Student led conferences have the following positives for students:
1. Goal Setting: Students need to learn how to set realistic goals and establish ways to achieve these goals.
2. Empowering: Students are given control over their education.
3. Ownership, Responsibility, and Accountability: Students have to see they are in control of their learning and take ownership for the results.
4. Technology: Students use technology to create an "authentic" presentation to share with a real audience. Plus, with online grades, it is very easy and clear why grades are what they are.
5. Engagement: Parents, teachers and students engage in honest dialogue (many kids will say what I might have had a hard time stating).
6. Attendance: Over 80% of our students and parents found time to head to school for the 25 minute conference.
7. Meta-cognition: Students learned how to self-evaluate and think about their learning.
8. Organizational and oral communication skills: They are prepared, have an agenda to follow, and have to explain their strengths and weaknesses to a "live" audience.
I am sure that there are other positives of student led conferences and some drawbacks not mentioned. However, I think that the positives far outweigh the traditional conference. When we moved to student led conferences, our staff had similar concerns about how conferences would work and if it was a good idea to change the format. However, after the conferences were over, the staff agreed it had positive effects for our students.
A good link to check out for more on middle school student led conferences: MiddleWeb. You can also see several examples of student led conferences on Youtube.