Lana Learn instructors hold one-on-one student conferences to motivate program participants and help them achieve academic growth.
One of the most common pieces of advice veteran teachers offer is to “meet students where they’re at.” The challenge that remains when supporting students who are falling behind is to hold high expectations without overwhelming them. To keep students motivated, it is critical that instructors hold one-on-one student conferences and set goals collaboratively. At Lana Learn’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) program, we motivate our participants by meeting with them one-on-one. The 21st CCLC initiative provides academic enrichment opportunities during non-school hours. We have been able to help our students achieve academic growth in a short amount of time by following simple steps when conferencing.
1. Establish a relationship
Every student is a human being with their own thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the world and themselves. While we can learn plenty of information from a student’s report card, there is no set of statistics that fully capture the complexity of a person. However, we can learn key information about a student through conversation. By asking students about their hobbies, extracurriculars, or just their daily lives, you demonstrate that you care about them. Showing interest in a student’s life goes a long way in developing trust and rapport. When a student feels comfortable with you, they are far more likely to follow your guidance. Before you know it, students will even start looking forward to working with you. Establishing a relationship with your student is not only beneficial for productivity but makes academic work more fun for everyone involved.
2. Set clear goals with students
Just as every student is a unique person, every student has unique needs. When conferencing with a student, be sure to ask them what their goals are in school. Oftentimes students who are struggling academically will respond with nonspecific objectives, such as, “to not fail,” or, “just to get by.” As an instructor, you have an opportunity to model one of the most important habits in academia: setting clear, specific goals. Encourage your student to show you their grades or assignments so that both of you can identify specific areas of growth needed. Ask the student questions about what’s in front of them, so that the student develops the ability to verbalize their own objectives. A helpful resource for setting academic goals is the SMART goals framework. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound, and can lead your student to success.
3. Hold everyone accountable (including yourself)
You can increase students’ commitment to their academic success by asking them about what they need to stay on track. In addition to setting academic goals, both you and your student can benefit from writing down accountability measures. For example, your student could write down a pledge stating that they will attend all tutoring sessions for the second semester. Additionally, you as the instructor can write down a commitment to checking in with a student at a specific time each week. Research demonstrates that writing goals down increases academic performance by 22%. Model positive behaviors for your student by holding yourself accountable to your responsibilities, and you’ll see them develop these skills themselves in no time.
We have seen rapid academic growth in 21st CCLC students who have participated in one-on-one conferences. One of our key program goals is increasing students’ grades by one letter or maintaining an A or B letter grade in all classes. During the first week of programming in the new year, we conferenced with each attendee to set individual academic goals. From January 9-25, more than 90% of 21st CCLC students who received conferencing achieved letter grade increases in at least two classes, or a maintenance of A and B letter grades in all classes. Some students even achieved letter grade increases in four classes across English, math, history, and foreign languages. We attribute this success to our one-on-one conferencing framework and our students’ dedication to their academic goals. We love getting to know our students, and we’re incredibly proud of their individual growth.