Last year, I wrote about the value of student-led conferences in schools (here):
– Stronger comprehension of strengths and weaknesses. The student is encouraged to engage in self-reflection, and to evaluate what he has done over the past year or so. It also allows him to identify domains which he is particularly comfortable in, as well as the future action plans (traditionally, in the form of goal-setting mechanisms). Students who are just getting started could be guided by brief templates or thinking models, but these collaborative meetings could evolve to be more spontaneous.
– Greater accountability. More often than not, lackadaisical students have gotten away scot-free, as their parents and teachers play the blame game over the kid’s substandard assignments or examinations. Too easy, and too convenient. Before these student-led conferences, the student would be forced to think hard about their learning progress, and suss out factors that may have led to a certain result. The focus is not on factual accuracy and being politically-correct; instead, a well-facilitated appointment would allow parents and teachers to brainstorm on recommendations to help the child cope and excel.
– Confidence and self-esteem. Besides the negatives, appropriate focus on strengths and opportunities can allow an erstwhile shy student to come out of his shell. This can be a channel for affirmation and encouragement – from the teacher and the parents – to galvanise positive attitudes and actions. The opportunities are tremendous.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to read the article (above) in The Straits Times (“Pupils Join Parents in Meeting Teachers” (July 11, 2013) by Miss Amelia Teng), which shared a wonderful initiative that has been in place in Haig Girls’ School since 2006:
“[I]nstead of sitting quietly and listening during parent-teacher sessions, pupils take the lead and speak up – part of an initiative the school piloted in 2006. Last year, it was rolled out to all levels. Pupils come to meetings with learning goals they set for themselves, and give suggestions on how teachers and parents can support them”.
The school deserves the praise by Education Minister Heng Swee Keat. Empowering a student with a sense of ownership – of his or her own learning, development, and reflection process – also allows parents and teachers to go beyond the mere discussion of grades or academic performance during these sessions. The traditional format of these conversations can be destructive, and should not be allowed to persist (here and here).