Student-led Conference Coming Up?

By Camille Mortimore, Foundry Chief Learning Officer 

The first time I ever tried to do conferences with the kids running the show, I was terrified! 

  • How would they know what to talk about?

  • Would they stay on track?

  • Why would parents not interrupt and ask about behavior?

  • In what ways would this kind of conference change the dynamic in my class?

Student led conference.jpg

I was full of questions and worried about results. What finally gave me courage was how my students were learning to “own their own learning” using Foundry. It was the Foundry Performance Pages that gave THEM courage. They knew what they had done, how they were growing, and what they needed to do next. With this knowledge - matched up with evidence in Foundry and real work samples — kids felt really prepared and empowered!

Perhaps you have been hearing about the benefits of student-led conferences and have been thinking about giving it a try with your students.

Here are 10 tips that made all the difference in my students taking the lead:

1. Students build portfolio work samples – evidence of learning – over the learning period.

2. Student-led conference invitations are sent explaining this new approach to parents/guests.

3. Students curate their favorite project(s) and work samples. (1-week pre-conference)

4. Students complete a written Journal Reflection in Foundry on progress, growth, goals and print it.

5. Students arrange conference table: student facing a white board, guests facing the student.

6. Put the talking points on the board. (Student can see them behind the visitors…shhh!) For example:

Thanks for coming to my conference! (Introductions by student as needed.)

I want to show you my progress. (Show Performance Pages & work samples showing growth.) Read more…

This is my favorite project_____________________. (Show, and tell why.)

I am really proud of _____________________. (Show the work samples.)

My next big goal is ___________________. (Show PLP page goals.)

What do you think? Any questions or comments? (Visitors and teacher respond to the student.)

7. Students practice their conference presentation until confident.

8. Students get room company-ready, clean, display work, and arrange their materials.

9. Teacher prepares Personal Learning Goals document to be signed at the end of the conference.

10. The day arrives! Focus on the values of hospitality, student voice, growth. It’s their day to shine!

Check out what the talking points evidence might look like in Foundry.

Thanks for coming! (Introductions by student as needed,)

I want to show you my progress. (Show Performance Pages &Then-Now work sample.)


This is my favorite project_____________________. (Show favorite project.)


I am really proud of _____________________. (Show the work samples.)


My next big goal is ___________________.


Resources for Student-led Conference

Student-led Conference: Empowerment and Ownership (Edutopia)

Conference Preparation Checklist

The upcoming conference opportunity is an essential time for connecting with both students and their parents in a powerful way. Our commitment to students growing in responsibility for their work will pay big dividends in their leaning and confidence as learners. (When all the effort to keep them organized and progressing is ours, then WE go home tired. Better that they should do that work and THEY go home tired!) So……

Each student completes the following:

_____ Personal Learning Plan Goals – each student uses the Foundry PLP Goals page

_____ Portfolio of work in each area of study – Choose best as well as work that shows growth.

_____ Student conference agenda (What I will to say and do) (Check agenda on board…)

_____ Organized conference materials in the order of my agenda.

_____ Company-ready classroom – sparkling and well organized! (The kids clean up-Leave no trace!)

_____ Contribute to bulletin board and wall displays with their work in class and hall.

Teacher, focus on:

_____ Help students capture their BEST work, rather than ALL of their work, for their portfolio. It should be work that shows progress (hopefully), as well as required-in-the-portfolio work… help them keep work that tells a story of their growing. When students take the prep time they need to do this well it will help them to take ownership and to speak with confidence. (They can write notes – post-its – on each piece they want to talk about.)

_____ Prepare the Personal Learning Plan Conference Goals document for signing at each conference.

_____ Guide the students in practicing their conference…individually and in pairs or teams.

All of the effort to make this an excellent learning time for the students will pay off in happier, more productive days for our student, and for teachers as well!