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Reimagining Student Led Conferences: Demonstration vs. Show and Tell

Natalie Priest
October 5, 2022

Ok. I am going to admit something right from the get-go. When my administrative team proposed a change to Student Led Conferences (SLCs), my first thought was, “More change?” so I don’t blame you if your mind goes to the same spot. But stick with me here, because I can assure you that flipping the script and viewing SLCs as an opportunity to demonstrate, as opposed to doing a show and tell, can take SLCs to a whole new level.

Demonstration vs. Show and Tell Student-Led Conferences

What’s the difference?

The “traditional” SLC has families joining students in the classroom to show them work that they have already completed. This usually involves a digital portfolio of work and the student talking through said portfolio. This is 100% still beneficial, but who says that this cannot be done at home? 

A demonstration-based SLC is just as it sounds: students demonstrate a competency, standard, or task for their family during the SLC. This is followed by collaboratively documenting the demonstration as a portfolio entry in the student’s digital portfolio. Families get to participate in their child’s learning with both subject-specific and portfolio development skills. It’s a win-win for showing off the competencies that you are developing in your classroom!

A personal example for perspective

Prior to demonstration-based SLCs, my 7th grade ELA class was in the middle of a persuasive writing unit, and we had just completed a novel with the central theme of following one’s dreams. My idea for a demonstration-based SLC? Student-created TED Talks on shaping their futures. Students needed to be persuasive and demonstrate effective communication skills in developing their TED Talk, as the competency development of these two skills was an important aspect to highlight.

student pointing at white board

Who benefits from demonstration-based SLCs?

  • Demonstration-based SLCs are good for students. They promote students taking an active step in their learning. A demonstration-based SLC highlights a student’s understanding of the competencies and standards that they have learned in class. When I surveyed students about their experience when all was said and done, students were super enthusiastic about the experience.
  • Demonstration-based SLCs are good for families. In some demonstration-based SLCs families are actively participating, and in some they are actively documenting. Even though I have since changed schools, grades, and now careers, I have kept an email that I received from a mom after that first demonstration-based SLC. Here is an excerpt from that email: “In all honesty her TED Talk and the discussion that followed will be a life marker for her. We walked into the Middle School at 8:30 expecting a typical student-led conference, but instead we received a wonderful surprise; a glimpse into our daughter’s heart.” Cue the exhausted teacher tears.
  • Demonstration-based SLCs are good for teachers. What really stood out for me was family participation in actively commenting in their student’s digital portfolio for the remainder of the year. Many families went back into their student’s portfolio to view previous entries, and new assignments documented within the portfolio had a definite upswing in family comments. It truly created a conversation about learning long after SLCs were done.

Interested in using SpacesEDU for Student Led Conferences? SpacesEDU can be used for both “traditional” and demonstration-based SLCs. This SpacesEDU Use Case on Student Led Conferences will help get you started in creating an Individual Space for Student Led Conferences.  

* This entry is adapted from Natalie’s previous submission to the myBlueprint Blog

Natalie Priest

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