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Student-led conferences and three-way conferences

This form of reporting, in which the student is very actively involved in the learning and reporting process, reflects the intent of the NZ Curriculum.

Many schools in New Zealand are using some form of student-led or three-way conferencing to report to and share information with parents. This reporting procedure, in which the student is very actively involved in the learning and reporting process, is a fundamental shift away from the one-way transference of information from teacher to parents, and is consistent with the characteristics of effective assessment in the NZ Curriculum. Most schools involved in such conferences report a significant rise in parent satisfaction with and attendance at conference times.

Student-led conferences and three-way conferences take the form of a conversation between the student, their parents and their teacher. Both approaches give students an opportunity to share with their parents their growth as a learner. They accept accountability and responsibility for their progress and achievement, and demonstrate a growing understanding of their development as independent learners.

In student-led conferences, the student takes the central role during discussions. The teacher is involved but is not necessarily sitting with the student and parents all of the time. There might be four or five groupings of parents and students discussing their work in a classroom, and the teacher acts as the facilitator and prompter where necessary. Some schools set up stations, often for the younger students, where students and their parents move around looking at different aspects of learning.

Three-way conferencing is similar to the above, but all three parties - student, parents and the teacher - sit together and talk about the student’s learning, with the student taking an equal role.

Normally both conferencing processes involve some form of learning journal, portfolio or e-portfolio that shows a range of evidence of learning that the student has selected.

Conferencing is not a reporting method that should be introduced quickly. It requires training for both teachers and students. It may also require some modifications to a school’s curriculum plan, assessment and reporting processes. The system is dynamic; schools regularly modify and improve their processes each year as they respond to feedback from their community and strengthen their practices in this area.

Student-led conferences and three-way conferences are designed to achieve one or more of the following goals:

  • to help students demonstrate evidence of learning
  • to teach students the process of reflection and self-evaluation
  • to facilitate the development of students' organisational and oral communication skills and to increase their self-confidence
  • to encourage students, parents, and teachers to engage in open and honest dialogue
  • to encourage students to accept personal responsibility for their learning
  • to increase parent understanding of their child’s learning through improving attendance at and satisfaction with the reporting process.