STEM teacher leader programs used outcomes that suited their particular goals and needs. This approach has led STEM teacher leader programs to identify and evaluate three key areas of focus aligned with their professional development objectives:
- Increasing STEM content knowledge as the basis for instructional technique
- Utilizing inquiry-based techniques to engage students and other stakeholders
- Providing multiple leadership pathways that increase participation and allow participants to grow their skill sets
STEM teacher leader programs have a unique challenge because of the additional content knowledge demands of a rapidly changing field. New research and technology are constantly being developed and updated, and STEM teacher leader programs are faced with the difficult challenge of keeping up.
One way in which programs contend with this trend is by focusing on increasing program participants’ STEM content knowledge through professional development. Many programs include increased STEM content knowledge as a key outcome. Evaluations often include outcomes related to the amount of time invested in professional development designed to increase content knowledge and teachers’ reported and tested gain in content knowledge.
A mastery of content knowledge in the STEM field provides the building blocks for instructional technique. The eventual goal of this knowledge and technique is the improvement of classroom instruction and, ultimately, student achievement.
STEM teacher leadership programs can identify outcomes related to use of inquiry-based learning techniques. As part of the program, teachers receive professional learning experiences that foster the use of the inquiry process.
- In some programs, the professional learning experience was inquiry-based, allowing teachers to engage in the process as a learner while acquiring the skills needed to lead students in using the process. These learning experiences are embedded within the program evaluation.
- For others, the professional learning was focused on implementation of the process, with students in some cases using materials provided through the program.
Measuring changes in instruction and teacher practice was often cited as a challenge administrators of such programs faced. Some programs included the use of teacher surveys within their evaluations that allow for teacher self-reporting. Classroom observations were also used as a more objective means of assessing teacher practice.
Within the scope of inquiry-based techniques and action research, programs can evaluate STEM teacher leaders’ ability to use technology to further learning for students. Expected outcomes may include:
- Using technology with students in ways that combine two-way communication and academic feedback while advancing students’ use of technology in learning
- Engaging teachers in meaningful virtual communities, bringing together a diverse group of professionals to solve problems, deepen knowledge and share expertise
- Participating in a range of discussions and collaborative work with peers across local, state, and national levels to leverage change
STEM teacher leader programs identified outcomes specific to teachers’ leadership skills ranging from developing capacities of students, self, and peers to impacting decision-making at a level beyond the school and district. A variety of data sources are used in the evaluation process including: rubrics, quantitative data, interviews, observation tools, surveys, and various forms of student data. The programs evaluated the evolution of skills such as:
- Policy leadership through coordination with stakeholders to promote support for STEM education initiating change on the local, state, and national levels
- Association leadership through the mobilization of groups and organizations, which may include but are not limited to mathematics, science, and engineering departments of higher education institutions, around common themes to improve conditions for teaching and learning, especially in the areas of math and science
- Leadership through collaboration with peers to share content and pedagogical knowledge through an assortment of professional learning opportunities
- Leadership through community involvement forming partnerships that promote growth of students, the community, and the teaching profession in the area of STEM education
See What kinds of tools or data collection instruments have STEM teacher leader programs used in their evaluations? Which may be relevant for my program?) for more information on the types of instruments programs used to measure the various outcomes in their evaluations.