This year, my team tried a new approach to doing parent-teacher conferences. We let the student lead the conferences.
As teachers know, a typical parent-teacher conference is called by a parent or by the teachers to discuss student behavior/achievement/effort/etc. The purpose of the conference is still the same, but with student led conferences, the method changes.
Once a conference is scheduled, we provided students with a script (outline) of questions they were required to prepare for prior to the conference. Students would introduce themselves and then discuss their grades, behaviors, strengths and weaknesses. Parents would hear this from their child verses from a teacher. This also allowed students to “own” their behaviors.
We would sit back and respond when questioned or add to student’s discussion. We found that students were generally very honest in answering the questions. We also found that, especially when student performance was the issue, hearing directly from their child had much more of an impact on parents and was much less confrontational between parents and teachers. With this we also came up with a plan on how to proceed from there to help the student.
We came up with an initial script and then fine-tuned it as the year went on. This could easily be adapted to younger children up through high school. I am an eighth grade teacher and this method served us well this year. Give it a try for next school year. I think you will see the positive changes that occur.