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Student-led conferences and three-way conferences

Student-led conferences and three-way conferences are a conversation between the student, their parents/whānau, and their teacher.

Students share their learning progress and achievement, often using selected pieces of work in their e-portfolio or learning journal.

The student is actively involved in the learning and reporting process, reflecting the intent of The New Zealand Curriculum.

Student-led conferences

  • The student takes the central role during discussions.
  • The teacher acts as the facilitator and prompter where necessary. 

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. 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

  • Student, parents/whānau, and the teacher sit together and discuss the student’s learning, with the student taking an equal role.

This is a conversation between students, parents/whānau, and the teacher. It is a conversation about what the students are learning at school rather than what they are doing at school.

  • The role of the parents is to listen to their child, ask questions and encourage the student to expand and explain information further.
  • The role of the teacher is to facilitate and lead the conversation about the student’s learning and prompt the student when needed.
  • The role of the student is to share their learning with their parents and reflect on the progress they have made so far this year.

The purpose of conferencing

The student is actively involved in the learning and reporting process. 

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.

Most schools using these approaches report a significant rise in both parent satisfaction and attendance at conference times.

Introducing the conferencing approach at your school

Conferencing requires training for both teachers and students. Some modifications to a school’s curriculum plan, assessment, and reporting processes may also be needed.

The system is dynamic; your school should regularly modify and improve your processes each year in response to feedback from parents and students.