Learners at Lakeside (fifth grade), Richard J. Lee, Mockingbird, Valley Ranch and Wilson Elementary Schools recently took charge of their own academic journeys during learner-led parent-teacher conferences held on Oct. 6. These conferences exemplify CISD’s commitment to student-centered education, allowing learners to showcase their academic achievements and progress while setting goals for their continued growth.
“I always feel that communication between learners, families and the teacher shouldn't come as a surprise,” said Deanna Hoenselaar, who teaches fifth grade at Lakeside Elementary. “I love that our learners have a chance to share something they are proud of and that their parents have a chance to share what they are proud of their child for doing.”
These conferences empower learners by allowing them to set their own goals, reflect on their progress, and actively engage in their learning, promoting a positive school culture where students take responsibility for their education.
One of the participating students, Aarna Yadav, a fourth-grader at Valley Ranch Elementary, expressed her excitement about the opportunity, saying, "I am excited to share with my mom my delta, which is where I need to improve, and my plus, which is what I am good at. Both my teacher and my mother heard me out, and I feel glad that they were supportive of my delta."
Aarna Yadav's mother emphasized the importance of learner-led conferences for parents and guardians. She said, "This is a good opportunity for students to share what is going well and their struggles and their achievements. The next course of action, in which both parents and teachers can discuss how to improve and help learners overcome obstacles, allows parents to seek guidance from teachers, based on their experience, for actions that can be taken at home."
Yadav’s teacher, Amanda Goss, believes sharing information with their parents in a formal learner-led parent-teacher conference setting holds students accountable for their reflections and goals for the school year.
“Parents also benefit from seeing this information presented by their learner rather than by their teacher,” Goss said. “I think this helps learners take their goals for the school year more seriously and it empowers them to try their best in order to meet their goals.”
Third-grade teacher Jenny Park at Richard J. Lee Elementary shared more about the significance of learner-led conferences.
"Learner-led conferences are important because they shift the students to the center of their learning experiences,” she said. “This encourages a sense of ownership and responsibility for their academic progress and personal growth."
Madhumita Murty, whose son is in Park's class, believes the learner-led conference helps her understand her son’s progress and his goal of improving in math and science.
Her son, Rajveener Sing Kushwah, said of his conference, “It felt awesome to tell [my parents] about my learning experience.”
For students, the benefits of these conferences are numerous, as they learn to reflect on their achievements and areas for improvement. Presenting their work and goals to parents and teachers also boosts their communication skills and confidence. Moreover, it helps students set and track their own goals.
“Learner-led conferences are important because they let students take ownership of their learning and understand their data,” said Lee third-grade teacher Gina Gutierrez. “This is a great way to also build confidence in their abilities to share what they have learned and set goals for the future.”
Parents also gain deeper insights into their child's strengths, weaknesses and aspirations, allowing them to provide more informed support at home. Teachers obtain valuable insights into each student's individual progress, learning style, and areas of interest, enabling them to tailor their teaching methods and strategies more effectively.
“The conference offers the opportunity to get to know the families and foster a partnership for learning that will all for greater success this school year,” said Laura Jennings, a fifth-grade teacher at Lee. “Our parents are so kind, supportive and encouraging. It is always nice to take time to conference.”
Courtney Trimble, a first-grade teacher at Mockingbird Elementary, emphasized the teamwork aspect of learner-led conferences, stating, "Learner-led conferences create a team mindset. Learners know that their parents and teachers are all working with them to be successful in school."
Learner-led parent-teacher conferences are just the beginning of a team approach between students, parents, and teachers that can have a lasting impact on a student's educational experience and overall academic and personal development.
“As educators, we check in with students during one-on-one conferences throughout the year to see how students are doing with their goals,” said Deborah Samaras, who teaches second grade at Mockingbird. “It keeps us focused on what activities and lessons we can plan to help all students. Once goals are met, we work with the learners to establish new goals.”
Learner-led parent-teacher conferences align seamlessly with the Coppell ISD mission of working together to create profound learning experiences for every child. These conferences foster a sense of ownership, responsibility and partnership for a child’s education, benefiting students, parents and teachers alike.