Student-Led Conferences

The Steward School
Building self-confidence and pride
Spartans of all ages play an active role in shaping the future. Inside and outside the classroom, they learn by doing. A new initiative allows Middle Schoolers to actively share their school experience: student-led conferences. In individual meetings between students, their parents, and the student’s advisor or grade-level teacher, Middle Schoolers advocate for themselves, hone their communication skills, and reflect on their academic progress.  

“Last spring, we piloted student-led conferences with just the seventh-grade class,” said Middle School Director Susan Atkinson. “After a successful pilot program, we expanded it this spring to include sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders.” As part of Steward’s strategic plan, Compass 2028: Inspire the Future, the school hopes to expand student-led conferences to other grades in the coming years. 

After grade-level teachers determine the key skills to focus on, students prepare for the conferences by assembling a portfolio of select items from their school work to showcase those skills. They lead the whole conference, talking about what they have learned and the study techniques they have developed. Goal setting is also an integral part of the meeting, and parents are invited to ask questions. 

“Students might, for example, share a new plan they have developed to stay organized or their most effective study habits,” shared Ms. Atkinson. Each grade concentrated on three developmentally appropriate skills during the conferences. Sixth graders focused on research skills, identity, and executive functioning; seventh graders on organization, the writing process, and test preparation; and eighth graders on self-advocacy, exam preparation, and metacognition. 

Student-led conferences are “a great avenue for students to take more responsibility for their learning and to share that information with the adults in their lives,” said Ms. Atkinson. “Plus, the attention shifts from grades to academic and social growth … it’s about the process, not the product.”

Davis Wert ’29 worked closely with his teachers and Ms. Atkinson (his advisor) to prepare for the conference. “I met with Ms. Atkinson during community time and study hall to make sure I was in good shape,” said Davis. “I learned how to explain what I’ve accomplished and what I am capable of. I can use these skills later on in life … when I have a job interview, for example.” 

Davis said the new conference style gave his parents a broader view of his day-to-day school life. 

“Everyone knows when you get home from school and your parents ask, ‘How was school?’ the most common answer is ‘It was fine,’” he said. “This was a great way to share what I’ve been learning. An example is my science binder. My science teacher, Ms. [Betsy] Orgain, has us color code our binders and link the colors to words and definitions. My parents saw that and were so happy that I have a teacher like that. This experience was so much fun for me and them.”

Ms. Atkinson said the Middle School faculty have received lots of positive feedback from parents. “Parents loved learning about their child’s goals and plans to make them a reality,” she said. “This is a real-life opportunity to continue preparing our students for college and for life.” 


General Contact

The Steward School
11600 Gayton Road
Richmond, VA 23238

phone: (804) 740-3394
fax: (804) 740-1464

Media Contact

If you are a member of the press and would like more information about The Steward School, please contact Director of Marketing and Communications Rachel Williard at rachel.williard@stewardschool.org or (804) 565-2319.

If you are looking for contact information for a specific Steward employee, please click here.
Copyright 2024 The Steward School