Program Highlights

Mills Teacher Scholars Partners with OUSD’s Social Emotional Learning and Leadership Development Department

Program Highlights

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The wordle above illustrates the OUSD SEL teacher scholars’ reflections on their all-day Mills Teacher Scholars experience.

As we support our teacher scholars from across the East Bay to engage in making sense of the Common Core standards, we are hearing a repeated refrain: student success hinges on their social emotional learning (SEL) competencies. Indeed, there is wide-spread agreement  that the SEL competencies are foundational to achieving the communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity goals embedded in the Common Core State Standards. But how do teachers support this competency building while developing content understanding?

Mills Teacher Scholars is excited to partner with OUSD’s Social Emotional Learning and Leadership Development and Developmental Studies Center to explore this question with a group of dynamic SEL teacher leaders from Caring School Communities demonstration schools. In late January seventeen K-6 OUSD teachers from Parker, Emerson, Crocker Highlands and Garfield elementary schools began a year-long series of collaborative inquiry sessions that focus on two essential questions:

  • What conditions do we need in place to support collaborative adult learning communities that build understanding?

Focus on conversations that promote understanding

The all-day January session at Mills College at Northeastern University provided opportunities for teachers to notice, name and better understand how social emotional learning and building academic content knowledge overlap for both adults and students. SEL teacher scholars deconstructed a video of a powerful teacher learning conversation, identifying the adults’ SEL competencies and discourse moves, then participated in a learning discussion themselves. Throughout the session the teacher scholars surfaced the conditions and agreements necessary for teachers to engage in learning conversations tDSC_0384ogether.

The teachers subsequently analyzed a powerful student learning conversation from OUSD’s academic discussion video library and identified the SEL competencies that were necessary for the successful student learning conversation. A favorite segment of the video clip featured a fifth grade student disagreeing with his classmates from OUSD’s Think College Now about the significance of a particular scene to the novel’s theme. Also appreciated was when the same student insisted that one of his classmates join more intensely into the conversation. Teachers had the opportunity to consider what conditions and understandings must be in place for the student to interact in this way and how to build a climate that promotes this kind of interaction.

Focus on students

These OUSD teacher scholars are well on their way to powerful inquiries that will support them to integrate social emotional learning and content understanding. Mills Teacher Scholars staff has collected video and audio data to support teacher learning about their focal students as teachers begin to refine their area of inquiry. The initial investigation questions include:

What are students saying and learning during math talks?

What are my kindergartners really doing during independent reading?

How can I support students with whole-class student-facilitated academic discussion?

By beginning with a look at what is happening for focal students during these routine classroom structures, teachers get a close-up view of what students are currently doing and understanding. From there, they can start to make instructional changes that support learners with moving towards where they want them to be, with a deeper understanding of the SEL competencies embedded in everything we ask of students in our classrooms.