Common Core is the biggest thing to happen to state standards since, well, state standards! Schools are preparing for a huge shift in curriculum, learning priorities, and how content is taught in the classroom. Few of us in the education world aren’t thinking about Common Core, and at SmarterCookie, we’re no exception. Actually, we think that video coaching is essential in preparing teachers for this seismic shift.
One of the big focuses of a successful implementation of the Common Core is the teacher professional development that goes along with it. Each state has to educate their teachers on the content gaps between their own standards and the Common Core. But beyond content, these new standards require students to engage in higher-level thinking across the board: Instead of just regurgitating facts, students need to be able to think critically and conceptually about the material, and then discuss, explain, and write about it. The Common Core details what student proficiency looks like, but it doesn’t provide the roadmap to help teachers get there. Two questions I have: What does the ideal Common Core classroom look like, and how do we make sure teachers are prepared to successfully lead this kind of classroom?
To answer the first question, I enlisted some help from a white paper written by Achieve3000. One of the key aspects of a Common Core classroom will be rich, student-based discussions in which everyone participates. These discussions help develop students’ critical thinking skills by giving ample opportunity to support arguments with evidence. From my own experience as a teacher, I know that developing a culture of rigorous, high-participation discussions in class is not an easy task. I was in awe of the teachers who had mastered this feat, but I couldn’t figure out how they got there.
So if a teacher’s classroom isn’t already this vision of the Common Core in action, how can we help that teacher get there? Of course there are workshops that can explain a variety of techniques, and some websites are starting to offer Common Core lesson plans (LearnZillion and BetterLesson, for example). But this is just the tip of the iceberg. If I’m a teacher and I attend some workshops and print off some lesson plans, there is still a huge gap between my preparation and my execution of that Common Core lesson. How do I integrate those techniques and that lesson plan with my own teaching style? How do I bring the Common Core to life in my own classroom context?
This is where SmarterCookie comes in. I was talking to Leigh Farrington the other day. Leigh is a reading coach at an elementary school in Jacksonville, Florida. She is using SmarterCookie to help her teachers acclimate to the ELA Common Core standards. She records one teacher’s lesson, and then on SmarterCookie, shares it with the other teachers she works with. She asks these teachers to analyze the videos with the Common Core standards in front of them and think about which standards were addressed and what could be improved in the lesson to increase rigor and standards alignment. This practice benefits the recorded teacher because she gets specific feedback, but it also helps the rest of the teachers because they now see a familiar face implementing these standards, which informs their own practice.
What Leigh’s doing at her school is exactly the kind of practice that needs to happen to bridge the gap between preparation and execution of the Common Core. Enabling teachers to see colleagues teaching Common Core lessons and to receive feedback on their own implementations is extremely powerful, and it’s exactly why I’ve created SmarterCookie. It helps to translate Common Core to a particular school context and an individual’s classroom practice. In other words, it turns theory into practice.
The shift to Common Core is a huge game-changer in education, and it’s going to take a concerted effort from multiple stakeholders to get it right. Video sharing and coaching can be a key piece of the puzzle to help give life to these standards for each individual teacher. If you’d like to improve your preparation for Common Core, sign up for your free SmarterCookie account here.
How are you approaching the shift to Common Core and/or video coaching at your school? Let us know!