Student-Led Conferences for Special Education | Teach Tastic

Updated: Sep 1


What is a Student-led Conference?

Student-led conferences (SLCs) are conferences where the student is given choice and power in setting up their conference. They allow the students to choose the location, date, time, and agenda of what will be discussed. They take away the stress for both parents/guardians and teachers because it is more informal, student-friendly, and lets students choose what they would like to discuss.


What Are the Differences Between a Special Education Student-led Conference and a Teacher Conference?


Special education student-led conferences are meetings between the student, their parents or guardians, and their teacher that is organized and led by the student. They are usually used to discuss the student's progress and goals and come up with a plan for moving forward. In contrast, a teacher-led conference is a meeting that is organized and led by the teacher. It is usually used to discuss the student's progress and goals and come up with a plan for moving forward.


However, it is important to note that special education student-led conferences are not just for students who are considered "high functioning". Regardless of their level of functioning, all students can benefit from having a say in their own education.


What is the benefit of a student-led conference?

The benefit of a student-led conference is that the student has a voice in their education. They are able to share their goals and what they have been working on with their teachers. This helps the student feel more ownership of their education and builds a relationship of trust between the student and teacher. It also allows the teacher to get feedback from the student on their progress. In contrast to a traditional conference, a student-led conference lets the student take the lead, which can help them feel more confident and empowered.


How to Conduct a Special Education Student-Led Conferences

Traditional parent-teacher conferences are usually held at the school during a set time when the parents can attend. They generally last around 30-45 minutes.


In contrast, student-led conferences can occur anywhere the student feels comfortable and at any length of time. This is important to note as it can directly tie into accommodation and modification currently outlined in the student Individualized Education Program (IEP).


How do you schedule a special education student-led conference?

Scheduling student-led conferences typically happen during an existing parent/teacher conference day once a school year. Typically, special education teachers will contact the parents to set a mutually agreed-upon meeting date and time that takes place every 45 minutes. To ensure adequate preparation, they should be scheduled in advance.


What can you do during a special education student-led conference?

Student-led conferences do not have a specific agenda, but instead, They typically begin with the student introducing themselves and their family to their parents/guardians and teacher(s). Student-led conferences give students a chance to show what they have learned in school that day or reflect on topics covered over a set amount of time. Student-led conferences also allow students to discuss their strengths and challenges in school and set goals for the future.


If a student cannot fully participate in the student-led process, it is important to allow the student to participate at the highest level possible. Therefore, utilize all accommodations and modifications noted in the student's IEP as well as differentiate the process so that the student can access this experience and learning opportunity as close to the same-age peers as possible.


If needed, parents and the teacher plan the agenda of the Student-led conference together. Parents and teachers can make a list of topics prior to the Student-led conference day to help keep the conference focused.


Student Portfolios Are Powerful

What is a student portfolio?

A student portfolio is a collection of work that students have completed throughout their school career. It can include anything from report cards to essays to artwork. Portfolios help students reflect on their accomplishments and set goals for the future. They can also be used to track a student's progress over time.


How can a student portfolio be used during a student-led conference?

A portfolio can be used to help the student discuss their progress with their parents or guardians and teacher. It can also be used to track the student's own learning and progress over time. Additionally, student portfolios can be used to set goals for the future.


How can you create a student portfolio?

There is no one right way to create a portfolio. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the portfolio should be tailored to the student's interests and needs. It should also be easy to update and change as the student's interests and needs change. Additionally, the portfolio should be accessible to the student, their parents, and their teachers. This means it should be stored in a location that is easy to access and update.


Preparing for a Student-Led Conference

How to prepare special-education students for student-led conferences?

Conferences are more than simply having your student attend their individual education meeting with you. Student-led conferencing is about giving kids a say in the procedure.


This may be a struggle for students with special needs. Teachers can help by prepping their students before the conference. This may include role-playing and practicing what they want to say. Student success depends on feeling comfortable and prepared. These tips will help kids with special needs feel confident expressing themselves in front of their parents and educators.


5 things teachers can do to prepare students with disabilities for a student-led conference

  1. Help build student portfolios of their work. This can include samples of their written work, artwork, photos of projects they have completed, and any other accomplishments.

  2. Assist students in reflecting on their learning experiences. Encourage them to think about what they have enjoyed learning the most, what they found challenging, and what they learned from successes and failures. The use of graphic organizers can be helpful for this.

  3. Teach students how to give and receive feedback effectively. Students should be taught how to give and receive feedback respectfully and helpfully. Model and practice this, often pointing out possible anxiety points and processing them.

  4. Teach students about their strengths and weaknesses. Help students understand their unique strengths and areas they need to improve. Have meaningful conversations about how this ties to goal setting and work with the student to prepare a problem solution graphic organizer to provide talking points for the meeting.

  5. Help students develop self-advocacy skills. They are an opportunity for students to advocate for their own needs and interests.

Parent Participation in Student-led Conferences

Parents are a valuable resource for their children and should be encouraged to attend the student-led conference. They can provide support to their child and can help to translate any information that their child is unable to communicate. Parents can also provide feedback to the teacher about their child's progress.


Two things a parent can help in preparing students for conferences

  1. De-stress the experience. They are not meant to be stressful or intimidating, they are simply an extension of the other learning that occurs in the classroom.

  2. Talk about student-led conferences with your child beforehand. Review information that was sent home, identify what you expect to be discussed, and share any questions you may have.

They are not meant to be an opportunity for parents to tell teachers how they should teach their child at school, but rather a time to share information that could be helpful for teachers to know.


What Does a Student-Led Conference Look Like?

How Student-Led Conferences Are Less Formal

Student-led conferences are meant to be informal and comfortable, an opportunity for students and parents to bond over shared interests and passions. This relaxed atmosphere can be achieved by having the conferences in a comfortable location for everyone, such as the student's home or classroom. It is also important to allow plenty of time for questions and discussion.


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