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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.

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Presentation on theme: "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."— 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 position Reflections on areas of success and challenges Considerations and Recommendations for what to look for when hiring Tips and suggestions

3 Intended Audience Administrators and STEM Specialists in the first years of STEM transition Thinking of hiring a STEM specialist Just hired one and looking for suggestions for effectively using them Have one and are looking to “up the game”

4 Who we are Alexis Soffler, PhD: STEM Coordinator/Specialist Jennifer Chadwick-Conway: Elementary Principal Our 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 workload Higher level of specialized content knowledge to support teachers and programs New demands on community connections and projects Keeping up to date with research, news, policy, and products Centralized position to handle questions, problems, and ideas relating to STEM

6 Who is a STEM Specialist? STEM facilitators, specialists and coordinators are employed by schools, universities, companies, and not- for-profits This 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 Hired They perform a range of duties from research to program implementation to administrative assistant in STEM programs They are funded through a variety of mechanisms Fundamentally 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).

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 & 21 STEM specialists are for increasing quality learning, don’t bother if raising tests scores if your only objective!

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%)

11 A day in the life… Mastodon Matrix Bat houses with Home Depot Direct Instruction STEM Night Co-Planning Lessons Researching materials- digital microscopes

12 Things that happened in the past 2 years with a STEM coordinator Creation of a school STEM lab Creation of an integration model of STEM in all content areas Approx. $10K in grant money 1,000+ hours of in-school professional development and STEM support Personal relationships with state level STEM leadership, academia, and local community partners Creation of “STEM Time” Creation of a math games lending library Citizen Science initiative STEM Night doubled in size and presenters Creation of school materials and brochures for communicating to parents regarding STEM Changes in web presence (facebook, blog, and website) Beginning stages of academic research

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 Funding Finding the combination of high content knowledge, teaching knowledge, and leadership abilities of qualified specialists (PhDs?) Deciding what your STEM coordinator’s role is Managing non-traditional people in non-traditional roles STEM is fast paced, intense, and there are no clear objectives or boundaries

15 Challenges for the STEM Coordinator Hesitance from teachers entering new territory Balancing time in a position that has many varied responsibilities and is largely self-directed Connecting and applying research, policy, vision, and pedagogy to standards and state/district requirements Having both a specialized but global understanding of elementary education

16 What works A fundamentally new position (not a teacher, coach, administrator, etc.) A qualified person with diverse skills Shared leadership regarding STEM in the school WITH the administrator o STEM coordinator as a specialist and co- decision maker o Principal as administration specialist, big picture, and co-decision maker in regards to STEM Takes a tight team!

17 Qualities in a Successful STEM Coordinator High level of content knowledge High level of teaching ability Understands trends of different STEM fields and large-scale STEM directions A representative of the school to outside organizations Ability to communicate Energetic and inspiring Able to work between organizations, STEM professionals and academics, the school, teachers, parents, and students- understanding and connecting Big picture thinking, real classroom actions Clear school vision, objectives, and priorities Ability to understand and actualize a school vision and goals You are probably looking for a PhD or a very veteran specialist in one of the STEM areas due to the complexity of the role.

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 PhD In 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’s Only 10% of PhD’s had experience or interest at the elementary level This means that every year, there are about 2 new science education PhD’s in elementary nationally, plus whomever else is “looking”. (Jablon, 2002)

19 What you can offer… You are competitive! Public 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 research Freedom and flexibility to try new things appeals to “thinkers” Immediate, daily, and direct influence on education, teachers, and children The opportunity to build a rounded CV for strong career progression

20 Funding There are LOTS of grants and growing support Easier to get “stuff” and small grants to start Success breeds success o Grants need objectives, measurable outcomes for success, aligned with vision, and clear and substantiated uses for the money Funding for our position comes from building funds (this is the trend- Schwartz & Gess-Newsome, 2008)

21 Tip 1- Create layers and sustainability Even after you have hired, work to build sustainable and reinforced infrastructure o Groom your most interested teacher(s) and give them “on the job” training and mentorship o Talk with your local university to discuss their programs and how to create mutually beneficial experiences for the science/STEM education grad students. o Talk to your local financial supporters and community advocates about scholarships for local teachers to pursue advanced degrees

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 roles You will likely end up sharing leadership and the spotlight (ta-da!) and having to balance non-traditional people in non-traditional roles

23 Tip 3- Find a Partner Your STEM coordinator will often be a face for your school Your STEM coordinator will be suggesting lots of different things which have the potential for lots of change Your teachers and parents will begin to look to the STEM coordinator for leadership, recognition, and validation in the school’s STEM program 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! 1.School STEM vision and goals (if you don’t have this to start, this needs to be a first priority) 2.Prioritize the school needs for STEM 3.Identify resources and areas where resources need to be built 4.Set goals for the STEM coordinator, but not steps to reach them 5.Work to recruit based on the first three priorities

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-wide Reconsider traditional roles and schedules- think collaborative and flexible Shoot for the top shelf in your hire, as the STEM field is complex and so is the job Know this person will be a partner and leader in your school- let them be that!

26 Join us again tomorrow… Administration in a STEM school Continue to with needs assessments and group discussions on first steps of STEM programs and schools Friday, May 17 11:45 AM–12:45 PM “An Administrator's Journey to Creating a STEM- focused School” America's Center, 260 THANK YOU!

27 Contact Information Alexis A. Soffler, PhD Jennifer Chadwick Shepardson Elementary School 1501 Springwood Dr., Fort Collins, Colorado 80526 Personal website: Shepardson Elementary School 1501 Springwood Dr., Fort Collins, Colorado 80526 School website: n/ n/

28 References Weiss, 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), 291-301. 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), 20-21 Jones, 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. 317-343). Nelson, G., & Landel, C. (2007). A collaborative approach for elementary science. Educational Leadership, 72-75. 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), 181-194. Williams, D. (1990). Making the case for the science specialist. Science and Children, 27(4), 31- 32. 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), 19-30. 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).

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