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What might administrators consider when assessing need and feasibility for STEM teacher leadership for their schools?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

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


What might administrators consider when assessing need and feasibility for STEM teacher leadership for their schools? – Building STEM Teacher Leadership

Administrators can consider the following steps to assess school-level needs and feasibility of implementing a STEM teacher leadership program:

Considerations for Assessing Needs and Feasibility of STEM Teacher Leadership

Assess the capacity and beliefs of stakeholders involved

School leaders can develop their own “self-efficacy” surveys in which teachers respond about their content knowledge, pedagogy, professional development, and structures supporting STEM instruction, as well as specific building-level needs. Similar surveys can be given to principals and students to gain a more thorough understanding of the current status and the future needs of the school. Include focus group discussions as a strategy for taking stock of capacities and beliefs to dig deeper than self-report surveys can. The following types of questions can inform the assessment of stakeholder perspectives on STEM:


      Sample questions

  • How confident are you in your knowledge of instruction in each STEM discipline?
  • What are your STEM education goals, and how do they fit with other priorities you have for your school?
  • Does embedded professional development have a place in your vision of teacher support, and if so, in what ways?
  • Do you believe that a teacher leader position would help you achieve your STEM-related goals, and if so, how?
  • What type of teacher leader positions would be feasible?
  • How confident are you in your knowledge of instruction in each STEM discipline?
  • What is your comfort level in answering student questions in STEM subjects?
  • What conditions need to exist for you to better support student growth in STEM?
  • What types of professional practice and development opportunities would help your growth in STEM instruction?
  • Do you feel competent in each of the STEM subjects?
  • Do you like learning STEM subjects and have an interest in STEM careers?
  •  How might you design a brand new STEM classroom?
  • How should teaching change to help you learn and like STEM subjects?

Schools can also gather the perspectives of parents and current/potential partners on STEM education. These partners might include STEM-rich institutions, out-of-school partners, institutions of higher education, summer programs, industry, and more. For instance, a school can assess how important STEM education is to them, what they see as goals and needs related to STEM capacities, and how they could contribute to the effort. This assessment is also an opportunity for building relationships and support for the school's work.

Assess current and needed professional development

A teacher survey can collect useful information about staff perspectives on:

  • STEM professional development needs
  • Preferred types of professional development
  • Vision for how the STEM teacher leader role can support their professional development
  • Existing in-house capacities for professional development
  • Potential logistical challenges regarding professional development
  • Which competing activities can be supplanted or dropped

Time and resources. Administrators will likely want to assess the feasibility of scheduling time for prospective teacher professional development activities (e.g., coaching sessions, team meetings, curriculum development sessions, trainings). They will also likely want to assess what material resources or outside expertise are needed as part of the professional development plan.

Administrator needs. Administrators would also be wise at this early stage to assess their own professional development needs. Implementing a new plan for STEM education or a new STEM teacher leadership effort will require new capacities from administrators and other leaders. School and district leaders may want to determine:

  • Their own gaps around STEM education
  • What they could learn from STEM teacher leaders
  • How STEM teacher leaders can regularly inform and support their leadership team on STEM and staff issues

STEM teacher leader needs. STEM teacher leaders will also benefit from ongoing development opportunities, and identifying their needs can be an ongoing effort. Draw on input from teachers (and teacher leaders if they currently exist in the district) to determine what capacities STEM teacher leaders should develop and design a plan for their development. If there are multiple STEM teacher leaders in a district, administrators may want to determine the feasibility of forming a community of practice for the STEM teacher leaders to learn from each other and build knowledge that can be shared with administrators.

Measuring effectiveness of professional development. Lastly, administrators can begin thinking at this early stage about how they will measure the success of the professional development, which could include developing measurable progress indicators related to the STEM teacher leader's role. (See Evaluation of Teacher Leader Programs.)

Assess the roles and responsibilities needed of STEM teacher Leaders

Administrators can also assess the clarity of specified STEM teacher leader roles and responsibilities, agreement among all stakeholders of what those roles and responsibilities are, and what success would look like for that role. Data and informal input collected from teachers, as well as from partners and district leaders, can be used to inform the design of the STEM teacher leader role. Administrators may want to consider the following questions:

  • How is the STEM teacher leader role different from other positions (e.g., instructional coaches, administrators, department or grade-level chairs, district specialists)? How are their roles similar?
  • What are the implications of the STEM teacher leader role for hiring criteria and STEM teacher leaders’ professional development?
  • What are the implications of the STEM teacher leader role for their schedules and time allotment? What are implications for administrator and faculty schedules?
  • How will the effectiveness of a STEM teacher leader be measured? By whom?

Assess funding and resources

Administrators will want to analyze funding sources and needs early on, given the importance of proper funding to implement and sustain a successful STEM teacher leader effort. . While new funding streams may be possible through grants or budget proposals, existing resources can also be reallocated to help support and sustain such programs. The following questions around funding can be used to analyze and assess the feasibility of implementation, either through growing new funding and programs or utilizing existing funds to support implementation.

  • What level of funding is needed to support a STEM teacher leader effort (e.g., salary, training, stipends, and equipment)?
  • Are there existing positions that can be repurposed or split to take on STEM teacher leader responsibilities?
  • What new funding sources can be used to create an initial STEM teacher leader model (e.g., grants, community support)?
  • What current funding sources are available to support a STEM teacher leader model (e.g., federal Title funds, Career and Technical Education funds, district STEM initiatives, general budget allocations for professional development)?
  • Can district funds be reallocated to support STEM teacher leaders?
  • What sources of funding are anticipated for out years?

Determine program features that are promising and feasible

With vision and needs assessment data in hand, administrators can begin to identify promising features of a STEM teacher leader program—ones that are feasible and likely to promote progress towards school or district goals. A STEM teacher leader model that works in one school may not work in a seemingly similar school, and even promising models will probably need to be tailored to fit the unique contexts of individual schools and districts. In short, a STEM teacher leader model can be built to ensure it is a good fit with the local context and community needs and is feasible with the resources available. (See Models of STEM Teacher Leadership In and Beyond School Settings.)

Administrators will want to balance constraints, opportunities, and goals as they begin to narrow what their STEM teacher leader model may look like. For instance:

  • A school with a strong culture of professional learning communities may be able to easily initiate a model that has the STEM teacher leader facilitating collaborative meetings to redesign the instructional program
  • A school with well-established partnerships with local industry or hospitals may want to focus on creating a new academic program with that partner, such as a high school career academy, robotics program, or internship program that complements existing programs
  • Under constraints of budget and existing positions, an administrator can choose to begin with a part-time STEM teacher leader position or split responsibilities amongst strong STEM educators. Consider whether the STEM teacher leader position will supplant an existing position? Can existing funds be repurposed? How will faculty respond to these changes?