Getting parents involved is beneficial to the child and classroom. I grew up with my parents, and my friends' parents, being involved in our school and it made the school much more like a family - a community. The research seems to agree that it is beneficial as well.
I like the idea of student-lead conferences because of the student involvement and "Student Accountability" (Kinney, n.d.). My only concern is that is still very much tied to the traditional idea that conferencing is a special event that only happens twice a year. I prefer the idea that "The same parents who might browse a school website a few times a year are apt to be on Facebook every day" (Edutopia, n.d.). The conferencing can be a part of the communication strategy, but I would not depend on it as the main avenue for communicating with parents. I would like to set up a interface that can be used, like Google Docs or something similar, that can be used to submit homework, upload homework/classwork, and correct work that is password protected but the parents have access too. This would encourage the same level of motivation for the same reason as student-lead conferencing because the parents will be asking about their work and seeing the results of their efforts. This also aligns with consistant and constructive formative assessment feedback that can be actionable (Wiggins, 2012). The student has corrections they can use to fix or rewrite the work for a second submission. I want to encourage the idea that the parents are involved, not just in knowing how their child is performing, but helping them better their performance. Also, making conferencing a special event sends the message that communicating is a special event, which it should not be.
Communicating more often means less time preparing for communicating. The steps for preparing for the conference seemed like it would take a bit of time in class getting the students ready. If that time isn't incorporated into the class goals and the larger picture, it could be time spent not working toward the course goals. It could be beneficial by getting the students involved in their own assessment, but I worry that, at least in Korea, it would morph into a show, as is the case with Open Classes currently practiced here commonly. The show we put on for the parents here tends to distract us from actual learning to make it appear that their kids are doing well and we have a good portfolio to show them. This really depends on the ability to sell the idea to parents. Perhaps in America, parents are more apt to accept the reality of the child's progress, but from my experience in education in Korea, that is still too rare to be practical here.
Just one more note, I also want to send the message that each of the parents is important and a part of the community and having the child take care of the majority of the conference makes it seem like it's less personal with the teachers. The conferencing with students in ESL classes would be beneficial with language barriers, but if that does not exist, I can imagine parents would still want their time with the teacher in private to discuss behavior and/or advice on what to encourage their kids to do at home and so on. This problem would be better served with regular updates on social media, parent access to graded work, and direct communication with teachers either with email, blog, or staggered meetings to make time for the parents.
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Edutopia. (n.d.). Home to school connections guide. Retrieved from http://www.fcps.edu/cco/prc/resources/documents/edutopiahometoschoolguide.pdf
Kinney, P. (2013) Fostering student accountability though student-led conferences. Retrieved from https://www.dropbox.com/s/2ay3d5zjbs4l1cc/NCMSA%20SLC.pdf
Wiggins, G. (2012). Seven keys to effective feedback. Educational Leadership. ASCD. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/sept12/vol70/num01/Seven-Keys-to-Effective-Feedback.aspx