The learning potential of these conversations is a function of how forward-looking they are. “So, what have you learned from this experience that will help you with the next assignment?” “What are you going to work on?” Here, depending on the student, it might be wise for the teacher to provide some guidance. “Let me identify three things to work on. All three would significantly improve the quality of your work, and if there is improvement in these areas, that will definitely be reflected in your grade.”
If the student has conducted himself or herself appropriately in the conversation, that deserves a comment. “I appreciate the maturity you’ve demonstrated in this conversation, and although I’m sure you’re disappointed that I haven’t changed my mind about your grade on this paper, I do think these conversations are very important.” And they are important. Teachers need to know when a student thinks a grade is unfair. They need to review their decisions, and they need to try to help the student understand why the grade stands.
I'd be curious to hear about good approches to these conversations. What works? What doesn't? And what are our goals, as instructors, for these conversations?