Portfolios and student-led conferences

Tomorrow starts the week before the student-led conferences at our school. These conferences are a very important part of the PYP. During these conferences, the students talk about their learning with their parents, and as a result, reflect on their learning and become aware of their achievements throughout the year.

As PYP Coordinator, I meet with the parents before the conferences to introduce them to the concept, and to help them to become a confident part of the student-led conference. It is surprising how worried some of them are to ask the wrong questions, and to “mess up”. Not that they can. My main point for those meetings is: Stay positive!

I have had parents telling their children that a specific work sample “should not be in a portfolio”, because it didn’t have neat handwriting. But that is not the point. Handwriting was not the focus of that particular piece of work, and the comment ruined the rest of that particular conference. It made me realize though, that parents often need more guidance than we think. It was also that particular mum who later came to me and asked “what did I do wrong?”. She had obviously noticed that the conference was not anyone expected, in particular not her and her child. We went through the conference again and she quickly noticed. I was very happy to have her in another conference and it was so different.

What happens next week is something I need to get better at though. We have put samples of work into our portfolios throughout the year. However, it is “selection” and reflection time and as part of that we will rip the portfolio apart and put it back together. I try not to get too involved, as student choice is crucial, in my opinion. However, I will make sure the students know why they have chosen to share a particular piece of work.

Another important aspects of these conferences is that the teacher takes the backseat. We are in the room, but we are not so much part of the conference itself. In fact, I happily facilitate a little, but I also make sure that parents know this is not a teacher-parent, or three-way conference in any way.
For me the advantage is that I get to listen to the children reflecting on their learning with someone other than me. It comes in handy just before report time, to get me focused on every single one of them.

So next week will be a week full of reflection, organizing and also a time to be proud of what we have done so far!

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2 thoughts on “Portfolios and student-led conferences

  1. Hi Mark,
    This is my second year at a PYP school and we had them last year as well. This year they did not change much in format, but now I see the possibilities and opportunities. Changes are necessary, but it was too late to implement it now.

    At my old school, a portfolio-based school, the portfolios were all we cared about for these conferences. I can now see how this is a limited view, and can’t wait to explore further options next time.

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