I am so very proud of all of my students. With the exception of a few, they all participated in their end-of-year ILP meetings, and most of them led or co-led their meetings. Some were nervous. Some became embarrassed or flustered and needed to use our agreed upon signal to have me take over. But most of them were rock stars (yes, this is a clinical term). I am declaring student centered IEP meetings (with the help of our digital portfolios) a success, even if there are a few things I’d change next year.
Based on what I saw during the student centered IEP meetings and some responses I got to the survey I did after the meetings were done, I came to a few conclusions:
- The 6th graders definitely did better than the 7th graders with leading the meetings
- Students who made digital portfolios and practiced self-reflection all year did better than those classes where I didn’t try out the digital portfolio
- The better the students understood the purpose of their digital portfolios, the better they did at the meetings
- Preparing for the meetings helped students to be able to both identify and understand their goals
- The kids who are the most outgoing weren’t necessarily the ones who were the most comfortable in the meetings.
Digital Portfolios to Support the Meetings
While my 6th graders are, in general, a more self-reflective group than my 7th graders, I really think that the digital portfolios helped to support their self-reflection. This helped them to have more successful student centered IEP meetings. My 6th graders spoke confidently about their goals and their progress, showing examples from their digital portfolios. They were able to describe why we decided on their new goals and where they wanted to be the following year. Next year, I plan on doing digital portfolios with all of my students, and the other Learning Specialist will do the same. I’ve even convinced a few of the ELL teachers to try them with their students as well.
Skills for Public Speaking, Especially with Adults
I tried to scaffold the presentation portion of it as much as possible, but I think it was still a little intimidating to present to a room full of adults. All of my students have done some work with public speaking, but most of it has been in front of peers, rather than adults. For the most part, students found the organizers that we used to prepare for the meetings helpful, but I think I need to structure the other preparation activities differently. We tried role playing, but it tended to get a little silly. I think next year I need to set up very specific expectations about behavior and participation. I also made the mistake of assuming that the talkative, outgoing students wouldn’t need as much support in presenting to their parents and teachers. For these students, while they may be very comfortable with talking, talking about themselves and their progress can be daunting. I need to give all of my students more support next year.
It was pretty shocking to me how little understanding most of my students had their specific goals and why they existed. Most of my students told me at the end of the year that they knew what their new goals were and knew some ways we’d be working towards them next year. At the beginning of this past year, most of my students couldn’t identify their goals and couldn’t tell me why they had specific goals. Now that they’re more informed, I’m hoping that they’ll be more motivated to participate in actively working to achieve their goals.
I’m excited to plan for implementing digital portfolios and student centered IEP meetings next year and I’m sure it will be even more successful now that I’ve tried it out once.