UMSL education scholar helps establish CoLab, conference for educators

UMSL education scholar Ralph Cordova helped establish the Cultural Landscapes Laboratory, which designed a two-day conference on common core standards Oct. 3 and 4 in UMSL’s J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center. (Photo by Michael Butler)

As education evolves, educators are emerging with new and innovative ways to create lifelong learners.

Ralph Cordova, assistant professor of early childhood, elementary, TESOL and special education at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, discovered several years ago when he, along with several colleagues, began questioning the ways in which he and fellow teachers teach.

“In the early ’90s, as a beginning teacher, one of the communities I belonged to was a research partnership, the Santa Barbara Classroom Discourse Group at UC Santa Barbara, brought together college professors and classroom teachers. And the focus of the research partnership was to study classrooms as cultures, ones where students don’t just learn math, science or writing. Rather, they become mathematicians, scientists and writers,” Cordova said.

He did not stop there. Those early experiences helped him create the Cultural Landscapes Laboratory, as known as the CoLab, his own program of research, one that fosters these ideas and brings educators together to learn from each other.

A two-day conference, “Leading Innovating Communities: Empower Your Faculty to Harness the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards,” will run from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and 4 in the J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center.

The conference, sponsored by UMSL and designed by CoLab, is open to the public with a focus on educators, formal and informal. 

“The conference is developed for teachers by teachers to begin important conversations about the Common Core State Standards, which are already here, and the Next Generation Science Standards that are forthcoming, asking us to rethink our instruction and school structures to account for and nurture lifelong learners, for students and teachers,” Cordova said, “so that when they emerge, they are career and college ready. For example, in our world of rapidly changing knowledge bases, what are the most essential things we need second graders to know? How do they build on it in third grade and so on, so by the time they graduate, entering a world that hasn’t even been invented, these learners possess the habits of mind to be creative and collaborative problem-solvers and problem-seekers.”

At the conference, accomplished teacher-leaders will engage participants into an “Inquiry Into My Practice” to demonstrate the playful nature of the CoLab’s theory of innovation, ResponsiveDesign; and how it nurtures in them collaborating and prototyping habits of mind, ones that meet the promise of the new standards.

Peter Sims, best-selling author of “Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries,” will deliver the keynote address at 4 p.m. Oct. 3 in the auditorium of the J.C. Penney Building/Conference Center.

For more information or to register for the conference, visit


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