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What knowledge, skills, and dispositions are required to be a STEM teacher leader?

Building STEM Teacher Leadership

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


When hiring, developing, and evaluating STEM teacher leaders, administrators may consider the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to support their local STEM education vision and plan. They can also consider these characteristics to be a work in progress, as being a STEM teacher leader is a process of development and learning. Competencies that STEM teacher leaders demonstrate include:

Leadership competencies

Here are several examples of frameworks that delineate the knowledge, skills, and dispositions of effective teacher leaders. Some that are not specific to STEM may still be useful. These resources can help identify the competencies that may fit best with an organization’s specific vision for the STEM teacher leader position and the local vision for STEM education:

Beliefs about STEM learning

Several beliefs of STEM teacher leaders stand out as qualities that may impact their effectiveness. These beliefs include:

All students can be successful in STEM

All teachers can successfully engage students in learning STEM in ways that honor disciplinary ways of knowing and doing STEM

STEM provides a powerful lens for understanding the world and addressing societal challenges

STEM discipline content knowledge

STEM teacher leaders have strong foundations in STEM discipline-specific knowledge and practice. Learning about discipline content, conducting activities in the disciplines (e.g., science research, use of emerging technology, engineering design cycles), and knowing the relevant K–12 academic standards, can all contribute to such foundations. Since standards vary from state to state, it is important that STEM teacher leaders are immersed in the relevant local standards. Some discipline-specific academic standards in STEM include:

There are no separate K–12 standards for engineering but engineering is included in the NGSS and resources are available on how to integrate engineering into CCSSM and NGSS ( For more, see

Because of the importance of disciplinary ways of knowing and doing for improving STEM instruction, STEM teacher leaders need to:

  • Have deep, specific content knowledge and an understanding of best practices in STEM instruction to effectively support other STEM teachers
  • Be willing to increase their content knowledge as necessary, particularly as standards change
  • Continually broaden their understanding of STEM education research
  • Attend to broader issues in STEM education, such as vertical instructional alignment across grade bands, advocacy for resources for STEM teachers and programs, and best practices for developing common assessments

Capacity to integrate STEM disciplines with each other or with non-STEM disciplines

Districts and schools interested in integrating across STEM disciplines and with non-STEM disciplines can have STEM teacher leaders lead that effort. To meet this challenge, which requires teachers and teacher leaders to work across the traditional boundaries of individual disciplines in STEM, STEM teacher leaders will want to:

  • Develop strong collaboration skills; integrating STEM usually requires working with more people than are needed to teach a single discipline
  • Recognize who has knowledge about aspects of integrated STEM and can serve as a resource, rather than expecting to have all the answers oneself
  • Be open to collaborating with universities and industry, which are particularly important for integrated STEM
  • Develop an understanding of how disciplinary ways of knowing and doing are similar and different across STEM contexts; negotiating these differences will be crucial in leading integrated STEM
  • Understand and respect the discourse of the disciplines; that is, understand what it means to investigate and document knowledge as well as the standards for evidence within a discipline
  • Visit other STEM teacher leaders to help identify commonalities about the challenges districts and teachers face and strategies they use as they work to integrate STEM education

More can be found regarding hiring criteria under What might administrators consider when initiating a new effort in STEM teacher leadership?