Stanford offers free, online class on student discourse

Scottsbluff teacher Shelby Aaberg facilitates a student discussion.
Scottsbluff teacher Shelby Aaberg facilitates a student discussion.

Stanford offers free, online class on student discourse

Dear readers,

While we typically issue only one newsletter per month, occasionally we run across time-sensitive information that we wish to bring to your immediate attention. The course described below is FREE to all teachers and on the very relevant topic of student discourse. Furthermore the time commitment required to complete the course (two hours per week for seven weeks) seems quite reasonable. Thus, we feel this information is worth sharing with NebraskaMATH Newsletter teachers.

- NebraskaMATH Editors

"CONSTRUCTIVE CLASSROOM CONVERSATIONS: Mastering the Language of the Common Core State Standards"

Instructors from Stanford University are offering a MOOC (massive open online course) from Oct. 21 to Dec. 9 on the importance of meaningful student-to-student conversations, due to their emphasis in the Common Core State Standards.

In order to participate in the free course, which is aimed at large-scale interactive participation, you will need to have access to a classroom in which you are able to collect short samples of paired student talk two different times. You also need to carve out two hours of time each week to work on the course, as the online work will take around one hour per week and assignments will take around one hour per week.

The course, "Constructive Classroom Conversations: Mastering the Language of the Common Core State Standards," looks closely at student-to-student discourse and addresses how to facilitate student engagement in the types of interactions required by the new standards. The Common Core State Standards for English ELA and Mathematics emphasize improving the quality of student-to-student discourse as a major feature of instruction. The new standards specifically describe the importance of students understanding the reasoning of others and engaging in meaningful conversations using evidence for claims. Yet this type of student-to-student discourse tends to be rare in classrooms. Common classroom activities such as whole class discussions, jigsaws, and think-pair-shares, can have the appearance of constructive interactions, but they often do not provide adequate opportunities for all students to engage in academically rich, back-and-forth dialogues.

It organizes a massive collaboration of educators who wish to support students, particularly English Language Learners, to co-create and build upon each other’s ideas as they interact with the content. Starting with the notion that in order to improve the quality of student discourse, educators need to listen closely to existing talk, the course asks participants to gather, analyze, and share examples of student conversations from their classrooms. The overall goal is for participating educators to better understand student-student classroom discourse and use what they learn to facilitate higher quality interactions that build disciplinary knowledge and skills.

To read the course objectives and syllabus and also enroll, visit:

Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education

Originally published October 10, 2013 - Submit an Item