Why might teacher preparation programs want to cultivate relationships with alumni who are STEM teacher leaders?
Building STEM Teacher Leadership
Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts
Alumni of teacher preparation programs can be key players in the development of future STEM teacher leaders. Teacher preparation programs can consider enhancing and formalizing their efforts to involve alumni in program activities. Relationships with program alumni have the potential to:
- Build and strengthen alumni networks in placement districts and schools
- Foster opportunities for mentorship among alumni who teach in classroom, preservice candidates, and early career teachers
- Gain information from alumni to improve teacher preparation programs
Connections with alumni can help teacher preparation programs build and strengthen alumni networks in schools and districts where candidates are placed. By creating a continuum from entrance into a preparation program through advancement in the teaching field, teacher preparation programs can position themselves to use alumni networks to support candidates’ initial preparation and ongoing professional development. Alumni networks can also support the identification of job opportunities and, by drawing on alumni’s experiences in their district, facilitate the matching of graduates to schools and districts.
Networks of alumni in districts or in individual schools can foster the creation of a support system for new teachers. A representative from one program, for example, noted that their program’s goal was to retain teachers in the profession; having a network of alumni clustered in schools had positive impacts on individual alumni and broader impacts on the culture of schools.
Programs also fostered interaction among program alumni. One program, for example, supported a communication network among alumni once they are placed in the classroom, provided opportunities for alumni to collaborate on lesson planning, and organized summer workshops to promote a culture of continuous learning among alumni.
Foster opportunities for mentorship among program alumni, preservice candidates, and early career teachers
Teacher preparation programs can use their relationships with alumni to support mentoring opportunities for preservice candidates and early career teachers. Alumni can draw on their experiences in their teacher preparation program and in the classroom to facilitate preservice teacher learning. One program, for example, placed its candidates in classrooms with alumni, who guided the candidates and provided ongoing support. Program alumni can also provide shorter-term support, including ad hoc mentoring through social media and opportunities to observe candidates’ individual lessons.
Other programs developed pipelines for mentoring and set an explicit goal that graduates will mentor new participants. A representative from one program suggested that this structure is mutually beneficial for graduates and candidates, allowing both groups to share experiences and learn from each other. At a second program, faculty members built connections across cohorts so that new fellows were matched with a “buddy” from an older cohort who could provide support to preservice candidates. Alumni were also invited to participate in a year-long institute to build skills in coaching and mentoring; alumni who completed the program served as peer coaches for preservice candidates.
In addition to direct benefits for candidates and early career teachers, as one program representative stated, mentorship and support among alumni, candidates, and early career teachers can positively influence the field by moving candidates and early career teachers toward improved STEM instruction in K–12 classrooms.
Preparation programs can use connections with alumni to learn about the types of support preservice and early career teachers need once they begin induction. Ongoing conversation with alumni, for example, created opportunities for preparation programs to learn how the districts in which alumni are placed innovate around STEM and STEM teacher leadership. Programs can use this information to match student teachers with districts who share the programs’ visions for STEM education and teacher leadership and, subsequently, improve placements in formal hiring processes after candidates complete their program.
Programs can develop intentional strategies to maintain contact with alumni—such as through email lists, short annual surveys, alumni events, check-in calls—to learn about graduates’ employment status, retention in their home districts, credentials, and awards, all data sources that may inform programming decisions related to training and placement.
One program indicated an interest in using student achievement data to make changes to its curriculum and approach to training teachers. A second program was in the early stages of understanding how their graduates influenced the schools in which they were placed. A third program sought to collect self-reported data on the use of specific classroom practices to understand how participation in their program influenced instruction and leadership among alumni.