student is thinking and feeling, and carrying on an ongoing dialogue with students offers the best opportunity to learn about such matters. The mechanism for carrying on dialogues often is called a conference . However, the term does not convey the full sense of what is involved and, at times, is interpreted in ways contrary to the meaning used here. From a motivational perspective, conferences should be nurturing experiences designed to give, share, and clarify useful information as the teacher or a team member and a student plan the next steps for learning and teaching. Conferences provide a time and context for C exploring progress and problems C clarifying and sampling options for pursuing next steps for learning and solving problems C mutual planning and decision making C modifying previous decisions whenever necessary. The importance of the dialogue as a two-way process cannot be over-emphasized. A conference should be a time for persons to say what they need, want, and are hoping for from each other. When problems exist, time should be devoted to problem solving. Conferences vary in length, depending first on how much time is available and second how much time is needed by a specific student. Even when a teacher or team member can carve out time, one conference often is insufficient for arriving at a full-blown plan and related decisions. Therefore, the process is ongoing and not always done in a formal manner. Indeed, some of the best dialogues are spontaneous (e.g., occur when a teacher or team member takes time to sit down next to a student during class for an informal chat). For some students, several informal chats need to occur each day backed up by a formal conference every few days. Such impromptu conferences are particularly feasible when the classroom is designed to maximize use of small group and independent learning activities. Some students like to keep dialogue journals as an aid for conferencing. Usually, a dialogue journal is a bound composition book in which the student carries on a conversation with the teacher or a team member. They write each other in a direct and informal manner about matters of mutual concern relevant to making learning in the classroom better. This mechanism not only can facilitate communication, it provides motivated practice related to writing and reading. And, as with face-to-face conferences, it encourages self-evaluation and critical reflection.
144 A few ideas and guidelines for conferencing are presented in the Exhibit below. Exhibit Some Guidelines for Conferencing Scheduling: Each day the teacher or another team member can plan to meet formally with about five individuals. The list for the day is generated as a combination of students who request a meeting and students with whom the staff asks to meet.