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What are the factors to consider in developing high-quality STEM teacher leader networks?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts

 

When developing high-quality STEM teacher leader networks, thinking about sustainability from the start is important. Build the capacity of one or more group members to:

Provide active facilitation

  • Active facilitation refers to the knowledge, skills and abilities for one or more group members (“Facilitators”) to help direct the network so that it has emotionally safe and structured ways to engage in shared work
  • Active facilitators are up-to-date with STEM policies, practices and frameworks, and have the capacity to apply adult learning principles to foster individual and team development
  • Active facilitators:
    • Support network members to establish a shared purpose
    • Utilize protocols and processes to maximize interaction among participants and address tasks within realistic timelines
    • Recognize that strong relationships among group members is valuable and take steps to help foster those relationships
    • Have a number of tools in their toolkit, including strategies to build trust, establish shared norms, utilize protocols, create and use agendas, and document and share progress
    • Monitor and share feedback from network members and make adjustments accordingly in transparent ways
    • Monitor group interactions and intervene when difficult dynamics emerge

For many STEM teacher leaders, active facilitation can require new, specialized skills. It is important to include opportunities for members new to this role to learn leadership and facilitation skills, apply these skills in a variety of contexts, and have opportunities to reflect on what they are learning as they grow into new or expanded leadership roles.

Strengthen relationships

  • Relationships matter. Network participants benefit from adequate time and robust protocols that increase the quality and quantity of interactions with other members. Stronger relationships can encourage risk-taking, sharing of multiple perspectives, and individual and group accountability.
  • Meeting spaces that are comfortable and designed to maximize equitable engagement help to establish and foster relationships. Refreshments and sufficient break time when less formal conversations occur can help foster those relationships.
  • Professional relationships can be enhanced by providing a variety of grouping structures (e.g., cross-role groups, cross-school groups) where participants can contextualize and apply new ideas in different ways, as well as reflect on the lessons they are learning with colleagues in similar contexts (e.g., role-alike groups, within-content groups).
  • Some participants in online networks find it more difficult to build strong relationships with colleagues. Although not essential, it can be beneficial to provide members with opportunities to engage face-to-face occasionally to foster and solidify relationships.

Fostering inclusive ownership

  • Collaboration and team development helps network members develop a sense of shared ownership of the work, which can increase motivation.
  • Teams evolve and develop over time. Many teams can get stuck, and in the process of negotiating forward movement, emerge stronger and more resilient.
  • Networks that provide multiple entry points and pathways for members to engage—and that solicit and value contributions from a range of participants—can result in equitable opportunities for members to contribute their strengths and experiences.