Presentation on theme: "STEM Coordinator: An Emerging Position in STEM Schools"— Presentation transcript:
1 STEM Coordinator: An Emerging Position in STEM Schools Who are they? What do they do? Do I need one?Alexis Soffler, PhD & Jennifer Chadwick-Conway
2 This presentation will be on: Our personal experiences of a STEM coordinator at an elementary school level, some research on the positionReflections on areas of success and challengesConsiderations and Recommendations for what to look for when hiringTips and suggestions
3 Intended AudienceAdministrators and STEM Specialists in the first years of STEM transitionThinking of hiring a STEM specialistJust hired one and looking for suggestions for effectively using themHave one and are looking to “up the game”
4 Who we are Alexis Soffler, PhD: STEM Coordinator/Specialist Jennifer Chadwick-Conway: Elementary PrincipalOur school- Shepardson Elementary School, Fort Collins, Colorado
5 “Going STEM”- Gah! We need a STEM Coordinator! School transition to STEM 5 years ago, STEM specialist hired 2 years ago because of…Increased workloadHigher level of specialized content knowledge to support teachers and programsNew demands on community connections and projectsKeeping up to date with research, news, policy, and productsCentralized position to handle questions, problems, and ideas relating to STEMThis is not new, nor just us… The data!
6 Who is a STEM Specialist? STEM facilitators, specialists and coordinators are employed by schools, universities, companies, and not-for-profitsThis job did not exist 5 years ago, now a quick search of “STEM education coordinator” (or support/professional/coach, etc.) returned over 1,000 hits on Simply HiredThey perform a range of duties from research to program implementation to administrative assistant in STEM programsThey are funded through a variety of mechanismsFundamentally different from science and math specialists in that STEM is a different “beast” (but we will draw on research from science teaching because there is not a whole lot on STEM)IN SUM- There is no one definition… But you probably need one!
7 Most elementary schools are not prepared for high-level STEM 40% of K-5 teachers have had four or fewer semesters of college level science. (Weiss, Banilower, McMahon, & Smith, 2001)Two-thirds of teachers did not feel well prepared to teach science (Weiss et al., 2001)In 2000, as many as 15% of elementary students in the United States received some science instruction from science specialists in addition to their regular classroom teacher, and 12% received instruction solely from a science specialist (Weiss et al., 2001).Advocates for elementary science specialists argue that the more substantial science content and pedagogical knowledge and high priority and support for science teaching will result in higher quality science learning experiences for elementary children (Abell, 1990; Gess-Newsome, 1999; Hounshell & Swartz, 1987; Jones & Edmunds, 2006; Nelson & Landel, 2007; Neuman, 1981; Schwartz et al., 2000; Williams, 1990).JEN- You see this, right?
8 Specialists Make a Difference in Thinking, Planning, and Increasing Quality… But not on Tests “Science instructional planning of the science specialists better aligned with reform-based practices in comparison with the regular classroom teachers in the same district.”“Students taught by the elementary science specialists were engaged in inquiry-oriented activities and demonstrated critical thinking abilities.”“In comparison to students in the non-specialist district, students taught by the science specialists were not significantly different in achievement on state science tests.” (Schwartz & Gess-Newsom, 2008) pg 20 & 21STEM specialists are for increasing quality learning, don’t bother if raising tests scores if your only objective!ALEXIS- STEM specialists provide depth, mentorship and modeling instructional methodologies and pedagogy. They also provide content specialty.
9 A STEM Special with a STEM specialist? Be thoughtful… Schwartz et al. (2000) demonstrated the exclusive use of science specialists for all science instruction, the model implemented in the targeted district, may have diminished science teaching abilities of the regular classroom teachers in that district.However, collaborative and “some teaching” models have been successful (Schwartz & Gess-Newsome, 2008)Administrators must think out of the box!
10 What the STEM coordinator does at Shepardson- 60% position Professional development (10%)Co-teaching (30%)Evaluating and enhancing materials and programs (10%)Program development and event planning (10%)STEM leadership and representative in community, district, state, and national arenas (10%)Liaison with community (5%)Grant writing (5%)Direct instruction for students (10%)Support and shared leadership in STEM with principal (10%)Professional development – we wanted PD that is going to empower all of our teachers to be STEM teachers and integrate STEM into everyday. We also wanted PD to be relevant to Shepardson. - JenThese times are estimates over the course of the year- these vary on what is at hand.Professional DevelopmentInquiry, specific lessons, rub goldberg 21st century skills, citizen scienceCo-teaching – this was another specific approach on our parts to empower our teachers to be STEM teachers and to reinforce PD that teachers have received. – JenCo-taught rube goldbergCo-taught mastodon“hard topics”, extra hands, support for new methods (inquiry)Evaluating and enhancing materials and programs*Engineering is Elementary*Co-planning with teachers (4th grade energy unit menu)Program development and event planning*STEM Night*Work with CSU, Rotary, etc.STEM leadership and representative in community, district, state, and national arenas*Worked with state on sample curriculum*Meetings with Rotary, Rocky Mountain InnosphereLiaison with community*Parents*Groups*Point person for contactGrant writingDirect instruction for students*Small groups*”Back and forth” co-teaching*AT Timnath, teach STEM classSupport and shared leadership in STEM with principal*Work on vision statements and school goals*STEM Team meetings*Shepardson Model
11 A day in the life… Bat houses with Home Depot Co-Planning Lessons Mastodon MatrixSTEM NightResearching materials- digital microscopesDirect Instruction
12 Things that happened in the past 2 years with a STEM coordinator Creation of a school STEM labCreation of an integration model of STEM in all content areasApprox. $10K in grant money1,000+ hours of in-school professional development and STEM supportPersonal relationships with state level STEM leadership, academia, and local community partnersCreation of “STEM Time”Creation of a math games lending libraryCitizen Science initiativeSTEM Night doubled in size and presentersCreation of school materials and brochures for communicating to parents regarding STEMChanges in web presence (facebook, blog, and website)Beginning stages of academic researchJEN - WHY INVEST in a STEM COORDINATOR? – Jen briefly discusses how a STEM coordinator has changed the school environment. Basically introduce the slide.ALEXIS – goes over the slide. Main point, the changes can be global.
13 Administrators“We found that teachers’ level of implementation closely followed the principals’ level of interest, knowledge, and excitement for science.”“If the role of the specialist was to provide support and leadership to enhance science instruction, and if the administrator provided the necessary leadership and support, the employed model was likely to be described as successful.”Pull-out models of an isolated science (STEM) class erode the vision necessary for school-wide values and endeavors.However, a combination of direct teaching (one day a week?) and STEM mentorship and program development for the rest of the time was effective. (Schwatrz & Gess-Newsome, 2008) pg. 25
14 Challenges for Administrators FundingFinding the combination of high content knowledge, teaching knowledge, and leadership abilities of qualified specialists (PhDs?)Deciding what your STEM coordinator’s role isManaging non-traditional people in non-traditional rolesSTEM is fast paced, intense, and there are no clear objectives or boundariesJEN’S SlideAdd some stories
15 Challenges for the STEM Coordinator Hesitance from teachers entering new territoryBalancing time in a position that has many varied responsibilities and is largely self-directedConnecting and applying research, policy, vision, and pedagogy to standards and state/district requirementsHaving both a specialized but global understanding of elementary educationALEXIS’S SLIDEThis picture is an example- “Hey! I don’t know what to do today!”I had to “make time” (re-schedule paperwork, other phone calls, etc.), quickly combine understandings of standards, grade level, STEM and science methods and what tools we have at our disposal). Very much- on the fly. Here, we used hula hoops and “on the go outdoor packs” I made earlier to do sampling and observations. 4th grade.
16 What worksA fundamentally new position (not a teacher, coach, administrator, etc.)A qualified person with diverse skillsShared leadership regarding STEM in the school WITH the administratorSTEM coordinator as a specialist and co-decision makerPrincipal as administration specialist, big picture, and co-decision maker in regards to STEMTakes a tight team!Tag team this slideTalk about how we complimented each other and learned from one another.Jen -New territory to have someone at the elementary level who helps you make decisions about the focus and vision of your school. It can be hard to give up some of that control and trust someone else.This is 4th grade rockets- took teamwork with principal, STEM coordinator, and teachers to make it happen.
17 Qualities in a Successful STEM Coordinator High level of content knowledgeHigh level of teaching abilityUnderstands trends of different STEM fields and large-scale STEM directionsA representative of the school to outside organizationsAbility to communicateEnergetic and inspiringAble to work between organizations, STEM professionals and academics, the school, teachers, parents, and students- understanding and connectingBig picture thinking, real classroom actionsClear school vision, objectives, and prioritiesAbility to understand and actualize a school vision and goalsYou are probably looking for a PhD or a very veteran specialist in one of the STEM areas due to the complexity of the role.Alexis - High level of content knowledge -Jen - High level of teaching abilityTeaching is important and knowing the elementary classroomsAlexis - A representative of the school to outside organizationsAlexis - Ability to communicateJen - Energetic and inspiringMotivatorHelpfulHelps people see the benefitAlexis & Jen- Able to work between organizations, the school, teachers, and students- understanding and connectingJen & Alexis - Big picture thinking, real classroom actionsJen - Clear school vision, objectives, and prioritiesAlexis- Probably looking for PhD- “great teachers” don’t always have the ability to mobilize teachers and advise administrators- 3 STEM specialists hired 2 years ago in our district, only 1 survived! Difference was PhD. I use WAY more of it than I had anticipated from philosophy to applying research to “clout” needed to get the attention from STEM professionals
18 Science Education PhD’s Recruiting STEM draws heavily from science education, and with NextGen taking the lead, that trend will continue.64 institutions offer a form of science education PhDIn 1999 (latest data) there were 177 PhD’s in science ed. conferred, and each institution averaged about 2. This is DOWN- in the 1970’s, there were about 230 total/yr.A decline in the number of k-12 teachers going on to PhD’s (due to cost of tuition, working, and parenting) means very few k-12 savvy PhD’sOnly 10% of PhD’s had experience or interest at the elementary levelThis means that every year, there are about 2 new science education PhD’s in elementary nationally, plus whomever else is “looking”.(Jablon, 2002)ALEXIS’S Slide
19 What you can offer… You are competitive! Freedom and flexibility to try new things appeals to “thinkers”Immediate, daily, and direct influence on education, teachers, and childrenThe opportunity to build a rounded CV for strong career progressionPublic schools often pay higher than entry level faculty at the university (even at a “teacher” salary)Healthcare, regular hours, ability to balance family and work, etc.Emphasis on teaching and administrative skills, not researchALEXIS’S Slide
20 Funding There are LOTS of grants and growing support Easier to get “stuff” and small grants to startSuccess breeds successGrants need objectives, measurable outcomes for success, aligned with vision, and clear and substantiated uses for the moneyFunding for our position comes from building funds (this is the trend- Schwartz & Gess-Newsome, 2008)Quick mention – ALEXISCould be a topic in itself- will say, “Start with stuff”Here are simple machines that I got a grant for- explicit, clear for connection, etc.
21 Tip 1- Create layers and sustainability Even after you have hired, work to build sustainable and reinforced infrastructureGroom your most interested teacher(s) and give them “on the job” training and mentorshipTalk with your local university to discuss their programs and how to create mutually beneficial experiences for the science/STEM education grad students.Talk to your local financial supporters and community advocates about scholarships for local teachers to pursue advanced degreesALEXIS’S Slide
22 Tip 2- Be prepared to work outside of your box Don’t look for a candidate who will exactly fit your pre-conceived list, look for one who has a solid background and demonstrates an ability to adapt, succeed, and reinvent themselves- STEM changes rapidly and the single position has enormous diversity of rolesYou will likely end up sharing leadership and the spotlight (ta-da!) and having to balance non-traditional people in non-traditional rolesJENS SLIDE
23 Tip 3- Find a PartnerYour STEM coordinator will often be a face for your schoolYour STEM coordinator will be suggesting lots of different things which have the potential for lots of changeYour teachers and parents will begin to look to the STEM coordinator for leadership, recognition, and validation in the school’s STEM programIn sum- You want to be able to talk to this person freely and trust them as a co-leader in STEM within the school and they will need your support as they face continual, low-level resistanceTag TeamALEXIS - Your STEM coordinator will often be a face for your schoolJEN - Your STEM coordinator will be suggesting lots of different things which have the potential for lots of changeAlexis - Your teachers and parents will begin to look to the STEM coordinator for leadership, recognition, and validation in the school’s STEM programJen - In sum- You want to be able to talk to this person freely and trust them as a co-leader in STEM within the school and they will need your support as they face continual, low-level resistance
24 Getting a STEM coordinator: Backwards Design! School STEM vision and goals (if you don’t have this to start, this needs to be a first priority)Prioritize the school needs for STEMIdentify resources and areas where resources need to be builtSet goals for the STEM coordinator, but not steps to reach themWork to recruit based on the first three prioritiesADD image of your handout
25 Put it in a “take away bag”! Assess your school as to your individual needs and what you have in place to support STEM (join us tomorrow!)Invest for raising the quality of STEM and instruction school-wideReconsider traditional roles and schedules- think collaborative and flexibleShoot for the top shelf in your hire, as the STEM field is complex and so is the jobKnow this person will be a partner and leader in your school- let them be that!
26 Join us again tomorrow… Administration in a STEM schoolContinue to with needs assessments and group discussions on first steps of STEM programs and schoolsFriday, May 17 11:45 AM–12:45 PM“An Administrator's Journey to Creating a STEM- focused School”America's Center, 260THANK YOU!
27 Contact InformationAlexis A. Soffler, PhDJennifer ChadwickShepardson Elementary School1501 Springwood Dr., Fort Collins, Colorado 80526Personal website:Shepardson Elementary School1501 Springwood Dr., Fort Collins, Colorado 80526School website:
28 ReferencesWeiss, I. R., Banilower, E.R., McMahon, K. C., & Smith, P. S. (2001). Report of the 2000 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education, Chapel Hill, NC. Horizon Research, Inc.Abell, S. (1990). A case for the elementary science specialist. School Science and Mathematics, 90(4),Gess-Newsome, J. (1999). Delivery models for elementary science instruction: A call for research. Electronic Journal of Science Education, 3(3).Hounshell, P.B., & Swartz, C. E. (1987). Elementary science specialists? Definitely!/We know better. Science and Children, 24(4), 20-21Jones, M. G., & Edmunds, J. (2006). Models of Elementary Science Instruction: Roles of science specialists. In K. Appleton (Ed.) Elementary science teacher education: International perspectives on contemporary issues and practice (pp ).Nelson, G., & Landel, C. (2007). A collaborative approach for elementary science. Educational Leadership,Neuman, D. B. (1981). Elementary science for all children: An impossible dream or a reachable goal? Science and Children, 18(6), 4-6.Schwartz, R. S., Abd-El-Khalick, F., & Lederman, N. G. (2000). Achieving the reform’s vision: The effectiveness of a specialist-led elementary science program. School Science and Mathematics, 100(4),Williams, D. (1990). Making the case for the science specialist. Science and Children, 27(4),Schwartz, R.S., Gess-Newsome, J (2008). Elementary Science Specialists: A Pilot Study of Current Models And a Call for Participation in The Research. Science Educator. 17(2),Jablon, P. C. (2002). The Status of Science Education Doctoral Programs in the United States: The Need for Core Knowledge and Skills. Electronic Journal of Science Education. 7(1).