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What are the benefits for districts/schools in partnering with teacher preparation programs that expose teacher candidates to STEM teacher leader concepts and opportunities?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

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


STEM teacher leadership can benefit from coordinated work between districts and teacher preparation programs. Distributing the responsibility for training, mentoring, supporting, employing, and empowering STEM teachers and STEM teacher leaders among the multiple players in the education community can lead to greater buy-in and commitment to sustaining the work. In partnering with teacher preparation program, districts and schools can benefit in ways that include:

Identifying and attracting strong STEM teachers

Districts and schools that establish relationships with teacher preparation programs get a preview of well-qualified candidates for STEM positions. As the districts and schools provide clinical experiences and supervision to preservice teachers, they are able to see the candidates” development over time. Districts and schools also are able to expose the preservice teachers to their particular STEM education approach and vision. They can also assess a candidate’s fit with this STEM vision and their potential contributions. Additionally, when programs work with districts/schools to introduce candidates to STEM leadership activities—for instance, facilitating STEM-related data-analysis meetings—the district or school will have an opportunity to see how candidates work with peers in authentic STEM professional tasks.

Districts and schools can also be confident that the candidates in partner programs have already been exposed to the idea of STEM teacher leadership, and they may therefore be more inclined to contribute to efforts outside their own classroom. These candidates may have already thought about their professional goals and pathway toward STEM teacher leadership.

Well-qualified candidates can be attracted to partner districts and schools based on their clinical experience and familiarity with the district. Over time, a successful partnership between a preparation program and district can result in the program promoting the district to candidates who are well-qualified and would be a good fit.

Filling STEM teacher positions more easily

STEM positions can be difficult to fill for many districts, though a partnership with STEM teacher preparation program can provide a pool of possible candidates. There are examples of local districts contacting a partner university program to request candidates from that particular program. Districts trust recommendations from these programs through experience with their candidates, thereby potentially streamlining the hiring process for STEM teachers and filling hard to staff STEM teaching positions.

Retaining more STEM teachers

Many teachers leave the profession in their first years, but preservice programs can contribute to their graduates’ persistence, and thereby the stability of a school or district’s teaching force. New teachers may be more likely to persevere if they are working toward career goals, aspire to leadership, and know examples of many ways to lead. Programs that expose their preservice teachers to STEM teacher leadership may be imparting a mindset that encourages new teachers to remain engaged and on their career pathway. New teachers coming into the workforce with a leadership mindset may be more likely to persevere toward meeting that goal.

Staying current on STEM education research and innovation

By partnering with a teacher preparation programs, schools and districts can have greater exposure and dialogue around innovative and research-based practices. A substantive partnership could bring K-12 teachers and program staff together for mutual learning and examination of research-based practices as they occur in the field. Teacher candidates come into local schools with fresh ideas about STEM instruction, which can push school staff to reflect on their practice. K-12 teachers may have opportunities to engage with preparation programs in other ways that connect them with research and innovation, such as through mentoring roles in the programs, action research, and grant programs. When partnering with universities, K-12 teacher may have opportunities for discipline-specific research or learning (e.g., science lab research, citizen science, STEM courses), deepening their content knowledge and engagement in STEM.