What are potential benefits to belonging to a high-quality STEM teacher leader network?
Building STEM Teacher Leadership
Reflections by the STEM teacher leader community on opportunities and gaps in STEM teacher leader development efforts
Belonging to a high-quality STEM teacher leader network can have numerous benefits, including four critical ones:
- Reducing isolation
- Increasing educator effectiveness
- Providing incentives
- Developing leadership and growth opportunities
Belonging to a high-quality STEM teacher leader network can foster relationships within the professional community. Professional isolation may result from geographic location (e.g., being a teacher in a rural area) or from being the only teacher of a subject in a school (e.g., AP Calculus, Engineering), which can commonly result from the wide variety of STEM disciplines. Interaction with other professionals may help to decrease isolation.
Effective networks focus on key ways to reduce isolation and to ensure opportunities for members to connect with peers, including:
- Deepening existing relationships
- Expanding new contacts through networking events (e.g., workshops, conferences, online discussion boards)
- Creating opportunities for sharing advice with peers
- Serving as a mentor to someone else or finding a mentor to help with other professional needs
Networks can offer members with numerous opportunities for sharing resources and information with the aim of improving teaching practice. Teachers who join high-quality STEM teacher leader networks have access to professional development opportunities that provide benefits, such as:
- Enhancing teacher content knowledge
- Staying abreast of scientific developments
- Incorporating advancements in the field into classroom experiences (e.g., changes in technology tools supporting STEM content)
- Designing engaging classroom materials, including lesson plans and activities
- Varying teaching techniques and styles for all learners
- Grouping students to ensure valuable contributions from all members
- Providing formative feedback to students
These approaches and potential benefits, as well as opportunities to discuss them, can provide teachers with continual education and additional professional preparation. The use of a high-quality STEM teacher leader network can provide teachers with information, content and pedagogical implementation strategies, and insights into how to use these strategies with all students effectively.
One key incentive for teachers to join a high-quality STEM teacher leader network can be continued certification. Teachers who need professional development hours (e.g., for recertification, renewal, etc.) can consider joining a high-quality STEM teacher leader network as some schools offer professional development credit for participation in a network. Teachers joining a network can fulfill this requirement while simultaneously accessing needed support opportunities to effectively learn, grow, and teach. Beyond the additional hours toward license renewal, additional incentives for joining a high-quality STEM network can include:
- Increased connections: Teachers finding individuals teaching courses similar to theirs as well as to students similar to theirs generate specific conversations about how materials, lesson plans, and assignments worked with their students.
- Increased efficiency: By connecting with others teaching similar students, teachers can reduce the “trial and error” approach that occurs in education.
- Increased confidence: Teachers in high-quality STEM teacher leader networks are able to plan and teach confidently knowing they have shared ideas with other teachers teaching similar materials.
- Increased influence: With input from other STEM teachers, teachers can have more confidence in taking the lessons learned and sharing them with colleagues at their schools, within and beyond the STEM subject areas.
Teachers who belong to a high-quality STEM teacher leader network are exposed to a variety of leadership and growth opportunities, including:
- Serving as leaders while still remaining in the classroom
- Sharing resources, such as coaching and lesson plans, with peers
- Presenting and disseminating ideas and research
These opportunities provide teachers with additional occasions to enhance and extend their leadership skills. Specifically, teachers in high-quality STEM teacher leader networks can have increased confidence forged through conversations about teaching strategies and implementing those strategies, enabling them to pursue lead teacher (master teacher, mentor teacher, content expert) opportunities within their respective schools and across the district or state. Through local connections and opportunities, high-quality STEM teacher leaders can be called to serve at the school, district, state, or national level.