Student-Led Conferences: Do They Work?

Anything and everything you need to know before you try this innovative approach to progress evaluation.

By Mollie Moore

Girl in front of other classmates

In the world of education, student-led conferences instead of, or in addition to, parent/teacher conferences are a recent trend. What are student-led conferences? Why should a teacher or school consider them? How do they work? What are some follow-up steps and some challenges? This article will seek to answer those questions, and hopefully inspire you to take part in the action!

What are Student-Led Conferences?

Student-led conferences are conferences where the teacher facilitates, and the pupil leads. The learner explains his behavior and current academic status, as well as his future goals. The teacher directs as necessary, explains areas of confusion, and answers any questions.

Why Should a Teacher/School Consider Student-Led Conferences?

  • They help students become more responsible for their own academic achievement, and they foster self-discipline.
  • Learners become more motivated, more confident, and more reflective.
  • They allow individuals to see their progress and growth over the school year. Note: This is only true if you do more than one conference throughout the year. 
  • They encourage pupils to evaluate their own work.
  • Students are able to practice oral communication skills.
  • Communication between teachers, students, and parents is prompted.
  • The child can be a translator if his family's primary language is not spoken by the teacher.
  • Parent attendance at conferences increases.
  • A more concrete vision for an individual's academic future is created.

How Do Student-Led Conferences Work?

There are two main styles of student-led conferences: one-on-one conferences and group style. The preparation for both types is very similar.


  • Collect student work. It is important to collect it from multiple sources and for it to exhibit multiple skills. 
  • I like to have my pupils collect one assignment that they feel shows strong writing ability, one that shows the need to improve, one that is a good example of a collaborative project, etc. Very clear guidelines will help your pupils know which work to use in their conferences. 
  • Also, have students do a self-assessment of their behavior. Provide a checklist or form with behaviors/character traits you want them to appraise. 
  • Gather your own (teacher) data about each pupil's behavior to compare with their self-assessments.
  • Have students set goals—academic and/or behavioral.
  • Notify parents of the conferences and schedule times, if necessary.
  • There needs to be a format for the meeting; for example, offer a time allotment for each section that needs to be discussed. 
  • If time permits, prior to the actual day, model a student-led conference and then allow time to practice.

For one-on-one conferences:

  • Have children introduce parents to educators and educators to parents.
  • Explain the process and purpose student-led conferences.
  • Look over the data and the graded work, offering any explanations that are necessary.
  • Allow the pupils to share their goals.
  • Together, develop an action plan to help learners reach their goals.
  • Permit some time for questions and comments from parents, and allow a brief amount of time for parents and teachers to meet at the end. 

For group-style conferences:

  • As families enter the classroom, greet parents and pupils. Provide them with the materials that have been collected.
  • Have each family group (student & parents) find a spot to sit somewhere the classroom. 
  • Each group should pull their chairs together to form a small conversation area.
  • Allow pupils to lead conferences.
  • As the teacher, rotate around the classroom to provide direction, listen to each group, and answer questions.
  • If you are having multiple classrooms doing this simultaneously, there are two options:
    • All teachers rotate in all rooms, or teachers can be available for further discussion in their own rooms.
    • Have all parties attending only discuss one particular subject area in your room.
  • Note: If you have never tried one-on-one student-led conferences, group style conferences will likely be quite a stretch. 

Follow-up steps:

  • Schedule a follow-up conference, if necessary.
  • Provide a survey for all parties after the conference.
  • Send a thank-you note to parents for coming.


  • Possible decrease in time you, the teacher, interact with parents, especially with group-style conferences.
  • Less privacy for conversations, especially with group-style conferences.
  • Student-led conferences can be difficult if the parent and child do not communicate well. 
  • Be certain that self-assessments are fairly accurate. This is particularly important with group-style conferences.

The transition to student-led conferences can be difficult for parents, administrators, and teachers. Oftentimes, the benefits become evident over time, and many teachers and schools become supporters. Check out the resources below for more guidance for parent-teacher communication.

Related Resources:

Ways to Improve Parent/Teacher Communication

Do you need some suggestions to improve parent-teacher communication. This article has suggestions that applicable for teachers of all ages.

Getting Parents on Your Side

As all teachers know, parental support is essential for a successful education experience. Read this article to gather ideas for getting parents on your side from the beginning.

Back-To-School Night: What Parents Need to Know

Starting the year off right is essential. Check out this article as a guideline to know what you should cover on Back-To-School Night.