Reinventing Student/Teacher Conferencing in 2021

Kristen KoppersBlog, Lesson Plan Better, Manage Better


  • The purpose of conferencing is generally to discuss a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • A structure for effective conferencing with large classes is shared.
  • Questions to ask during conferences can include: What are your questions? In what way can I help you? What will you improve on?

Unfortunately, while I had some great teachers in the past (both K-12 and post-secondary), my writing never really got better. Despite how hard I tried, I never had a one-on-one conference to help me understand what I was doing wrong. Either there was no feedback or the paper had red ink all over it.

It seemed that feedback didn’t exist. Comments are written on the paper, but it did not help me understand where I needed to make improvements. As an educator, I have found it valuable to meet with students and ask them questions to help them improve. 

Imagine having to keep a class of 29 students busy while working with one student focusing on his/her strengths and weaknesses within the writing. It’s no secret that trying to hold student/teacher conferences in person is a difficult task; however, trying to hold conferences with a student while making sure the other students are busily working is even more difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. 

What’s even harder is trying to hold student/teacher conferences virtually while still making sure students are using their time wisely. I’ve struggled, just like many other teachers, on how to conduct student/teacher conferences, especially during research paper time. Everything is a learning process.  I believe that I have found a way to work with students. 

I’ve struggled, just like many other teachers, on how to conduct student/teacher conferences, especially during research paper time. Everything is a learning process. Click To Tweet

Student/teacher conferences are common in an English class to discuss a student’s weaknesses and strengths in their writing.

I find that sitting with students while working with them is beneficial to understanding where they need improvement. I am able to focus on the student’s work and ask questions to understand where the student is coming from. It is also a way to connect with students and learn what they were thinking while they were writing the piece. Being able to have the opportunity to discuss a student’s writing is not only beneficial to the student but also to the teacher. 

With being an English teacher for secondary education, it is not uncommon for students to write more than one essay. However, trying to hold student/teacher conferences virtually is more difficult than I expected. And believe me, I tried. Several times I tried to meet with students to discuss their writing and each time I was not able to meet with all the students, leaving them feeling that their time was not important. I restructured the time I spent with students to ensure that their time was just as important as mine. 

But that was not the only issue with having conferences.

It was the fact that I was not sitting next to the student in order to help. Additionally, going virtual, I was not able to “see” the student, which created an additional barrier. As this is the first year working virtually, I struggle to find a way to “successfully” hold conferences during class.

With that in mind, I found a way to work with students while ensuring the other students were working on an assignment.

Reinventing Student/Teacher Conferencing: Structure

Students have both synchronous and asynchronous days over a three-day period (see example below). Here I was able to meet with some students while others were working. With such large classes, between 25 – 32, I divided the class into three sections and placed students into Cohorts A, B, and C. Each section of the class was to meet with me on a certain day. This gave me about 7 – 10 students (on average) to work with during a 40-minute period. Students were to have a complete rough draft ready for review.

Example of a weekly Asynchronous / Synchronous Week

Students met with me on certain days and placed into their own breakout room where I spent about five minutes with each student going over the paper.

There was another obstacle that I encountered during this process. To effectively provide feedback, students either shared their assignment (which has not always worked well) or they would share their screen with me.

There is no question that this method worked in order for me to give feedback, but it was time-consuming with the sharing or sharing of the screen, which was often too little to view. Instead, this gave me the opportunity to devote time to the student as we discussed the paper.

The students that were scheduled for asynchronous days (not required to log in) had different assignments. Each asynchronous student followed an agenda with an assignment followed by a Google form. Students scheduled for synchronous days met with me online as they were placed into their own breakout rooms. While this structure did work, it left the students in the breakout rooms “working” on their assignment.

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Reinventing Student/Teacher Conferencing: Benefits

Not only was scheduling conferences an issue with remote learning but so was using our time wisely to ensure proper feedback was given. Prior to students attending conferences, they are to pick 5 parts of the paper they want me to review. Yes, the conferences are between the student and teacher. But part of the benefit of the one-on-one conference is to find flaws, if any. 

When I conference with a student, there are three things I ask:

  1. What are your five questions?
  2. In what way can I help you?
  3. What will you improve on?

Just these three questions start the dialogue for our discussion. I understand that there are still flaws with my method of conducting student/teacher conferences; yet, I feel that I have been able to differentiate how the conferences look in a virtual setting


Kristen Koppers is a blogger, presenter, self-published author, and high school educator as well as an adjunct teacher at the local junior college. She has been teaching for more than fifteen years and is currently teaching high school English in Illinois. She is a Google Certified Educator and National Board Certified Teacher. Kristen has a master’s degree in English and a second in Education Administration.

Kristen wrote the book Differentiated Instruction the Teacher Profession as a way to share her ideas of how to use Differentiated Instruction inside the classroom. As an educator, it is important to find innovative ways to meet the needs of her students. Kristen is often on Twitter (@Mrs_Koppers) participating in chats and collaborating with other educators. It’s easy to share DI ideas on Twitter (#DITeaching).

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