Over the next few weeks I’m going to have parents come into my room to discuss their child’s learning plan for next year. And I’m going to turn the meeting over to the student. It’s the first time I’ve ever done student centered IEP meetings (or ILP–Individual Learning Plan–meetings as they’re called in my school). And I’m terrified. But I’m also very excited.
Step 1: Completing Digital Portfolios for the Year
I took the first step toward having students self-reflect more and take more responsibility for their own learning when I tried out digital portfolios with my M2 students this year. For me, the logical next step was to have students do a final self-reflection at the end of the year that led to them evaluating their own progress, and then helping to lead their own student centered IEP meetings. I’m also trying this with my M3 students, who, as you may remember, “don’t go in for all that touchy-feely nonsense” like self-reflection and growth mindset. We’ll see how that goes.
Step 2: Self-Evaluation and Setting New Goals
After my students completed their portfolio work, they evaluated their progress on a more global level in order to prepare them to help lead their student centered IEP meetings: How do all of these examples of various skills within a broader goal to show progress? What do I still have left to learn? What’s the next step? How can I continue to improve next year?
The students filled out the form below, describing their goal, choosing evidence from their portfolio to demonstrate their progress, rating their progress, explaining the rating, and then, with some guidance from me, setting a new goal.
For the most part, they were able to evaluate their own progress. There were some students who were really hard on themselves. Those students needed redirection to focus on their progress as an individual, rather than comparing themselves to others. There were also some who immediately said they had met all of their goals, without evaluating their progress in their portfolios. These tended to be the same students who didn’t want to complete portfolio work when it was scheduled. Next year, I’d like to spend more time modeling how to evaluate progress toward a goal. I thought that the amount of evaluation we did when working on portfolios would be enough, but it really wasn’t.
Step 3: Evaluating Accommodations
Next, we moved on to evaluating how well accommodations worked and what new accommodations we should try for next year.
Here it became clear to me that even though I thought I had done a good job empowering my students to be advocates for their own learning, the students didn’t really understand their accommodations. When we went through them their response was often “teachers don’t really do that.” This, of course, may not be totally accurate, because a lot of these things happen behind the scenes. It was concerning, though, that the students weren’t always aware of what their accommodations were. I think next year at the beginning of the year, we’ll review the learning plans again so that students know what their accommodations are, and maybe have a few specific lessons on how to self-advocate.
I also (see above) should really spend a little more time discussing what accommodations are and aren’t. Wanting a personal butler notwithstanding, I was surprised that many students didn’t understand why they got specific accommodations. I expected to have to explain what was possible, but didn’t realized I would have to explain what their accommodations meant. I remember doing it earlier in the year. Maybe it’s a matter of revisiting throughout the year.
Step 4: Prepare for the Student-Centered IEP Meeting
Our last step was to prep for the meeting. Students completed an organizer where they decided how they might introduce themselves, their parents, and me, and how they would explain the purpose of the meeting. We talked about how much leadership each student was comfortable with taking, and decided on signals they could use if they needed me to take over. Then, each student took turns role playing their meeting.
I’m really excited by how confident and empowered my students seem while we’re going through this process. I really hope that they’ll feel successful when they complete their meetings and that next year they’ll take more ownership of their goals as we work on them. I’ll follow up soon with how these student centered IEP meetings went and what I’d like to do differently next year.
Have you ever done a student centered IEP meeting? What were your experiences?