A guest post by Rita Platt, who took Stanford Graduate School of Education’s Constructive Classroom Conversations: Mastering Language for the Common Core State Standards in 2014.

ritaA class taught by Stanford professors? Leaders in the field of English as a Second Language (ESL)? FREE? Sign me up! These were my thoughts when I read a Tweet about the NovoEd MOOC on Constructive Conversations taught by Kenji Hakuta, Jeff Zwiers, and Sarah Rutherford-Quach. I signed up immediately. Not only that, but I found a cadre of other interested teachers and together we had one of the most powerful professional development experiences of my life.  As a teacher who is working on my third master’s degree and is Nationally Board Certified, that is saying a lot!

This MOOC was of particular interest to me in my role working with ESL teachers to help them improve their practice. One area of need that teachers often share is that they want to help their students to engage in more meaningful speaking and listening activities in order to scaffold their English language development. Having long been a fan of Zwiers’ and Hakuda’s work I knew the class was benefit me, the teachers I serve, and the students they serve.

In the course I learned simple and effective techniques to help students deepen their levels of collaborative conversations so that they were more than the hollow back and forth usually illustrated by think-pair-share and other activities.  I have watched my own students’ conversations bloom and have been able to share the knowledge I gained with teachers and schools all over the Midwest in my role as an education consultant. Watching ESL students engage one another and utter phrases like, “Can you please elaborate on your point?” Or, “What evidence do you have to support your idea?” has been simply amazing.  In my 19 years as an educator, I can honestly say, that I’ve never seen the quality of conversation between students like this before and it is all because of the learning that I did in NovoEd’s free MOOC. Amazing!

Rita Platt is a US Nationally Board Certified teacher. Her experience includes teaching learners of all levels from kindergarten to graduate student in places from remote Inuit villages to inner-city schools. She currently is a Reading and Library Media Specialist for the St. Croix Falls School District in Wisconsin, teaches graduate courses for the Professional Development Institute, and consults with local school districts. Rita’s areas of expertise include literacy, data-focused teaching, and student motivation. Find Rita’s articles on hot-topics in http://www.weteachwelearn.org/tag/rita-platt/