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Constructive Classroom Conversations: Mastering Language for College and Career Readiness

Thursday, October 1, 2015 to Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Course topic: 

The Course

The Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards 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 interaction tends to be rare in classrooms. Common classroom teaching 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 back-and-forth dialog. This course looks closely at student-to-student conversations and addresses ways to improve students' abilities to engage in the types of interactions described in the new standards.

This course consists of four main sessions with three weeks between each session in order to provide extra time for application and reflection. The learning in this course relies heavily on participant contributions and comments, especially in the team collaboration setting. Participants will be expected to complete both team and individual assignments for all sessions. The sessions and assignments are designed for participants who teach or have access to classrooms in which they can gather samples of students' conversation during lessons. Finally, we include resources and tasks for instructional coaches and others who support teachers and build school-wide capacity.

Please note that this is a slightly modified version of previous courses offered since the Fall of 2013. This course is targeted towards both elementary and secondary school teachers.

We hope you will join us on this exciting journey.


In order to participate in the course, you will need to have access to a classroom in which you or the teacher you are observing are able to collect short samples of paired student talk on two different occasions.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment?

Participants who complete the course requirements will receive a FREE Statement of Accomplishment issued through NovoEd. Please check with your employer as to whether this statement of accomplishment may be used for professional development credit. There is no fee for this course and to receive a statement of accomplishment.

If you would like to receive a Record of Achievement with Narrative Evaluation from the Stanford University Graduate School of Education with the approximate number of professional development hours to which the course is equivalent, you may pay a fee of $200 as well as complete the course requirements. Participants who choose this option with also receive a narrative evaluation from instructors on their course performance.

2. How much of a time commitment will this course require?

The course has 4 main sessions, each three weeks apart. Studying course materials (lecture videos and readings) takes about 1.5 hours per session, while assignments will take around 6-8 hours per session.

3. Any additional textbooks or software required?



Orientation: Introduction to Course and Teams (October 1 - 6)

Session 1: Constructive Conversations I (October 7 - 27)

In this session we dive into what high-quality talk between students can sound like in lessons that effectively teach the new standards. Specifically, we focus on the features of “constructive interactions," during which students create, clarify, support, and negotiate ideas as they talk about concepts and build understandings in a discipline.

Session 2: Teaching the Constructive Conversation Skills (October 28 - November 17)

This session focuses on instruction to support rich interaction introduced in Module 1. We analyze video clips that show teaching that fosters interaction skills described in the new standards. We look at activities that help students build interactions skills for staying focused on objectives, building and negotiating ideas, and clarifying ideas.

Session 3: Constructive Conversations II (November 18 - December 8)

In this session, we will look more in depth at how to foster student interactions that build the learning of lesson objectives, challenge thinking, and push students to use more complex language of the Common Core standards.

Session 4: Collaboration, Communication, and Community (December 9 - January 5)

This will be a summative session, in which we will pull together everything we've covered in the course to create a product that communicates to other teachers the value of having a discourse focus for implementing the new standards. You will also consider next steps for applying and collaborating in this work during the year.


Kenji Hakuta

Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford University

Kenji Hakuta is the Lee L. Jacks Professor of Education at Stanford University.  His research, publications, and professional activities have been focused on the education and development of bilingual children and youth for several decades.  He works with various learning communities of district and state leaders engaged in reforming systems for ELLs. Most recently, he has been leading the Understanding Language Initiative at Stanford University in an effort to address the educational challenges and opportunities of the new standards for English Language Learners.