Preparing for Effective One-on-One Conferencing

Dawn Biehler, Department of Geography
Instructor Dawn Biehler provides a timeline for preparing for conferencing, as well as advice for how to make the most of the conference time you have with students.

One-on-one conferencing yields the best results if you

  • Prepare well so you can think on your feet during the conference.
  • Convey a strong message to students about the strengths and weaknesses of their draft.
  • Ask students questions to encourage critical thinking about their own writing.
  • Think of this as a chance to learn about your students as human beings.
  • Begin working on revisions together during the conference.


Planning and preparing for great writing conferences: A model timeline




  • Plan out when conferences will occur, factoring in time for grading.

First day of class

  • Collect information about students on note cards or other medium.
  • Explain that you take writing seriously, that conferences are mandatory, and that feedback is an ongoing process. Perhaps mention “optional” conferences for assignments where conferences are not mandatory.

One week before due date

  • Remind students that next week they will sign up for writing conferences—they should bring their calendars.

On the due date

  • When setting up time slots, allow yourself some breathing room between conferences.
  • Pass around a sign-up list; instruct students how to prepare for conferences.

While grading

  • Keep in mind that you cannot comment on everything; make sure the top two to three issues stand out clearly.
  • Note instances of strengths or problems by page number for easy reference.

Minutes before the conference

  • Briefly review the student’s note card, the draft, and your comments.
  • Be ready to talk about the top two to three issues in the paper.

The conference

  • Establish rapport by greeting your students and asking questions.
  • Explain the agenda of the conference.
  • Ask the student about what aspects of the draft they like and which they want to change.
  • Return the draft while explaining your overall comments.
  • Allow the student to read your comments, and then allow them to ask questions. The whole rest of the conference may flow naturally from the student’s own questions and concerns.
  • Coach your student to plan revision strategies, and begin implementing those strategies by working through a small piece of revision together. See page 4 for examples.
  • Ensure that students will take appropriate next steps. Make sure they write down ideas, strategies, and actual revisions.
  • End on a positive note, remind students not to throw away the draft, and encourage follow-up if appropriate.