What might administrators consider when evaluating and sustaining a STEM teacher leader program?
Building STEM Teacher Leadership
Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts
Evaluating and sustaining a STEM teacher leader program can be crucial for the ongoing success of the program. Administrators may want to have:
- Clear measurable goals for the STEM teacher leader model (short-term and long-term)
- Formative feedback that informs revision of the STEM teacher leader model
- Use of feedback to adjust goals for STEM education
- Open communication between school, district, and community stakeholder groups
- Structures and processes to address challenges
Specific strategies for evaluating these types of STEM teacher leadership programs can be found in other FAQs (see Evaluation of Teacher Leadership Programs)
It is important to develop clear goals for the STEM teacher leader model—short-term and long-term, at their school and in their district. These goals will be different for each school/district, but they can clearly add specificity to the “vision”” of the STEM teacher leader work. (see What district and school conditions can strengthen implementation of STEM teacher leadership?). One example of a successful STEM teacher leader implementation included goals with a three-year plan to increase the scope and influence of their STEM coach as the teacher leader established relationships. Other goals can include: hiring coaches who have been teachers recently, modeling instruction for teachers, empowering teachers to lead change, growing the number of STEM elective courses, increasing STEM clubs and competitions, and increasing awareness of STEM careers and pathways.
Administrators should likewise consider: How will these goals be evaluated? District stakeholders, with clear indicators of progress, can gather program data through test scores, teacher and student surveys, and qualitative data from teachers and administrators in schools that have STEM teacher leaders.
Some stakeholders have indicated they value the ability to use ongoing, formative assessments to inform the direction of the STEM teacher leader program in a flexible manner. Once clear goals have been set, classroom teacher and STEM teacher leader input can help implementation improve toward achieving those goals.
Some districts can gather formative feedback through “expectation forms” that allow for STEM teacher leader self-assessment and peer feedback on targeted school and district goals. Formative assessments to evaluate goals can identify successful strategies that are working; keep communication between teachers, coaches, and administrators open; identify areas of strength/need for teachers/schools; and reiterate the need for STEM instruction, which includes engineering and technology implementation with math and science.
Because STEM teacher leaders are likely a key component of a school’s STEM education approach, feedback related to STEM teacher leaders can be useful for revisiting broader STEM goals. The structures or processes for gathering feedback may look different depending on the goals of the school/district. In one example, a school created a STEM leadership team to look at data and to work alongside the principal to bring about change. This use of internal leadership allowed decisions to be made and revised by the stakeholder groups that will be implementing the STEM goals.
It is important for schools to have flexibility to tailor goals for their own needs and contexts. Even though goals are going to vary, they can have a measurable component and define “success” so that future decisions about STEM goals are informed by data. Types of feedback could vary greatly depending on the goals of the school/district, resources, and teacher buy-in, but performance indicators can include self-reflection, peer review, surveys, test data, observations, and rubrics.
Teacher buy-in, collaboration with administrators and leaders/coaches, and open communication with community stakeholder groups can support STEM teacher leader program success. Being open about the teacher needs, STEM coaches’ and teacher leaders’ expertise, and a clear vision from principals that is tailored to the needs of the school, district, and community creates an environment that is flexible and supportive of change. Surveys can be used to find areas of strength and need, while also justifying the resources needed for a successful STEM program. (See What might administrators consider when assessing need and feasibility for STEM teacher leadership for their schools? and What district and school conditions can strengthen implementation of STEM teacher leadership?).
Open communication offers an ongoing means for “mid-course corrections” and for sharing strategies that are working. Stakeholder group communication does not occur on its own. For this reason, STEM leaders must actively create open lines of communication and seek out feedback—both positive and negative—in order to create change.
While having a “long-term plan” is important for any sustainable STEM teacher leader program, school districts can vary greatly on how they address these program challenges, based on the program goals, implementation, and outcomes. Administrators can consider developing formal strategies for addressing challenges when they arise, such as designating individuals or a team for strategic planning and building in opportunities to examine evidence of problems. Administrators may want to anticipate particular challenges, such as those related to funding, stakeholder buy-in, implementation consistency, and scaling the effort.
Funding can be addressed through grants from local, state or national public entities (including leveraging federal Title funds; see this U.S. Department of Education guidance), and even outside community stakeholder funding. Some districts have implemented STEM programs by funding STEM teacher leader positions at the district level, while other districts have followed a more “grass roots” approach by training coaches at the school level.
Feedback from stakeholders can inform programmatic improvements, which in turn can lead to programs that can more easily be replicated and scaled. If there is a clear vision and goals, then formative feedback allows for continual tweaking of the program to increase impact. (See What might administrators consider when implementing STEM teacher leadership? and What steps could guide an administrator who is interested in implementing a STEM teacher leadership program?).