Why: Teach for a Future Where Everyone’s Ideas Matter

New education standards such as the Common Core State Standards, the Next Generation Science Standards, and the C3 Framework for College, Career, and Civic Life focus attention on students’ critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving--skills that extend beyond school into family life, successful work, and civic engagement. Additionally, experts in science education and mathematics education have outlined the Standards for Mathematical Practice and the Science and Engineering Practices that highlight the activities that students engage in as they integrate the concepts of these disciplines.

These new disciplinary practices in mathematics and science remind us that learning science or math is much more than memorizing formulas or procedures or taxonomies. Learning math and science means learning how to think in particular ways, how to argue from evidence and create models that explain our emergent understanding. When we help our students engage together in these practices by facilitating their discussions of complex ideas, we provide multiple opportunities for all our students to become more effective users of English. We also provide rich and interesting experiences that encourage future interest and engagement in STEM careers.

The strong emphasis on critical thinking and collaborative problem-solving transforms the work of teaching and learning in powerful ways. Together with teachers, we developed this description of the new roles we're all being invited to step into.

New Teacher and Student Roles

Teacher Students


  • Create opportunities for students to reason together about things that matter
  • Focus more on students’ thinking than their answers.
  • Support perserverance in understanding one another’s thinking.
  • Model complex/precise language and discuss the pros & cons of using it.


  • Make your response to ideas known; support, challenge, or question ideas.
  • Check for accurate understandingof others’ statements; keep at it until you understand one another.
  • Follow ideas; listen carefully, track the logic. Does it make sense? Is something missing?

English Learners and Academic Discourse