Student-Led Conferences for Special Education | Teach Tastic

Updated: Mar 11


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.


Traditional parent teacher conferences are usually held at the school, during a set time where the parents can attend. They generally last around 30-45 minutes. In contrast, student-led conferences can occur anywhere the student feels comfortable and can be any length of time.


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

Scheduling student led conferences typically happens 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 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.


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.


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.


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.


Five things teachers can do to prepare students 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 to reflect on their learning experiences. Encourage them to think about what they have enjoyed learning the most, what they found challenging, and what they have learned from both successes and failures.

  3. Teach students how to give and receive feedback effectively. Students should be taught how to give and receive feedback respectfully and helpfully.

  4. Teach students about their strengths and weaknesses. Help students understand their own unique strengths and areas in which they need to improve.

  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.


Does a student-led conference look different in middle school?

Yes, student-led conferences can look different based on grade levels. There is more of a focus in elementary school on the student's academic achievement and goals. The meeting is more about the student's overall development in middle school, including social/emotional skills, behavior, and college and career readiness. Teachers should adapt their questions and focus on matching their developmental stage.


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.


Student-led conferences should not feel like formal meetings where strict rules must be followed. Instead, they should be a time when everyone can relax and talk about the student's experiences, academic progress, learning goals progress, and new goal setting in school.


Is there a student led conference model?

There is no one-size-fits-all model for student-led conferences. Teachers should work closely with students to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and then design a conference that is tailored to the individual student.


How student-led conferences give students a voice to share their passions

Student-led conferences allow students to share their passions, ideas, and interests with others. This can be done through discussing the student's work portfolio, reflecting on their learning experiences, or sharing self-advocacy skills.

Student-led conferences are a way for students to have a voice in their education and connect with others in a meaningful way. They provide an opportunity for students to share what they love about learning and discuss ways to continue to improve and grow.


Less intimidating for parents of students with disabilities

Student-led conferences also provide an effective way for parents of children with disabilities to communicate their child's educational needs to teachers in a less intimidating environment than parent-teacher conferences or IEP meetings.

The informal setting and opportunity for questions allow parents to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns with teachers. This can be helpful in ensuring that the student receives the best education possible.


Provide Accountability for Students with Disabilities

Student-led conferences also provide accountability for students with disabilities.

This is done by having the student explain their strengths and weaknesses, detailing what they have learned from successes and failures, and discussing how they plan to continue to improve.


Contributes to a Stronger Support Network for the Student

Student-led conferences also allow parents to work together cooperatively with teachers to provide additional support for their child's learning. Student-led encourage teamwork between parents and teachers to support students with disabilities, often leading to a more robust support network.


Provide a Self-advocacy Opportunity

Student-led conferences allow students with disabilities the opportunity to advocate for themselves in their own educational experience.

When students prepare, they can share what they have learned about their disability and how they have overcome any challenges. This provides an essential foundation for future opportunities to self-advocate in other aspects of their lives.


Student-led conferences work

If you have not planned one yet just go for it, implement student-led conferences and see how it goes. You can always change it up next year if needed. Remember, the key is to make it informal and comfortable for everyone involved. The goal is to have a conversation and build relationships, not to follow a strict set of rules.


Thanks for reading!

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