Recently, researchers from SRI Education and Policy Studies Associates (PSA) collaborated with expert practitioners on the development of an exciting resource for the U.S. Department of Education: stemteacherleadership.org, a website that addresses promising practices and challenges for preparing teachers to become Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher leaders.
STEM teacher leaders can play a crucial role in developing and delivering high-quality education to all students. They take on additional roles and responsibilities for improving STEM programming and supporting peers outside of their own classrooms.
The website is designed to spread awareness of the roles STEM teacher leaders can play, highlight ways districts and schools have approached teacher leadership, and help stakeholders think through challenges they may be facing in developing and supporting STEM teacher leaders.
Getting Started: Identifying Pressing Needs in STEM Teacher Leader Development Efforts
SRI was charged with promoting a discussion of problems and promising solutions relevant to the broader field of STEM teacher leadership. To get started, SRI and PSA hosted a gathering in Arlington, Virginia that brought together over 60 diverse stakeholders from across the country with a shared interest in STEM teacher leadership. These teacher leaders, administrators, practitioners, and policymakers discussed the needs of the field, successes and challenges they’d personally experienced, and ideas to move STEM teacher leadership forward.
As the event wrapped up, attendees came to a consensus on the six most pressing topics to address in STEM teacher leadership:
- Models of STEM Teacher Leadership
- Elementary STEM Teacher Leaders
- Administrator Support for STEM Teacher Leaders
- Building Teacher Leader Networks
- From Teacher Candidate to STEM Teacher Leader
- Evaluation of Teacher Leader Programs
These topics became research action clusters (RACs), working groups that collaborated over the 2015-16 school year to dive into the particular issues of each topic. The RACs were staffed with expert practitioners who expressed a desire to extend the progress that was made at the convening, and each group was facilitated by a senior researcher at SRI or PSA.
Shaping the Resource through Frequently Asked Questions and Inspiring Examples
Each RAC generated a list of frequently asked questions that stakeholders might have about each of the six topics—what might someone want to know about networks of STEM teacher leaders, or STEM in elementary schools?—and then worked to identify some exciting practices and potential solutions to those questions. To generate answers to the FAQs, RAC members had in-depth conversations with organizations that specialized in each of the topic areas to learn about their work, and drew upon their own professional expertise. Embedded within the FAQ answers are illustrative examples that seemed particularly promising for advancing STEM teacher leadership. These models vary in their size, scope, target population, and means of building STEM teacher leadership capacity, but they are uniformly rich, innovative, and teacher-focused.
Building a Culminating Web Resource on STEM Teacher Leadership
The final product is a web resource authored by expert practitioners in the field of STEM teacher leadership for use by other practitioners. Readers can access the FAQs and solutions by topic, such as evaluating teacher leader programs or how administrators can effectively support STEM teacher leadership. The information is also presented by stakeholder type, so readers can find a curated list of questions that are of particular relevance to audiences like state education agencies, secondary educators, or policymakers.
We encourage you to take a look at stemteacherleadership.org, and we think you’ll find information of interest, regardless of your role and your familiarity with STEM teacher leadership.