How can I tell if a STEM teacher leader program I’m considering participating in, or sending teachers in my school/district to, is a fit with my goals?
Building STEM Teacher Leadership
Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts
The variety of STEM teacher leader programs now available requires teachers, schools, and districts to be thoughtful about finding the right program. Here are questions to ask before choosing a program to ensure you invest time and energy into work that fits your needs and moves your STEM initiative forward:
- What is the nature of the STEM initiative in the context of your school district?
- What is the vision for implementing STEM teacher leadership?
- What are the expected outcomes of the program?
- What is the program’s logic model?
- What are the needs of potential teacher leaders?
- Does the program develop sustainability?
Before sending teachers to a STEM teacher leader development program, be clear about the role these teachers will play in supporting the school/district’s STEM strategic plan. Understand the goals for STEM in the district’s context (e.g., student learning, teacher capacity) and how teacher leaders will help to move the initiative forward.
Many different models and definitions of teacher leadership exist: some release teachers from classroom responsibilities, while others seek to develop model classrooms. Clarity about the expectations teacher leaders’ roles will determine the skills that participating teachers will seek to develop in the STEM teacher leader program. Some teacher leader programs result in degrees or certificates for participants; which may be an important incentive for teachers.
Pay attention to the stated outcomes of the STEM teacher leader program both for the participants and students. Consider whether these stated goals are tightly aligned with the goals of the STEM strategic plan in the district or school. An evaluation with outcomes tied closely to goals will increase the likelihood that the program will meet intended objectives.
Every STEM teacher leader program has a logic model (How do I set goals for a program evaluation and balance them with goals of other stakeholders?), whether stated or unstated. Investigate the design of the program as well as the program evaluation to uncover these beliefs. Some examples include increasing teacher content knowledge in STEM will result in a rise in student achievement, or developing model classrooms will increase the spread of high quality STEM instruction throughout a site. Consider these beliefs in light of your district’s theory of action.
Excellent teachers who take on more responsibility need and deserve training that prepares them to lead, organize, and develop their peers. Whether teacher leaders have formal accountability for peers’ student outcomes, informal coaching authority, or other formal roles leading peers, they need support in the transition from leading their own classrooms to leading adult peers. Consider whether the skills that a STEM teacher leader program aims to develop in teachers meet the needs of teachers, and if the program has proven success in building these skills.
It is essential that the participants in a STEM teacher leader program are equipped to lead the STEM work in their districts beyond the time frame of the program. Investigate the program evaluation for indications that the participants are prepared to move STEM programming forward in measurable ways. Find out if the teacher leaders are able to share their learning with others in their districts or states.