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How can high-quality STEM teacher leader networks be sustained and maintained?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

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

 

STEM teacher leader networks vary in shape, size, and scope. Some STEM teacher leader networks form organically from grassroots movements of teachers and others are formed through programmatic investments at district, state, and national levels. Sustainability and long-term viability of STEM teacher leader networks are dependent upon three major characteristics:

Sustaining a High-Quality STEM Teacher Leader Network graphic

Clear purpose

Regardless of the size of the STEM teacher leader network, a clear and simple purpose that all members find meaningful and can rally behind is essential. Some STEM teacher leader networks are governed by advisory boards that set the direction for their work; other networks establish a purpose on their own. Clarity of purpose is important in creating and sustaining authentic opportunities for members to engage within the network. It also provides an additional checkpoint to ensure that the STEM teacher leader network is focused and on task. Examples of clear purpose include:

  • Curriculum development for a shared course
  • Lesson study
  • Shared professional development interests in context, for example:
    • Project based learning
    • Complex Instruction
    • Modelling practices

Strong leadership roles

A strong leadership team—as opposed to a single person—is essential for the long-term viability of a STEM teacher leader network. The size, scope, and context of the network dictate the level, organization, and style of leadership and facilitation roles. In a small network, the members can share various aspects of leadership. A stable STEM teacher leader network depends on having a committed group of such individuals who:

  • Understand the context of the STEM teacher leader network
  • Cultivate and maintain relationships across the STEM teacher leader network
  • Demonstrate collective ownership for the purpose by facilitating goal-driven interactions with members

Orientation towards learning, partnership, and iteration

A sustainable STEM teacher leader network exhibits an orientation towards learning from its members’ experiences, partnering with similar or like-minded organizations, and evolving to maintain continued relevance and investment of its members. This orientation can look vastly different depending on the size and context of the STEM teacher leader network, for example:

  • Smaller scale STEM teacher leader networks can develop norms that place equal value on all voices
  • Larger scale STEM teacher leader networks can organize around regional networks and share their best practices across a larger national network

To sustain themselves, networks can focus on members learning from shared practices and mistakes, building partnerships with others (individuals or organizations) that can complement the existing STEM teacher leader network, and iterating as more information is available. Partnerships to sustain networks can take form as both institutional support (e.g., professional development credit through participating district, small networks-within-networks looking to other branches for support, etc.) and financial support (local government and corporations, state and federal grants, etc.).