difference is the need to connect on a different schedule and not live. The following apps and processes can help with this:
A Google Doc that we complete asynchronously, tagging each other via comment to let the other one know that a new comment has been added (see tutorial below)
An email or a LMS private chat conversation
A one to one Flipgrid created for and shared only with the student in question
A group text and/or Voxer thread with back and forth questions and comments
A phone call or text exchange with students
Consider using a template such as the one below, in which both teacher and student complete the "before conference" questions and "after conference" questions by an agreed upon date. This can be especially useful if the teacher and students cannot have a synchronous conference, as for an asynchronous conference they can use commenting features or email to reach out to each other when their part of the conference is completed.
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.
Conferences with teachers provide an accessible, structured way for students with disabilities to reflect and analyze their performances. Conferences support students with disabilities by providing a structured opportunity for them to receive more feedback on their reflection and remediation.
Effective conferences require teachers to prepare for the bevy of skills they require from students including executive functioning (task initiation, prioritization, working memory, etc.) skills, written expression skills, reading skills, and/or verbal skills. In order to support students with disabilities who have difficulty in these areas consider the following modifications:
Ensure that any handouts used are structured or modified to help students with task initiation as well as provide clear benchmarks (bolded words, bulleted lists) to assess task completion.
Student conferences with teachers is an integral part of English learner education. English learners are engaging in learning content and language simultaneously and conferences provide invaluable time to assess and support both.
English learners may be required to use all four domains of language during conferences with teachers. Learners need to listen to and respond to teachers. English learners also need to communicate their understanding through writing and speaking. In order to support English Learners consider the following modifications:
Provide a variety of ways for learners to express their learning during conferences. For instance, drawing, pointing, matching, using short phrases or single words. To support flexibility during conferences, consider using a small whiteboard during conferences to allow both learner and teacher to create diagrams or record short answers, or having ready-made visual aids or realia for learners to point to, match and/or name.
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!