Teaching and staying up to date with content is difficult enough, but you need to focus on building student relationships as well. I dare say that relationships and building a community takes precedence over your content. Every student–and every person–wants to feel accepted by someone and by implementing student conferences into your teaching practice, you can be that person. This single practice of student conferences changed my teaching and classroom management that I recommend it for every teacher out there.

In this episode, Khristen discusses:

  • The advantages of implementing student conferences
  • How conferences can look in the CTE classroom–even if it is virtual
  • Insights on how to have great student conferences
  • Questions that you can ask during student conferences

The Advantages of Implementing Student Conferences

When I first started student conferences, it was a way for my students to do some self-reporting of their grades. That was a great start, but I soon realized that in addition to finding out how my students were doing in class, I could also get to know them as people. This allowed me to adjust lessons, units, and projects to incorporate topics that my students would really enjoy. In addition, my classroom discipline issues plummeted–not just because I was getting to know my students, but I could also discuss issues with students one-on-one without drawing attention to the fact that I was having these discussions. Everyone else simply thought we were having a similar conversation to their own.

How Conferences Can Look in the CTE Classroom–Even if it is Virtual

There’s not a specific way that student conferences should look in your classroom, but here are a couple of practices that have worked. One way is to schedule a day (or two or three depending on how long you are planning to talk) where you can visit with each student individually while the rest of the class worked independently. This worked for me when students were doing self-reporting at the end of a term. Another way this can look is less formally like what my husband Jared does in his welding classes whereas students come to him to pass off a weld, he then asks them a question and has a mini-conference. Don’t fret if you’re in a virtual setting because you could use a program like Flip Grid to pose questions and get responses. The key to using this method–and the others as well–is that this is a conversation that needs responses from the student, but then also a response from the teacher.

Insights on How to Have Great Student Conferences

As time has gone on, my student conferences have greatly improved because as a teacher, and facilitator of the conferences, my skills have improved. I’m talking specifically about my listening skills. I didn’t realize that I struggled with listening so much until I started trying to improve it. My first tip is to practice active listening–which means NOT formulating a response while the other person is speaking. This does take a lot of practice, but you can do it. My other tip is to practice demonstrating empathy by mirroring what the student is staying. It both helps you truly listen and then shows the student that you are listening. You’ll find that with mirroring, you will be able to get students to expand more on their responses and dig a little deeper.

Questions That You Can Ask During Student Conferences

Once again, there are no right or wrong questions to ask your students. Make sure they are opened-ended so that you can actually get a response. Here are some ideas listed below:

Formative-Assessment Type Questions:

  • How is the class going?
  • How did you feel like you did in the last unit?
  • What are you still struggling with?
  • How do you feel like your group is working?

Getting to Know You Type Questions:

  • What do you like to do after school/on the weekends?
  • Where do you fit in your family?
  • What is something that I should know about you that isn’t school-related?

Links Mentioned

Hacking Assessment: 10 Ways to Go Gradeless in a Traditional Grades School by Star Sackstein

Better Conversations: Coaching Ourselves and Each Other to Be More Credible, Caring, and Connected by Jim Knight

Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Chris Voss

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