Click here for Student-Led Conferences!

I was SO excited once my sons began doing student-led conferences with us at school.  Why?  Because I saw how successful they could be when I was teaching in the school system.  It’s also the reason that we do student-led conferences in my studio.

What is a Student-Led Conference?

Perhaps you have heard about student-led conference, or maybe this is a completely new idea for you.  Rather than the teacher leading the parent-teacher meeting, the student teaches their parent(s) a few concepts that they are learning.  For more information, check out Education World’s article regarding what student-led conferences look like in the classroom setting.

“[Students] need to understand that they are in control of their own efforts to learn the material.”

Barbara Rommel, superintendent of the David Douglas School District

Why hand over the reins to our students?

Having a student show their learning has many benefits for the student, parent(s), & teacher.  It’s also a great way to concretely showcase exactly what is going on during lesson!

For the Student

For students, the benefits include:

  • increased self confidence as they see how they have grown
  • deeper understanding of concepts as they break it down to teach a non-musician (i.e. their parent)
  • greater accountability for their practice habits (or lack thereof)
  • sense of accomplishment as they choose materials to best demonstrate concepts (i.e. games, manipulatives)
  • bond with parent(s) over music games

For the Parent(s)

For parents, the benefits include:

  • concrete view of what their child(ren) are learning in lesson
  • learn concepts & terms to guide them in helping their child(ren) during practice time
  • see their child(ren) excited about piano (always great for re-enrollment)
  • experience the benefits of having a consistent practice schedule (or, if practice is an issue showcasing how important it is to have consistent practice times)
  • understand the hard work of learning an instrument (for parents with unrealistic expectations)
  • bond with child(ren) over music games

For the Teacher

For teachers, the benefits include:

  • ensuring students have a strong grasp on concepts
  • actions speak louder than words … We can tell parents something a million times, but seeing it speaks louder.
  • act as facilitator & support for student, rather than lecturer

If you are a teacher working in a school system, there is one more advantage for you!  By scheduling multiple families at the same time, they can circulate to different stations.  How does this help you?  Traditional conferences meant I would be in meetings for 2 full days with no breaks.  SLC’s allow you to meet with families AND have breaks throughout the day.  I found I was more refreshed & alert which led to more informative & positive interactions with families.  If multiple families sounds great to you, one studio option might be to have an open house format with access to lots of games & manipulatives students can use to teach.

I’m sold!  How do I pull this off?

Preparation is the key to a successful student-led conference.  I like to start about 3-4 weeks before the actual conferences.  Below is the time-line of how I plan with my students.

  1. Week 1:  (5 minutes)
    • Go through annual plan with student.
    • Review concepts mastered.
    • Student chooses two concepts to teach.
  2. Week 2:  (10-15 minutes)
    • Teacher brings materials to lesson that may help the student.  (i.e. games, manipulatives, links to videos, etc.)
    • Student & teacher plan lesson together.  Teachers role is to ask questions that their parent(s) may ask, then help students determine how to answer them.
    • Student  homework: practice teaching the concepts, leave games with student
  3. Week 3:  (10-15 minutes)
    • Student teaches the teacher.
    • Teacher provides feedback & guidance.
    • Student homework:  practice teaching concepts, leave games with student
  4. Week 4: (whole lesson)
    • Spend first few minutes of lesson with just student to answer any questions they may have.  (Or, give a pep talk if you have an introvert.)
    • Have fun being the assistant to the ‘teacher’ & seeing your student bloom!

But, what if you only have 3 weeks?  Not a problem.  Over 4 weeks, you are able to divide the concepts over 2 weeks.  For a shorter timeline, combine weeks 2 & 3 to cover everything with the student.  It means you will probably spend the entire lesson on planning & practicing, but it is well worth it.  I would also recommend setting aside at least 15 minutes with the student before the SLC to ensure they feel confident explaining their concepts.

But, do parents like it?

Absolutely!  In my studio, 88% of my piano parents do not play a musical instrument.  This means a few things.

  • They often have little to do with practice time.
  • Even if they want to help their child(ren), they have no idea how to help them.
  • All those squiggles on the page are intimidating.

One year, one of my students taught his mom about dynamics.  He happened to be learning Silly Argument (Stephen Chatman) & Bronze Bear (Yvonne Adair) at the time.  After the SLC, his mom looked over at his piano books & said, “Hey!  I know what those symbols mean now!”  It was an exciting moment for her AND her son.  She felt there was something concrete she could help him with & he saw that he had done a great job teaching her.

I am always trying to educate my piano parents so they can provide more efficient support at home.  student led conferences help parents build a common music vocabulary that allows them to have conversations about piano & lessons with their child(ren) or piano teacher.

Our student-led conferences are always based on student annual growth plans.  To read more about how I create these each year, click below.

Click here for 5 steps to student growth plans

Have you tried out Student-Led Conferences?

If you have tried student-led conferences in your studio, what advice do you have for those wanting to try it out?  If you haven’t tried student-led conferences, will you be trying them?


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