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An Ideal Time to Measure and Innovate School and District-level Programming

This work was written by Dr. Krista Stith and Dr. Rachel Geesa; printed through the Indiana Association for School Principals in April 2022




The preparation of students for complex, career and college opportunities that require STEM/STEAM proficiencies is an expectation for today’s educational organizations at the local, state, and national levels. However, the expectations for postsecondary preparation is an ever-evolving process, especially when it comes to scientific and technological readiness. Pedagogy and practices that were considered high quality, integrative STEM programming ten years ago (or even five years ago) may already be dated. Geesa et al. (2021) state:


Educational leaders need to routinely measure the effectiveness of the current integrative STEM learning environment and goals for their efficacy toward achieving the school’s mission and vision. Leaders should not only track students’ STEM achievements, but also track opportunities to be innovative, take risks, and learn through inquiry-and design-based experiences. Through real-world learning opportunities and collaboration with school stakeholders, leaders can provide experiences for students to identify connections between their current learning and potential careers. (p. 28)


One approach to measure STEM programming is to stay up-to-date on state-level changes. The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is navigating a series of programming developments to encourage purposeful planning and implementation in STEM programming for Indiana schools and districts. This is an ideal time for schools and districts to develop a system to routinely measure and reflect upon the structures and outcomes in place for their own STEM programs and the alignment with the STEM mission and vision. This is also a time to be cognisant of how the status quo of the school or district’s STEM programming may not be adequate to prepare students as expected by the state.


First, does your school or district have a STEM mission and vision? If not, the IDOE provides definitions in the 2021-2022 STEM Certification Guide that may help school leaders with the initial ideation process.


IDOE STEM Framework Mission: Ensure Indiana teachers are prepared to provide every student in grades K-12 with an evidence-based, effective STEM education by 2025.


IDOE STEM Framework Vision: All Indiana students in grades K-12 will graduate with critical thinking skills and be prepared for an innovation-driven economy by accessing quality, world-class science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education every day in the classroom by 2025.


The IDOE is also in the process of providing support systems for schools and districts to bolster their STEM programming. We have addressed three approaches below and offer sources of information to take action.




Approach 1: STEM and Literacy Coaches

According to Kudenko & Hoyle (2015, para 4), “...using coaching as part of collaborative learning helps address individual teacher needs, shows the value of teachers learning with and from one another, contextualizes CPD [continuing professional development] application and helps embed enquiry-oriented learning in day-to-day practice.” The IDOE is moving towards integration of STEM and Literacy coaches with training commencing during the Summer of 2022. For the schools that are participating in this program over the next two years, we perceive that the additional support of a STEM and Literacy coach is a good time to re/visit the mission and vision of a school or district’s strategic STEM plan. With experience in project-, problem-, and design-based learning strategies, the STEM and Literacy coaches can be an invaluable resource for collective decision-making.


Approach 2: IDOE STEM Certification

Since 2015, the IDOE has provided a framework to evaluate the immersion of STEM programming in Indiana schools and districts. A rubric is provided as part of the evaluation process and the rubric has received yearly, or near yearly, updates. Following the iterations of the STEM Certification rubric can be a useful resource to consider the priorities of the state in determining what is high-quality STEM teaching and learning and the measures and outcomes a school must achieve to earn STEM Certification.


Approach 3: Familiarize with Literacy, Math, Science, and Computer Science Frameworks and Upcoming Standards

The IDOE’s 2016 Implementation Plan of the Science Standards is ending and 2022 Science and Computer Science Standards will be introduced shortly. At the time of writing this piece, the new science standards are under public review. These standards align more closely with 44 other U.S. states, and the District of Columbia, in scaffolding science and engineering knowledge and skills. Literacy and Mathematics are also more purposefully integrated.


Sources for Support

The following resources provide professional learning opportunities for leaders, teachers, school counselors, and other educators:


■ Indiana Learning Lab (https://inlearninglab.com/)- The Indana Learning Lab provides extensive micro learning resources for families, teachers, and school leaders. The Learning Lab is growing its collection of resources for organization-level STEM education and leadership, including frameworks and strategies for school leaders.


■ Keep Indiana Learning (https://keepindianalearning. org/)- The Central Indiana Educational Service Center’s KInL platform provides a variety of educational resources that interweave research, techniques, and technology to support schools and districts in STEM programming.


■ Leadership in Integrative STEM Education: Collaborative Strategies for Facilitating an Experiential and StudentCentered Culture by Geesa, Rose, and Stith- This book covers nine domains of STEM programming with case studies and evidence-based strategies to ideate STEM mission and vision at the organization-level. While Chapter 2 speaks directly to STEM-centric mission and vision, the cultural aspects to align a program with IDOE’s expectations are interwoven throughout the text.





Call to Action

In the scientific and technologically-evolving world that we live in, STEM instruction should not be a static offering to students. Educational leaders should continuously measure, reflect, and make purposeful decisions to continuously innovate STEM programming to prepare students for postsecondary experiences. With the state-level changes taking place at the IDOE, now is the perfect time to assess current programming, consider how a STEM-centric mission and vision may fit into the school’s ecosystem, and then take action to support implementation. Contact us for more information or ways to support STEM programming in your school or district.


References

Geesa, R. L., Rose, M. A., Stith, K. M., Lowery, K., & Caniglia, J., (2021). Leadership to foster an integrative STEM mission and culture. In R. L. Geesa, M. A. Rose, & K. M. Stith (Eds.), Leadership in Integrative STEM Education: Collaborative strategies for facilitating an experiential and student-centered culture (pp. 27-50). Rowman & Littlefield.

Kudenk, I., & Hoyle, P. (2015) Using coaching to enhance science-specific professional development for primary teachers. European Science Education Research Association 2015 Conference. https://www.stem.org.uk/system/files/ elibrary-resources/2016/02/Using%20coaching%20to%20 enchance%20science%20specific%20professional%20 development%20for%20primary%20teachers.pdf

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