Students Take Ownership of Their Learning

Sep 30, 2015 | Inquiry, Middle School News, Multiplier

imagesRecently, in an effort to expand the ways in which student learning is measured, Middle School students, parents and faculty participated in Mount Vernon’s first ever student-led conferences. Giving students greater ownership of their learning while fostering more intentional and meaningful conversations, was the genesis of this reverse arrangement.
Student-led conferences have been implemented around the country for decades. As a result, studies have shown and research supports this valuable practice.
Donald G. Hackmann, assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State University in an ERIC Digest, “Student-Led Conferences at the Middle Level” shares some of the benefits of student-led conferences:

* Students assume greater control of their academic progress.

* Students accept personal responsibility for their academic performance.

* Parents, teachers, and students engage in open and honest dialogue.

* Parents attend conferences at increased rates.

* Students learn the process of self-evaluation.

* Students develop organizational and oral communication skills.

Head of Middle School Chip Houston says, “Students will continue to review and set goals with conference mentors throughout the first semester. In preparation for the next conference day in February, students will continue actively uploading, curating, and reflecting on visible demonstrations of learning in their ePortfolios.”
While parents, teachers, and students know that grades, which are critical for college entry, will continue to be part of the discussion, ultimately the objective in Middle School is to help students understand that learning is the most important goal.
Feedback on the process has been favorable. For example….
Parent Quotes
“Our child has really come out of the gates stronger than ever before this year, we were wondering what was this difference – now we know! By setting her own goals early on, she has taken ownership of her schoolwork, grades, homework, and team projects. Please continue this process because I do not have to remind her about homework for the first time EVER! Love it, and one more reason to LOVE our (daughter’s) school.”
“After attending today, it makes me wonder why conferences would be done any other way. This was certainly the best conference day I have ever been a part of. (Teacher) did a great job of helping (student) to talk about himself as a learner- and own up to some behavior that he knows he needs to work on. This conference will be very helpful as we continue to talk with (student) about school- as now he is a part of the conversation, not just being told what to do or what he needs to do better. Thanks for a great day!”
“Once again & as usual, MVPS has stepped up & delivered a cutting edge example of how our children are being taught to be real world ready & prepared to face daily challenges head on & with eyes/minds wide open. Thank you for keeping up your end by providing the essentials & so much more for our children. I feel very blessed that my children are able to be part of this wonderful educational/life changing experience.”
Student Quotes
“I liked how it wasn’t just about grades it was more than that and it wasn’t putting you right on the spot it felt easier for me to communicate to my teachers when I was more prepared then coming in pretty nervous and not talking. Overall, I thought it was a great experience and I would love to do it again.”
“I think that student led conferences allowed us all to have a chance to talk to our parents about what WE want whilst having back up from our mentor. I do think that it shouldn’t take as much time from advisory though.”
“I think it would have been cool if the teachers could have had our E-portfolios on the board, because sometimes it’s hard to read the writing on computers if they aren’t close to you. I like how the teachers took notes about what we liked or how we felt because that makes it easier for a student and teacher to bond.”
Faculty Quotes
“My mentees did a very good job during the student-led conferences. Each student was prepared and organized for the conference taking the leadership role seriously. My mentees showed ownership and took responsibility for topics discussed during the conference which made both myself and parents proud.”
“Our first round of SLCs were great! The only other comment to add on from this morning is that some parents wanted to know more about the student from the perspective of their other teachers. So maybe as a team we can have more time to talk about other students. When we do, it goes well, so maybe just extra intentional time set aside for it.”

“I thought the conference was WAY more meaningful with the students there and not only provided a time for the teachers to check in with parents and students but the parents and students to check in with each other. I had several parents cry at the conference because they were so proud of their student. Several parents were amazed by things they didn’t know their child had accomplished.”