Where are you with your shift to the Common Core? While some are focused on the standards’ content, others are turning their attention to the processes and conditions needed for these standards to take hold, and social and emotional learning is gaining more traction.

This year’s theme for our work is “How can we create the conditions for deeper academic discussion and collaboration?” Many of you may have already created a definition for academic discussion, but have you spent any time  focusing your attention on collaboration. OUSD is focusing on creating the conditions for learning not only for students but also for adults, believing that if you create the conditions for adults they will be better able to support students. For this reason, Oakland teacher leaders and principals brainstormed the conditions that were present when collaboration was thriving for adults in their schools. Here’s what they shared:

What Effective Collaboration Looks Like:

  • Active, interested listeners; respectful and patient with others; accepting of others’ ideas as well as conflicts and disagreements; effective communicators
  • Come to meetings prepared, and be reflective when there
  • Time is allotted for collaboration, feedback, and FUN
  • There is a role for each person and all are accountable to the group
  • All voices given equal weight
  • All members trust one another and have the best interests of others in mind
  • Commitment to the goal(s) of the group

This list applies to student needs as well. Deep, meaningful student exchanges won’t happen unless we create an environment in which it can take root and thrive. So what can you do to create conditions for the kind of deep collaboration described above?

Research and the results of many Caring School Community program implementations have shown that building relationships between students, and between teachers and their students, is critical for collaboration. Here are three ways you can begin the process:

  1. Try at least one new Teacher Facilitation Technique (see written supports and video examples)
  2. Use Cooperative Structures like Think, Pair, Share at least once a day
  3. Make time for student reflection at the end of at least one content-area lesson a day

OUSD’s district-wide focus on social and emotional learning (SEL) is showing up in many ways this year, including the collaborative development SEL Standards for Pre-K to Adult and the highlighting SEL competencies during every school’s instructional rounds. It’s exciting to see the overlap between the brainstormed list above and what educators are hoping to see in students.

As you prepare for the Common Core, I invite you to explore the research on the impact of social and emotional learning, other online SEL resources, and CSC, and how it can help you create the conditions for the Common Core. Without a baseline of trust and respect, how can students have rigorous and rich debate, an open and honest exchange of ideas, and learn from one another?