September 3, 2013
Though the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) began rolling out a few years ago, many teachers are still asking, “How do they change what I teach in my classroom?”
Now, a new series of online professional development courses is available to help teachers understand the standards, build on what they already know and practice, and plan for classroom changes. EdTech Leaders Online (ETLO) at EDC developed the e-learning courses in response to state education leaders’ requests for more in-depth professional development materials for teachers.
“We’re providing teachers with the time and space to dig deeply into the Common Core,” says ETLO Director Barbara Treacy. “Teachers can study the standards, explore resources, try things out in their classrooms, get feedback from the facilitator, and engage in discussion with other educators.”
The courses are helping teachers answer some of the tough questions they have about the CCSS. “Teachers want to know how to teach to these higher standards, which demand critical thinking and technology and media skills. How do they change how they assess students’ reading and writing assignments?” explains Treacy. “These courses aren’t a one-shot deal. They are deeper learning opportunities that unfold over 30 or more hours, over six or seven weeks.”
Getting up to speed
The first two courses were launched this spring: Exploring the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice and Implementing the English Language Arts (ELA) – Literacy Standards with a Focus on Reading. They are made up of individual sessions that divide the CCSS into manageable chunks, covering such topics as identifying which standards to teach, thinking differently about assessments, selecting various kinds of texts, and incorporating the standards into the classroom.
The courses address the changing role of technology in teaching and learning and how to find the best tools and resources. They also invite teachers to embed technology and media in the their teaching practices.
Enabling teachers to engage in online professional development around the CCSS saves time and money, as teachers don’t need to travel to onsite workshops. Participants work through a series of weekly course sessions with an experienced online facilitator and engage in online discussions. Courses may be offered in a blended model, beginning with a face-to-face kick off and concluding with a face-to-face meeting. Learning about the standards together online, over time, helps educators make a smoother transition to the Common Core classroom.
“We want to give teachers time to delve into understanding what’s different together, as well as how it affects their classroom practice and how they will assess student performance,” Treacy says.
Sharing a common goal
Toby Maguire directs the ACCCESS adult education program at Cape Cod Community College in Hyannis, Massachusetts, which offers General Education Development (GED) preparation courses. Change is in the air for him and his colleagues: Not only must they adapt their current curricula to meet CCSS requirements, but Massachusetts plans to replace its existing GED test with a new high school equivalency credential grounded in the CCSS.
To prepare for these upcoming changes, Maguire and a group of ACCCESS teachers took the new ETLO ELA course this past spring.
“My colleagues and I were trying to figure out how we could do professional development around the Common Core,” says Maguire. “We’re now more aware of how we will bring close reading, including reading more nonfiction, into the classroom, and how we will incorporate not just more writing—but writing that will prepare students for careers and postsecondary education.”
The ETLO online community enables teachers to share ideas, try out new things, report on what they’ve learned, and offer feedback. For Maguire and his colleagues, taking the ETLO courses with another group of adult education instructors from the Boston area offered the additional benefit of collaborating with educators who also teach learners for whom English is not a first language.
“We gained a much better sense of the ELA requirements under the Common Core working together,” he says.
For participating teachers, transitioning together eases the process of incorporating the CCSS into their daily teaching routines.
“It’s not enough to ask teachers to read the standards on their own and then teach to them,” says Treacy. “That is not sufficient to change practice. Our e-learning courses help them understand what’s different overall, and how it affects their day-to-day practice.”