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New Survey Focuses on Best Practices in STEM Teacher Training, Retention

What does it take to prepare a teacher to lead a classroom in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and math? And, what does it take to keep that teacher on the job?

Those are some of the questions that 100Kin10, a nonprofit comprised of a network of organizations that are working to recruit, train, and retain 100,000 highly qualified STEM teachers by 2021, hoped to answer through its Annual Partner Survey.

The organization was formed following President Obama's call in his 2011 State of the Union address for the nation to add 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next decade.

ScienceProject-560x292-GabriellaDemczukforEducation Week.jpgThe nonprofit surveyed 242 leading STEM education organizations in its network during the summer of 2015, and the results were just released this week.

The survey looked at a STEM teacher's career in six phases: recruitment, preparation, hiring, induction, development, and advancement.

"The purpose of this is to fuel learning and improvement," said Talia Milgrom-Elcott, 100Kin10's co-founder and executive director.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found that the best programs that are training and developing STEM teaches focused on content such as the Next Generation Science Standards and common-core math, and how to teach that content.

"You can't teach STEM subjects well if you don't yourself know them," said Milgrom-Elcott.

The survey also found areas for improvement. For example, many of these training programs don't focus as much on things such as classroom management.

Other key findings include:

  • The programs that seemed to be most closely linked to STEM teachers finding work focused on pedagogical content knowledge, or knowing the material and how to teach it
  • The programs that focused on content at teachers' development and advancement stages did a better job of retaining teachers.
  • Instruction on social and emotional learning, or SEL, was missing from many of these programs.

Milgrom-Elcott calls knowledge of SEL critical for STEM teachers.

"You can know the subject, but if you can't connect with students as whole human beings, that content can fall flat," she said, calling this an area that's ripe for research. She theorized that programs that focus on STEM may pay less attention to this aspect of student learning.

"If so, we think that would be to the detriment of the content and especially to the detriment of all kinds of underrepresented kids persevering and succeeding," said Milgrom-Elcott. "To have the type of problem-solvers in STEM that we want for the 21st century who are super diverse, we're going to need a lot of focus on grit and resilience because these subjects are hard and failure is embedded in them. You're supposed to pick up and keep going and try the next experiment, the next solution."

The survey results are shared with the organizations in 100Kin10's network in order to help them feel more connected with one another and to perform better. For example, an organization that's struggling in one area can see how another organization handles that particular challenge.

The Annual Partner Survey was funded by Chevron.

Photo: Students work on a science project. (Gabriella Demczuk for Education Week)


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