Skip to Content

How does STEM pedagogical content knowledge inform STEM teacher leader decision-making?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

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


STEM teacher leaders are likely to have deep practical knowledge and experience in STEM content. This specialized knowledge informs decisions STEM teacher leaders may be involved in making, such as those related to:


Curriculum decisions can involve:

  • Supporting the district in a STEM curriculum adoption process
  • Identifying curricula and instructional materials aligned with the district’s STEM vision
  • Developing new STEM programming and learning opportunities
  • Articulating a K-12 STEM vision and improvement plan
  • Linking with partners on STEM programming (e.g., business, out-of-school time programs, higher education)
  • Helping individual teachers plan upcoming lessons

To make informed decisions, STEM teacher leaders will need to have worked with STEM curricula firsthand and know well the learning objectives that the curricula is designed to support. They will also need working knowledge of how curricula, instructional strategies, and assessment relate within specific STEM disciplines.

For example, a STEM teacher leader may work with a new math teacher to get up to speed with the adopted curriculum, identify curricular resources for a new engineering unit being developed by a 5th-grade team, or work with a partner hospital to plan internship curriculum for a health academy project that aligns to the state biology standards.


Assessment decisions can involve facilitating the formative classroom assessment development, identifying useful interim benchmark assessments, preparing for state summative assessments, interpreting assessment data, and communicating assessment results to stakeholders to determine appropriate next steps.

To develop formative assessments that can effectively inform instruction, STEM teacher leaders draw on their deep understanding of disciplinary learning progressions and instructional strategies. They also use STEM disciplinary knowledge to interpret interim and summative assessment data and translate that data into an improvement strategy.

For example, a STEM teacher leader may support a math teacher during a coaching session to hone a formative assessment for tomorrow’s lesson, work with a team of biology teachers to design a common end-of-year assessment for a biology class, or work with a principal on a comprehensive strategy to improve state math assessment scores in 8th grade.

Professional development

Professional development decisions can involve:

  • Targeting professional development resources toward gaps in STEM pedagogical knowledge among faculty
  • Providing training on STEM curricula and methods
  • Coaching and modelling on specific STEM instructional practices
  • Guiding individuals in building needed STEM knowledge and capacities

With a deep and credible grounding in STEM disciplines and pedagogy, STEM teacher leaders can better inform decisions that will target faculty needs and instructional goals.

For example, a STEM teacher leader may provide professional development to a specific teacher to support him/her in effectively teaching an integrated unit on water to 11th graders; help the district decide among professional development options to offer to all novice math teachers next year; or develop learning opportunities for a group of 9th-grade earth science teachers who want to incorporate the geology of the region into their curriculum next year.

Partnership and outreach

Partnership and outreach decisions can involve identifying partners that can contribute to STEM learning opportunities, communicating the STEM education vision to stakeholders, and networking with and learning from STEM education organizations or other districts.

STEM discipline knowledge will help teacher leaders consider whether potential partners are aligned with the district’s STEM instructional goals and methods and how partners can effectively contribute to programming. STEM teacher leaders will understand the nuance of the district’s STEM plan and be able to translate the essential features for others. Through their understanding of STEM pedagogy and local practice, STEM teacher leaders will be able to garner useful input on specific challenges from partner organizations and networks.