Student-Led Conferences and Authentic Assessments

Student-led conferences are a growing trend in late-elementary and middle grades, since they have been shown to boost parent response and attendance to conferences and increase student sense of responsibility for their own work.  Using a portfolio of collected work and performance, students follow guidelines that lead a meaningful discussion for all involved.  It also creates a unique opportunity for students to leave the comfort zone of their classroom to communicate with an adult audience.  It creates an opportunity where students must prepare, plan, and present.

These presentations should be a time to showcase the performance of skills and knowledge instead of tests and homework.  Authentic assessment is a showing that the student has taken what she has learned and used it to create something new or to solve a complex problem.  This is what students should be discussing with parents.  And they should discuss the successes as well as the failures.  Sometimes, the failures are even more important and glorious than the successes, since that’s where true learning comes from.

This practice should start to become more standard and not simply trendy.  With the help of classroom technology, it should be easy to adapt student work to eportfolios and LiveBinders, which are magnificent tools for collecting, presenting, and showcasing student work and progress.  The work in setting up the practice is minimal and the rewards and benefits are so very worth it.

What’s better is the idea that student-led conferences pave the way nicely for those end-of-the-year portfolio presentations for grade-level promotion, which we all know should be one way to replace standardized testing!

Check out this resource from to learn how to get started:


About Kris Nielsen
Kris L. Nielsen has been a middle grades educator and instructional leader for ten years in New Mexico, Oregon, and North Carolina. He is a graduate of Western Governors University’s Master of Science Education program, with emphasis on child development and instructional technology. Kris is an activist against corporate education reforms and has had his writing featured in several online magazines and blogs, including those of the Washington Post and Diane Ravitch. Kris currently lives in New Mexico with his young son and beautiful wife.

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