Encouraging Teachers to Collaborate More

I decided to look into researching the Common Core. The reason for this is that I wanted to know more about how these standards connect different subjects and, in doing so, promote cross curricular collaboration. This is currently an area of great interest as I am keen to a better way to encourage subject teachers at my school to collaborate. The Common Core, which are a set of educational standards that scaffold learner development from grade K-12 in preparation for university and work life, seemed to be the best choice to focus on.

I say this for two reasons: One, the notion of preparing students for college and work seems to involve multiple skills and as such, the Common Core should be, in and of itself, cross-disciplinary. The second reason is that these standards are based on a variety of different sources such as the best practices of different states as well as have been referenced to international curricula and teaching guidelines (e.g. the PISA) (Gandhi, n.d.). Thus,the learning targets found in the Core should provide a set of generic guidelines that should be recognized as legitimate in the global community across the great cultural divide. Furthermore, since these guidelines were designed for teachers to adapt creatively as opposed to prescriptively, then they should be general enough that we should be able to adapt them to the teaching and learning situation here in Shanghai.

If you want to see a quick overview to the Common Core, you can watch the video here.

Once I had a general overview of the common core, I began reviewing all of the materials and documents associated with English and Math guidelines because I’ve learned that the Common Core is based on these two subjects which serve as the focal point for developing other skills. Since I am an English teacher, I’ll give a bit more priority to the English curriculum first and see what connections can be made to the curriculum at our school. It would be great if I can find some links to extra teaching materials and/or project ideas that can be used to integrate all of the subjects.

After initially looking on the Common Core Website, I found a link to the California Common Core State Standards which are based on the Common Core. These state standards define a student who is college and career ready as being able to:

  • “demonstrate independence”
  • “build strong content knowledge”
  • “respond to varying demands of audience, task, purpose and discipline”
  • “comprehend as well as critique”
  • “value evidence”
  • “use technology and digital media strategically and capably”
  • “come to understand other perspectives and cultures” (California Common Core State Standards, p. 7)

These standards are certainly general enough that they can be applied holistically to any given subject, in my opinion. Using these descriptors, the common core targets are then organized along the lines of teaching specific reading and writing skills that are organized to focus on “key ideas and details,” “craft and structure” as well as “integration of knowledge and ideas” to ensure that the students are learning and developing skills that will enable them to build on previous knowledge as well as eventually progress to becoming successful in the future (p. 10).

After reading further in this document, I was able to find English skills that were targeted to each grade as well as an overview for how one might go about planning a syllabus over the course of a students’ primary and secondary school which integrates tasks in a step wise fashion.

This information was quite useful for me, but then two questions came to me. The first is how can we accurately predict what skills a student will need to be successful in career and college life? Indeed we can provide scaffolding and support and make good predictions, but how can we be sure that we can be accurate. Perhaps, we’ll rely on machines more in the future than we do today or maybe we’ll be making trips back and forth to outer space. This made me think that it would be important for the Common core to be updated on a regular basis (at least once every other year) to remain relevant to our students and teachers. This, I believe, will be a more pertinent conversation in a future blog post. The second question that came to my mind was about the nature of applying the Common Core to EAL/ESL/EFL learners whose first language isn’t English. How can the Common Core accommodate and support their learning needs?

Reflecting on these questions, I decided to do some more research on the common core, and in particular. I visited the National Education Association (NEA) website, which has a section especially devoted to the Common Core. This led me to a link called, “Steal these tools” which was described on the NEA website as a website “full of free content designed to help educators understand and implement the Common Core State Standards” (NEA, 2015). The link can be found here: http://achievethecore.org/

“Achieve the core” has a cornucopia of tools and research that you can find for whatever subject that you are teaching. All you need to do is input the grade you are teaching and hundreds of lesson plans will be recommended to you. In addition to this resource, I visited the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) website, signed up for the social networking sites to keep updated on the latest developments, and also found a website that hosts webinars, free content, and lesson ideas called “Share my lesson” where teachers can actively collaborate and share teaching ideas related to the Common Core (AFT, 2015). The interesting thing about the “Share my lesson” website is that it is international in perspective as it was created through a partnership with TES Connect (Sharemylesson, 2014). The aforementioned partnership will be useful when persuading my teachers, the majority of whom are from the UK to utilize the vast array of resources listed on the site. The reason for this is that TES Connect have a variety of resources based on the UK National Curriculum. Finally, I visited the Council for Chief State School Officers and found a link to resources to measure student academic growth (http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Resources_Listing.html).

It’s going to take a while to go through all of the resources at this point; however, I am confident that I have enough material to successfully work towards integrating the different subjects at my school into a unified curricula where collaboration will be the norm.

Works Cited

AFT. (2015). Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/

California Common Core State Standards. (2013). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education. Retrieved from http://www.cde.ca.gov/re/cc/

Resource Listing (2015). Retrieved from http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Resources_Listing.html

Gandhi, D., (n.d.). Frequently Asked Questions. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/wp-content/uploads/FAQs.pdf” 

National Education Association. (2015). Retrieved from  http://www.nea.org/home/IssuesAndAction.html

Sharemylesson. (2014). Retrieved from  http://www.sharemylesson.com/home.aspx


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