How might STEM teacher leadership support a vision of integrated STEM instruction and innovation?
Building STEM Teacher Leadership
Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts
STEM teacher leaders can promote instructional models that integrate the STEM disciplines and bring the world of STEM into the student experience, both inside and outside the classroom. They can work to capitalize on the STEM resources within their communities – business, industry, institutions of higher education, science centers and museums – to make education both cutting edge and engaging to students. Integrated STEM teacher leaders look for ways to advance cross-disciplinary learning and are willing to cross over into the humanities to make more connections. They may promote integrated STEM education as a way to develop students’ 21st-century skills (e.g., collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, communication).
Teacher and administrators interested in STEM integration can consider how STEM teacher leaders can:
- Help their schools define and plan integrated STEM education
- Help stakeholders see the value of integrated STEM education
- Take formal roles in supporting instructional change toward STEM integration
- Continue to learn about STEM integration for classroom and school improvement
Integrated STEM education is still an emerging concept in education. Working collaboratively with teachers and administrators, STEM teacher leaders can help develop strategic plans that define and guide integrated STEM efforts.
A vision of integrated STEM education would likely have:
- STEM teachers embracing a larger knowledge base within the STEM disciplines and seeking greater cross-discipline connections within STEM disciplines and with the humanities
- STEM teacher leaders supporting and leading others to carry out the vision of cross-discipline connections within STEM disciplines and with the humanities
STEM teacher leaders working to integrate STEM must be innovative and take risks. They can educate peers about what STEM integration can look like in practice. They may need to invite and encourage their colleagues to engage in integrated STEM activities that help students make connections across STEM disciplines, the social sciences, and humanities. They can model instruction and expose colleagues to educational programming that allows students to see how STEM is relevant to their lives.
STEM teacher leaders may also need to help shift the culture and understanding of STEM education so that discipline-specific teachers begin broadening their knowledge base to other disciplines and the integration of disciplines. They may need to promote the idea that integrated STEM instruction can support disciplinary learning because it allows students to make real-world connections to construct knowledge.
Some stakeholders may readily embrace integrated STEM education if they use STEM interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in their own lives; understand the increasing importance of integrated STEM in advancing real-world innovation; or see integrated STEM as a platform that engages students in developing skills for future careers.
STEM teacher leaders can invite and facilitate conversations with stakeholders, helping to advance a vision of integrated STEM education and develop school or district strategic plans. STEM teacher leaders can connect with district and school leaders, other teachers, parents and community members to advocate for integrated STEM education and change STEM instruction.
STEM teacher leaders can be empowered to work with individuals or groups of teacher as a coach, mentor, facilitator of professional learning communities, and critical friend. They can provide or broker professional development for teachers, or vet or develop instructional resources. They can work with administrators and teachers to develop strategic plans and school structures/schedules/courses that allow for integrated STEM education. They can also initiate and nurture relationships with external partners (e.g., industry, higher education, nonprofits, out-of-school time programs, arts organizations) that can contribute to integrated STEM learning opportunities.
STEM teacher leaders can seek professional development to broaden and deepen their knowledge of STEM disciplines and integration across STEM and other content areas. This continued learning can occur through, for example, formal coursework in STEM disciplines, interdisciplinary summer experiences in STEM fields, or work with STEM professionals. STEM teacher leaders strengthen their leadership through their willingness to learn new knowledge and skills in the STEM disciplines, which they then bring to their colleagues.